On the Wings of the Morning by Jeffrey Day

Jeffrey Day.
Born. 1896 Died 1918. Wrote very little, more considered poetry written from 1917 to 18.
Flying a Sopwith Camel, shot down off coast of DUNKIRK, landed on sea, seen surviving but lost, presumed drowned.   I would hesitate to place him as a War Poet, having said that the war did change his style of writing and the poems link in to his experiences so perhaps there is room for another.

Included in J C Squires  Selection of Modern Poets (single colume) dated 1927.  This selections contains many poets, still respected and often read but also several, such as Jeffrey Day, Kenneth Ashley, Gwen Clear and WJ Turner (10 poems included here) I have previously missed.  And the word ‘Modern’ relates to the selection period rather than a  box as label of styles.  Style, as always, was moving on and here is a good mix of those styles, out of the old and towards the new……

I was pleased to see D H Lawrence (5) included but DH apart saw little sign of the more ‘imagist’ poetry included….. small progress may be present in language but good old rhyme still much the norm.
I am currently reading F S Flint who may well have been (one of ) the first poet to redefine poetic style into a format that is closer to our currency.  It offers the freedom of no (or minor) rhyme but the stricture of brevity and use of cadence to produce the ‘image’, depth of the poem.  I don’t really like labelling such as ‘Georgian’,‘Imagist’, ‘Modern’, ‘Romantic’ etc but it is a useful measure as long as I remember that poets are always looking for the best means of exposing their thoughts, whether as stark bones or hidden in undergrowth, for the reader to understand emotionally as well as intellectually.

This poem I present as a reflection on the simple joy and freedom of flying an early aeroplane. Written 1917/18

high flying geese

high flying geese

‘On the wings of the Morning’.          By Jeffrey Day
A sudden roar, a mighty rushing sound,
A jolt or two, a smoothly sliding rise,
A tumbled blur of disappearing ground,
And then all sense of motion slowly dies.
Quiet and calm, the earth slips past below,
As underneath a bridge still waters flow.

My turning wing inclines towards the ground;
The ground itself glides up with graceful swing
And at the plane’s far tip twirls slowly round,
Then drops from sight again beneath the wing
To slip away serenely as before,
A cubist-patterned carpet on the floor.

Hills gently sink and valleys gently fill.
The flattened files grow ludicrously small;
Slowly they pass beneath and slower still
Until they hardly seem to move at all.
Then suddenly they disappear from sight,
Hidden by fleeting wisp of faded white.

The wing-tips, faint and dripping, dimly show,
Blurred by the wreaths of mist that intervene.
Weird, half-seen shadows flicker to and fro
Across the pallid fog-bank’s blinding screen.
At last the choking mists release their hold,
And all the world is silver, blue and gold.

The air is clear, more clear than sparkling wine;
Compared with this wine is a turgid brew.
The far horizon makes a clean-cut line
Between the silver and depthless blue.
Out of the snow-White level reared on high
Glittering hills surge up to meet the sky.

Outside the wind-screen’s shelter gales may race;
But in the seat a cool and gentle breeze
Blows steadily upon my grateful face,
As I sit motionless and at my ease,
Contented just to loiter in the sun
And gaze around me till the day is done.

And so I sit, half-sleeping, half awake,
Dreaming a happy dream of golden days,
Until at last, with a reluctant shake
I rouse myself, and with a lingering gaze
At all the splendour of the shining plain
Make ready to come down to earth again.

The engine stops: a pleasant silence reigns –
Silence, not broken, but intensified
By the soft, sleepy wires’ insistent strains,
That rise and fall, as with a sweeping glide
I slither down the well-oiled sides of space,
Towards a lower, less enchanted place.

The clouds draw nearer, changing as they come,
Now, like a flash, fog grips me by the throat.
Down goes the nose: at once the wires, low hum
Begins to rise in volume and in note,
Till, as I hurtle from the choking cloud
It swells into a scream, high-pitched and loud.

The scattered hues and shades of green and brown
Fashion themselves into the land I know,
Turning and twisting, as I spiral down
Towards the landing ground; till, skimming low,
I glide with slackening speed across the ground,
And come to rest with a slightly grating sound.


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