Colours of Autumn by John Clare; October by Edward Thomas

 

Colours of Autumn.             John Clare

Now that the year is drawing to a close

Such mellow tints on trees and bushes lie

So like to sunshine that it brighter glows

As one looks more intently.  On the sky

I turn astonished that no sun is there;

The ribboned strips of orange, blue and red

Streaks through the western sky a gorgeous bed,

Painting day’s end most beautifully fair,

So mild, so quiet breathes the balmy air,

Scenting the perfume of decaying leaves

Such fragrance and such loveliness they wear-

Trees, hedgerows, bushes- that the heart receives

Joys for which language owners words too few

To paint that glowing richness which I view.

 

October.                                          Edward Thomas

The green elm with the one great bough of gold

Lets leaves into the grass slip, one by one,  –

The short hill grass, the mushrooms small milk-white,

Harebell and scabious and tormentil,

That blackberry and gorse, in dew and sun,

Bow down to; and the wind travels too light

To shake the fallen birch leaves from the fern;

The gossamers wander at their own will,

At heavier steps than bird’s the Squirrels scold.

 

The rich scene has grown fresh again and new

As Spring and to the touch is not more cool

Than it is warm to the gaze; and now I might

As happy be as earth is beautiful,

Were I some other or with earth could turn

In alteration of violet and rose,

Harebell and snowdrop, at their season due,

And gorse that has no time not to be gay.

But if this be not happiness,  – who knows?

Some day I shall think this is a happy day,

And this mood by the name of melancholy

Shall no more blackened and obscured be.

………………

You could follow reading Clare’s poem, Colours of Autumn immediately with the Thomas’  ‘October‘ first verse through to the line…… ‘as happy be as earth is beautiful’  in the second verse and they might be mistaken as a single voice.  However Thomas’ lines after this begin to slide away into a questioning of his mood and ability to find what his personal ‘peace of mind may be’.  Hopeful, perhaps, but not convinced.

Clare’s poem illustrates his more positive view of life.     His moods may have varied tremendously over the years but overall his personal outlook was positive despite the tremendous difficulties of his life and times.   It seems to me (albeit a terrible over simplification) that Clare was a glass half-full sort of man whilst Edward Thomas a glass half-empty man.  Clare could find a great deal of peace in solitude and observation whereas Thomas could see the beauty but not ‘feel’ it.  It is also interesting to consider that both men lived through periods of social and political turmoil at turns of (different) centuries: not forgetting the differences in their social groups.

 

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‘October’ and ‘The Sun Used to Shine’ Edward Thomas

two poems from: Poems  by  Edward Thomas

Published 1917 by Selwyn & Blount

 

October

The green elm with the one great bough of gold

Lets leaves into the grass slip, one by one,  –

The short hill grass, the mushrooms small milk-white,

Harebell and scabious and tormentil,

That blackberry and gorse, in dew and sun,

Bow down to; and the wind travels too light

To shake the fallen birch leaves from the fern;

The gossamers wander at their own will,

At heavier steps than bird’s the Squirrels scold.

 

The rich scene has grown fresh again and new

As Spring and to the touch is not more cool

Than it is warm to the gaze; and now I might

As happy be as earth is beautiful,

Were I some other or with earth could turn

In alteration of violet and rose,

Harebell and snowdrop, at their season due,

And gorse that has no time not to be gay.

But if this be not happiness,  – who knows?

Some day I shall think this is a happy day,

And this mood by the name of melancholy

Shall no more blackened and obscured be.

 

The Sun Used to Shine

 

The sun used to shine while we two walked

Slowly together, paused and started

Again, and sometimes mused, sometimes talked

As either pleased. and cheerfully parted

 

Each night.  We never disagreed

Which gate to rest on.  The to be

And the late past we gave small heed.

