Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Poem

A poem that has moved us stays with us, and often returns of its own accord.  Long ago, I cannot remember when and where, I purchased a collection of poems titled Northern Light.  It is a pleasing book to hold in your hands:  black covers, six-and-a-half inches wide, ten inches long, thin (only 66 pages), and printed on better-than-average, deckle-edged paper.  There is a single poem on each page, surrounded by a great deal of open space.

The book was published in London in 1930.  The colophon on the reverse side of the title page states:  "275 copies only for sale have been printed of NORTHERN LIGHT.  Each copy has been signed by the Author."  Immediately beneath the colophon is a tiny, neat signature in light blue ink (from a nib, not a ball-point):  "L. A. G. Strong."  Leonard Alfred George Strong (1896-1958) belonged to that now nearly extinct species known as "the English man of letters."  In addition to poetry, he wrote novels, short stories, plays, biographies, and literary criticism.  I first came to know of him through A New Anthology of Modern Verse, 1920-1940, which he co-edited with C. Day Lewis.

There are several lovely poems in Northern Light.  But there is one that stands out for me, and to which I return, either in my mind or by revisiting the book.  It is a poem that has appeared here in the past.

                           Garramor Bay

Now the long wave unfolded falls from the West,
The sandbirds run upon twittering, twinkling feet:
Life is perilous, poised on the lip of a wave,
And the weed that lay yesterday here is clean gone.

O visitor, fugitive creature, thing of a tide,
Make music, my heart, before the long silence.

L. A. G. Strong, Northern Light (Victor Gollancz 1930).

Yesterday evening, I was in a wistful, vaguely unsettled mood, for no particular reason, internal or external.  Was it the vernal equinox, perhaps?  No.  Just a mood.  But I suddenly felt the need to read "Garramor Bay."  There you have it.

Dane Maw (1906-1989), "Scottish Landscape, Air Dubh"


mary f.ahearn said...

I can well understand that unsettled mood that comes and then goes for no apparent reason, reason being the least of it. And the poem is just right for those times. Thank you for posting it.
My husband passed away early this year and this poem speaks deeply to me. Poetry fits when nothing else does.

RT said...

Mr. Pentz, I have had similar experiences with a poem: "Stopping by woods on a snowy evening" by Robert Frost. There is for me a special comfort in that poem. I also enjoy similar comfortable moments when I visit your blog. Thank you for the poetic offerings, musings, and artwork.

Denise Hay said...

What a beautiful poem Stephen. An entire Universe in just a few lines. Wonderful. Thank you so much. Denise

Stephen Pentz said...

Mary: I'm so sorry to hear that news. Words are inadequate at times like these, but I wish you solace and peace in a difficult time. If this poem has helped you in some small way, I am gratified. I agree with you completely: "Poetry fits when nothing else does."

Please take care.

Stephen Pentz said...

Tim: Thank you very much for your kind words about the blog, which I greatly appreciate.

It's wonderful how all of us (at least, those of us who like poetry) have certain poems that, as you say, provide us with "a special comfort." "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is a fine poem to have as a touchstone. (But Frost has a number of candidates, doesn't he? "Desert Places" and "Neither Out Far Nor In Deep" come to mind for me, although neither of them holds a great deal of "comfort," I'm afraid!)

As ever, it is good to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by again.

Stephen Pentz said...

Denise: You're welcome. I'm pleased you like the poem. I've grown very fond of it over the years. I count myself fortunate to have stumbled across the book (which I had no inkling of), and to have found within it such a lovely gift. You are exactly right: "An entire Universe in just a few lines." You never know when, and how, a poem will make its way into your life. Which is why we keep reading.

Thank you very much for visiting again, and for sharing your thoughts.

Julia Augusta said...

Last week I read a poem by W.S. Merwin entitled “Cold Spring Morning” from The Shadow of Sirius, a compilation of Merwin’s poetry. I was also in a wistful mood, wondering when the cold would end. The amount of daylight tells us that spring is here, but it was still cold last week. Keep posting, Mr. Pentz. I flee from the coarseness of this world by reading poetry.

Stephen Pentz said...

Julia Augusta: Thank you for the reference to Merwin's poem, which is new to me. I found it on the internet: lovely. I particularly like the lines: "but the self has no age" and "I was not born here I come and go." As for "flee[ing] from the coarseness of this world by reading poetry": I understand the feeling. Another way of putting it might be: "I return to the beauty of this world by reading poetry."

Thank you very much for visiting, and for your kind words. I hope you'll return soon.