We turned from men or poetry

 

To rumours of the war remote

Only till both stood disinclined

For aught but the yellow flavorous coat

Of an apple wasps had undermined;

 

Or a sentry of dark betonies,

The stateliest of small flowers on earth,

At the forest verge; or crocuses

Pale purple as if they had their birth

 

In sunless Hades fields.  The war

Came back to mind with the moonrise

Which soldiers in the east afar

Beheld then.  Nevertheless, our eyes

 

Could as well imagine the Crusades

Or Caesar’s battles.  Everything

To faintness like those rumours fades  –

Like the brook’s water glittering

 

Under the moonlight – like those walks

Now – like us two that took them, and

The fallen apples, all the talks

And silences – like memory’s sand

 

When the tide covers it late or soon,

And other men through other flowers

In those fields under the same moon

Go talking and have easy hours.

Both poems fit the season of Autumn.   October splits into two sections where all is simply observed in the first stanza with the second initially pointing out the freshness of the scenes after the likely summer heat and fading of the summer flowers.  Freshness brought on with the change in the weather and arrival of  the cool and moisture; new colours of autumn foliage and fruits.  But the initial sense of the poem and its seasonality is disrupted by the author’s sudden insecurity of his senses.  Maybe he would find the emergence of Spring or Summer flowers as, or more engaging as they appeared.  He points out that his frame of mind may account for his preference for autumn melancholy.  This may well be true for him and his struggles with depression but his observation on the changes that autumn bring are true and widely appreciated by many observers of the countryside.  Each change of season brings its own brand of spectacular beauty in variance to the previous.

The Sun Used to Shine  also fits the seasonal embrace but here we could dig much deeper into the subtleties of references.  When was it written?  Seemingly early in WW1, was Edward Thomas writing after he enlisted?  His reflections on the companionship might be when walking with his wife, or his friends Robert Frost or Eleanor Farjeon, or others.  He was a great walker!  As part of his work as a writer as well as his need for open space and exercise to keep his mind clear.    Autumn slips in with the fallen apples but seasonality is not the real focus here, rather memory of happier times that have been overtaken by the melancholy of  rumours of war that intrude with sentry of dark betonies.  Even the wasps take on an afterthought of despoiling memory.  Further in, ‘old war’ intrude into the poem but indirectly focusing on that present time of early WW1.

The last two verses are like closing a door on the past and assuming others will have to continue that companionable journey.  His prescience, expectation of death or just that the past could not be re-enacted ever again because of the change wrought by war?

The third from last line: And other men through other flowers    seems to have been taken and slightly rewritten into     Other Mens Flowers  for a famous anthology collected by A.P.Wavell (Field Marshall Earl Wavell) and published in 1944 by Jonathan Cape.    It may be considered a bit of a period-piece now but a wonderful collection nevertheless.   Slightly to my surprise it has neither this poem by Edward Thomas nor any of his in the collection.

 

 

The New Year by Edward Thomas

The New Year

He was the one man I met up in the woods

That stormy New Year’s morning; and at first sight,

Fifty yards off, I could not tell how much

Of the strange tripod was a man.  His body,

Bowed horizontal, was supported equally

By legs at one end, by a rake at the other:

Thus he rested, far less like a man than

His wheel-barrow in profile was like a pig.

But when I saw it was an old man bent,

At the same moment came into my mind

The games at which boys bend thus, High-Cockalorum,

Or Fly-the-garter, and Leap-frog.  At the sound

Of footsteps he began to straighten himself;

His head rolled under his cape like a tortoise’s;

He took an unlit pipe out of his mouth

Politely ere I wished him “A Happy New Year,”

And with his head cast upward sideways

Muttered –

So far as I could hear through the tree’s roar –

“Happy New Year, and may it come fastish, too,”

While I strode by and he turned to raking leaves.

Churlish of me; who am I to have a problem with line 8?   I do so wish to put  commas  , between  His wheel-barrow , in profile,  was like a pig    but I daren’t!!   Or maybe the word ‘he’  between profile and was…….    I have to continue to struggle with it…………I know it follows the ‘he’ in previous line.   I just hope it is a missing misprint.  Oh the simple trials of reading and editing!

Anyway, if anyone is really reading this:   Happy New Year!

 

 

also tagged as seasons

Christmas 2017

The Gypsy                           Edward Thomas

A fortnight before Christmas gypsies were everywhere:

Vans were drawn up on wastes, women trailed to the fair.

“My gentleman,” said one, “You’ve got a lucky face.”

“And you’ve a luckier one.” I thought, “if such a grace

And impudence in rags are lucky.” “Give a penny

For the poor baby’s sake.”  “Indeed I have not any

Unless you can give change for a sovereign, my dear.”

“Then just half a pipeful of tobacco can you spare?”

I gave it.  With that much victory she laughed content.

I should have given more, but off and away she went

With her baby and her pink sham flowers to rejoin

The rest before I could translate to its proper coin

Gratitude for her grace.  And I paid nothing then,

As I pay nothing now with the dipping of my pen

For her brother’s music when he drummed the tambourine

And stamped his feet, which made the workmen passing grin,

While his mouth-organ changed to a rascally Bacchanal dance

“Over the hills and far away.”  This and his glance

Outlasted all the fair, farmer and auctioneer,

Cheap-jack, balloon-man, drover with crooked stick, and steer,

Pig, turkey, goose and duck, Christmas Corpses to be.

Not even the kneeling ox had eyes like Romany.

That night he peopled for me the hollow wooded land,

More dark and wild than stormiest heavens, that I

searched and scanned

Like a ghost new-arrived.  The gradations of the dark

Were like an underworld of death, but for the spark

In the Gypsy boy’s black eyes as he played and stamped his tune,

“Over the hills and far away,” and a crescent moon.

………………………….

Mistletoe                   Walter De La Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

One last candle burning low,

All the sleepy dancers gone,

Just one candle burning on,

Shadows lurking everywhere:

Some one came, and kissed me there.

 

Tired I was; my head would go

Nodding under the mistletoe

(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),

No footsteps came, no voice, but only,

Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,

Stooped in the still and shadowy air

Lips unseen – and kissed me there.

 

……………………………………

also tagged as  seasons

Laurie Lee: Selected Poems & A Rose for Winter

Laurie Lee: Selected Poems

and

A Rose For Winter

…..my copy, The Hogarth Press 1955

Most recent edition of Selected Poems: Vintage Classics 2003  paper £7.99

 

lee-poems-coverSelected Poems, latest edition from Unicorn Press, paperback, 2014 at £12,99

52 poems included, selected by Laurie Lee for my 1985 publication.  Current ed. is the same content.

Here’s an admission: I have never read any Laurie Lee until these two books. Never seen any tv film either, maybe for the future…..

 

Noting that all 15 poems in My Many Coated Man are included in Selected Poems. The remaining 37 have mostly been included from his two previous collections:  The Sun My Monument (1944) and Bloom of Candles (1947).  In his forward to Selected Poems he says he cut the total number from others published by about half for S.P..  Whether for the sake of quality or space he doesn’t make clear, possibly the former.

The blurbs says he read Edward Thomas poems  of 1915 and was responsive to the style of poetry Thomas had invested in.  Poetry seems to have been the starting point of Lee’s successful writing and his development as an autobiographical writer seems to have continued in that ‘countryman’ style. His writings continue with a skill for description that helps the scenery burst from the page.   Lee seems to follow the thread of Thomas but in the opposite direction.  Edward Thomas learned his writing style could be pared down, concentrated, filtered and spun down from his natural history notes and writings into concise more silk-like poetry.

Wider reading than I have done would show more of the influences on Lee’s poetry and the enlarged world of autobiography that sealed his fame.

The poetry varies from those with a more formal rhyme scheme to those that are blank.  Sometimes the rhyme is pure, others half-rhyme, usually at the ends of lines.  I don’t recall more than a few mid-line rhyme or much deliberate alliteration.  Well, each poem should be read for itself for study.  Subjects cover war, love direct and symbolic, religious context, and memory.  The natural world flows descriptively throughout.  Despite the subjects I did not find the spikes or hard edges I expected.  Nudges, inferences but all softened by the overall language used; therefor for me the collection was a little disappointing.  The poems will all stand closer analysis if you like breaking things down. Remember that Lee admits that these poems are from his past and he feels he has changed since writing them. They still work but are not as strong as some of the previous poetry I have talked about.  I think his poetry may fade more over time but should still be read as a preview to his later writings.  However, the book, A Rose for Winter still reads well though perhaps as a period piece.  As are Freya Stark, Fleming, Hemingway et al, all still effective today.

For me the poems to recall are:

A Moment of War,    The Town Owl,   On Beacon Hill    and   Shot Fox.

rose-for-winter-coverReading  ‘A Rose for Winter’  you discover a fascinating picture of Andalusia, Spain in the mid 1950s, some 15 years after his years wandering in Andalusia and brief involvement in the Spanish Civil War.     Here the Spanish world is full of wildly different lives and scenes in comparison to England of today, or then.  Spain too, no doubt. His descriptions were as a visitor but also recalling and re-establishing memories and places of his travels in earlier years.

The book is  full of movement and description with evocative splashes of colour and emotion that fill the air despite it being a period of great hardship for so many after the Civil War.  Most frequently he conjures with the gypsy, the itinerant and also the seemingly huge quantity of street urchins, the homeless children and homeless families.   Focus often falling on the music and dance of the flamenco which seems to dominate his love of the country and people.   With his wife Kati they visit the Spanish coastline after accessing via Gibraltar.  A countryside, at least here, that is shown to us as almost deconstructed structurally and economically.  Maybe his preference was for the poorer, humbler areas but the people he meets with and describes seem to have the music of life within them.   Be the areas humble, they are not all bleak and the scenery and descriptions are rich. The section on Alhambra is especially memorable.   Maybe he treats all the hardships around a little casually whilst travelling.  A sign of the man or sign of the time?  Most likely just an observing eye.    He describes the grit and harshness of the lives he sees but honours the pride within all; sadly accepting it as the way of the world at that particular time.  Mind you, he himself seems non too prosperous, except relatively.

His travelling notes are fascinating and plentiful almost preliminaty pauses between the entertainments.  Which abound, usually occasions where music, song and dance fill the book with the electric gravity of the flamenco and Spanish gypsy character.  Bullfights, not the grandiose but the local affairs, get honest descriptive coverage several times.  Lee’s writing is a scenic tour part memoir-cum-travel that covers a factual viewing with a touch of nostalgia.   I am fond of flamenco so find the book quite fascinating as part travel, history and musicology.    His continuous flow of descriptive adjectives and adverbs is potentially overwhelming but luckily for me I can work with it in this book.  However I may well search out  A Moveable Feast to counteract it.

Two for the price of one, eh!

I found this poem without the potency of Lee’s descriptions but I include because it sets a scene:

From: Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke.  Translated by Jessie Lamont.  Published 1918

The Spanish Dancer

As a lit match first flickers in the hands

Before it flames, and darts out from all sides

Bright, twitching tongues, so, ringed by growing bands

Of spectators – – she, quivering, glowing stands

Poised tensely for the dance –  then forward glides

 

And suddenly becomes a flaming torch.

Her bright hair flames, her burning glances scorch,

And with a daring art at her command

Her whole robe blazes like a fire-brand

From which is stretched each naked arm, awake,

Gleaming and rattling like a frightened snake.

 

And then, as though the fire fainter grows,

She gathers up the flame –  again it glows,

As with proud gesture and imperious air

She flings it to the earth; and it lies there

Furiously flickering and crackling still – –

Then haughtily victorious, but with sweet

Swift smile of greeting, she puts forth her will

And stamps the flames out with her small firm feet.

 

 

With thanks to Gutenberg Project for this extracted poem.

 

 

…..

Poems In Unrhymed Cadence by F S Flint

Poems In Unrhymed Cadence           by F S Flint
I –

London, my beautiful,
It is not the sunset
Nor the pale green sky
Shimmering through the curtain
Of the silver birch,
Nor the quietness;
It is not the hopping
Of the little birds
Upon the lawn,
Nor the darkness
Stealing over all things
That moves me.

But as the moon creeps slowly
Over the tree-tops
Among the stars,
I think of her
And the glow her passing
Sheds on men.
London, my beautiful,
I will climb
Into the branches
To the moonlit tree-tops,
That my blood may be cooled
By the wind.

II
Under the lily shadow
And the gold
And the blue and mauve
That the whin and the lilac
Pour down on the water,
The fishes quiver.

Over the green cold leaves
And the rippled silver
And the tarnished copper
Of its neck and beak,
Toward the deep black water
Beneath the arches,
The swan floats slowly.

Into the dark of the arch the swan floats
And the black depth of my sorrow
Bears a white rose of flame.

III
In The Garden
The grass is beneath my head;
And I gaze
At the thronging stars
In the aisles of night.

They fall … they fall. . . .
I am overwhelmed,
And afraid.

Each little leaf of the aspen
Is caressed by the wind,
And each is crying.

And the perfume
Of invisible roses
Deepens the anguish.

Let a strong mesh of roots
Feed the crimson of roses
Upon my heart;
And then fold over the hollow
Where all the pain was.

 

Flint decries rhyme but the poem/s almost transfixes with the tone of individual words, especially said aloud, combined with the short lines which, following the punctuation, produces another rhythm, cadence he would prefer to use, simultaneously..  An effect that is much stronger than the visible outline of the poem would suggest.   His aim would seem to be to remove all emotion from the text to leave just the crystal glitter of the framework.   The words may be missing but the emotion is certainly not lacking!
Among others, H.D. was part of the  ‘Imagist’ descriptive, Sara Teasdale also wrote in this style but her lines are less ‘stripped down’.

D H Lawrence also, but produced his poetry in even freer line format often as stories but still relying on the natural rhythms/cadence of his voice.  Rhyme exists but the ‘voice’ is more important.

I am almost in a compare and contrast mode with the likes of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost too but my real aim is to wave a flag for F S Flint, who left school at 13 and eventually worked his way up from a young, junior clerk in the Civil Service, learnt some 10 languages and Economics to eventually work as a Planning Economist for the Government.   Sadly giving up Poetry from 1930 as he felt Economics much more relevant and important.   He was widely respected for his journal contributions on poetry and many translations from the French

Several Train Journeys

The Train Journey                                               John Middleton Murray

For what cause? To what end?
Into what nameless disaster speeding
Through a twilight cavern of space unheeding,
Through vapours of tears, with a numb heart bleeding,
Torn from what friend?

Cause there is none, nor friend;
Nor was that joy from which I parted,
But only what is no longer, yet departed
It’s voice rings golden to me broken-hearted,
Saying, There is no end.

 

The Send-Off                                             Wilfred Owen

Down the close, darkening lanes they sang their way
To the siding shed,
And lined the train with faces grimly gay.

Their breasts were stuck all white with wreaths and spray
As mens’s are, dead.

Dull porters watched them, and a casual tramp
Stood staring hard,
Sorry to miss them from the upland camp.
Then, unmoved, signals nodded, and a lamp
Winked to the guard.

So secretly, like wrongs hushed up, they went.
They were not ours;
We never heard to which front they were sent.

Nor there if they yet mock what women meant
Who have them flowers.

Shall they return to beatings of great bells
In wild trainloads?
A few, a few, too few for drums and yells,
May creep back silent, to still vintage wells
Up half- known roads

 

Journey.                               Harold Monro

(I)

How many times I miss the train
By running up the staircase once again
For some dear trifle almost left behind.
At that last moment the unwary mind
Forgets the solemn tick of station-time;
That muddy lane the feet must climb –
The bridge – the ticket – signal down –
Train just emerging beyond the town:
The great blue engine panting as it takes
The final curve, and grinding on its brakes
Up to the platform edge. . . . The little doors
Swing open, while the burly porter roars.
The tight compartment fills : our careful eyes
Go to explore each other’s destinies.
A lull. The station-master waves. The train
Gathers, and grips, and takes the rails again,
Moves to the shining open land, and soon
Begins to tittle-tattle a tame tattoon.

(sections II, III, IV continue and conclude the journey)

 

THE PARTING             Guy Butler, from ‘Stranger to Europe Poems 1939-1949′

Mounting, they crossed the ridge beneath the stars
Whose midnight brilliance seemed to shake and fill
The silence with dim strumming, like guitars
Heard from a distance when the air is still;
When the hidden half of the heart’s responding wire
Emits its own, still barely known, desire.

But when, dose by, two night jars broke
The starry strumming with their forlorn shriek
He felt it was the parting farm that spoke
Against far countries he was soon to seek.
Dismounting to open the creaking boundary gate                                                                          How rough underfoot the track’s familiar grit!

A pulse beyond the peak; then from the pass
Swivelled the headlight’s straight and scything ray.
Metal music over miles of grass
Rose to a roar, then blurred, then died away
To a dimmer, more exciting tripple beat
Like the throb in his throat, the horses’ feet.

Black-gloved bluegums mourning under the moon.
A mongrel yowling in the cinder-yard.
White, concrete platform. “Down train due in soon”,
Said in a dry dead voice by the tired guard;
But telegraph wires and poles were lines and bars
For the tense, dim strumming of far guitars.

The engine beat grew louder, louder till
It struck great bass chords from the iron bridge;
Then effortless, ominous, inevitable
Slid hiss-hissing down the smooth black ridge
Towards a heart bewildered. fluttering fast
From the small, now open cage of an empty past,

Then drew up silent and seemed to fall asleep
While they stood talking of last stock-fair day,
A recent law-suit, anything to keep
Control of these last minutes, not to betray
To each how each before Time’s magistrate
Was stuttering, inarticulate.

Not waiting for the whistle, the old man turned
With half a smile: “You’re good at shooting buck.
Remember there up North what you have learnt.
And don’t take stupid risks”. And then, “Goodluck”.
Embarrassed by his heart’s, his tongue’s distress
He barely managed to mutter a wry God-bless.

A childish lump in his throat, against his will,
Watching those shoulders darken out of sight,
Hearing the hooves grow dim on the slumbering hill …
Then only the engine hissing at the night:
Only the thought: He’s at the boundary gate.
He turns. He hears the birds. He feels the grit.

But when the whistle drove a long spear through
The unexpecting stillness, when, after a minute,
Echoes lapped back hollowly, he knew
His heart adventure-hungry, and hard within it
A doubt that an arid plain of rock and scrub
Could be his being’s centre, his whole life’s hub.

The first jets forced the angry cylinders,
And all down the train the couplings rang.
Ten bluegums struck the heavenly guitars,
o all the danger in him leapt and sang! –
But waiting with cries for other nights and stars,
Caught in his caging heart, slept two nightjars.

 

I would have included Adlestrop  by Edward Thomas but it has appeared here previously if you care to search in tags.

The first three poems are from ‘Selections from Modern Poets’ published 1927 by Martin Secker and Warburg, se;escted by J C Squire.   He started compiling in 1919 and cosidered it a selection of the best Modern Young Poets of the day.  None of them born before 1870, several dying in the First World War.  The book contains a fair number of  well-known now established names, respected writers of fiction as well as poetry.  Plus, for me a good mix of people I have come across only briefly or maybe not at all.

‘Modern’ was of the period but may not fit too well with poetry of today, ‘Georgian’ may fit better as well as  ‘Imagist’ but the sharpets edges may come from the ‘War Poets’ and  these accelerated the greatest boundary changes.

The Guy Butler is from the Second World war fitting the theme of trains and comes from the scenery of South Africa at the outbreak of the war.   I would have liked to include the complete poem by Harold Monro but felt it would stretch these pages a little too far. Maybe another time.