Qui est ce jeune plongeur ?

Is that really Maupassant readying

himself to dive  among the ladies?

These, modestly dressed like himself

beneath the white high cliffs of Étretat.

Behind him on the perilous board

a gentleman stands with arms

folded, wearing a woolen hat, about

to inspect the quality of the dive

into this so called “mer d’huile”.

Notchalantly, a modern-looking

girl in her black bathing costume floats

seemingly unaware of the garrulous.

society society on the nearby anchored punt.

So this jeune homme is conceivably

the fellow who will meet

Flaubert and Swinburne and

pen Bel Ami?

 

[With thanks to Paris Match]

The painter’s details are below:-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Lepoittevin

Eugène] Le Poittevin, peintre (Getty Museum)

Reading Padraic Fallon

  1. Fallon (1905-1974) came from lovely County Galway and was drawn to Dublin by George Russell (AE) to take part in the Irish Literary Revival. Heaney wrote of him “His sensibility has weathered in Galway the rainy light that was familiar to both Rafferty and Yeats; it has been tutored by a landscape at once elemental and historical; a landscape that holds the walled demesne and the tower as well as the bog-face and the stone wall…”

I came across this poem entitled YESTERDAY’S MAN which contained the following lovely and intriguing stanzas:-

Lines of verse too left littering

After poems that never got away,

A pen drawing, very odd, the storm God Zu

Trusses in his fowl form to a carrying pole;

(From him the wren-walk on St Stephen’s Day)

 

Copied I suppose, to prove a point,

(Akkadian seal, Babylonian cylinder?) How

Much at home I am in this mad world

Suddenly and again! And here somewhere

You the girl enter

 

Anonymously, in two wooden stanzas, into which

You have entirely disappeared. Words, words,

That’s all you are, girl who never

Was a lover. And I likened you,

Body I could see through, to a catapult

The poem concerns itself with writing poetry and the poet looking through his notebooks and considering lost loves, regret and all in a stormy atmosphere. I like the variation between detail , here about the paraphernalia of writing and the vagueness…”here somewhere”. The latter representing ageing disorientation.

More on Fallon may be found at preview.co.uk where Seamus Heaney has written an appreciation and quotes some lines about Lands End.

 

 

 

 

Arthur Symons- Cornish Connections

Arthur Symons biography > My poetic side

Cornish Wind

There is a wind in Cornwall that I know
From any other wind, because it smells
Of the warm honey breath of heather-bells
And of the sea’s salt; and these meet and flow
With such sweet savour in such sharpness met
That the astonished sense in ecstasy
Tastes the ripe earth and the unvintaged sea.
Wind out of Cornwall, wind, if I forget :
Not in the tunnelled Streets where scarce men breathe
The air they live by, but wherever seas
Blossom in foam, wherever merchant bees
Volubly traffic upon any heath:
If I forget, shame me! or if I find
A wind in England like my Cornish wind.
This poem by Symons is perhaps a reminder that his parents were Cornish Methodists, his father, a preacher who once was a Minister at St Ives as well as at other parishes in the Duchy. I particularly like the line about “the ripe earth and the unvintaged sea” which by contrast brings evokes Homer’s Wine Dark Sea https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine-dark_sea_(Homer). Then there is the a reference to merchant bees, perhaps because they transport pollen but then there are robust Cornish nlack bees (https://www.merchantsmanor.com/cornish-black-bees/).

There is an interesting review in the TLS of his Selected Early Poems and also his Spiritual Adventures by Kate Hext (January 12 2018) which begins with a poem which describes  the poet in sad old age at dinner. It was published by John Betjeman in 1940.


ON SEEING AN OLD POET IN THE CAFE ROYAL, by JOHN BETJEMAN

 

I saw him in the Café Royal,
Very old and very grand.
Modernistic shone the lamplight
There in London’s fairyland.
‘Devilled chicken. Devilled whitebait.
Devil if I understand.

‘Where is Oscar? Where is Bosie?
Have I seen that man before?
And the old one in the corner,
Is it really Wratislaw?’
Scent of Tutti-Frutti-Sen-Sen
And cheroots upon the floor.

There is a delightful exposition of Tutti Frutti Sen Sen and other commercial items in poetry by the late Clive James at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/articles/69678/product-placement-in-modern-poetry

Waking with Rosa

Wenn du erwachst

Wenn du erwachsts
Baum der in dir Wächst
traumgrün
Hinter deinen Liden
schlummern Zinnsoldaten
singt der Friedenvogel
Wenn du erwachst
breent die Stadt
die Toten sind wach
und erwarten dich

When you awake

When you awake
Trees grown within you
green as dreams
Under your eyelids
tin soldiers slumber
the bird of peace sings
when you awake
the city is burning
the dead are awake
and waiting for you

Zinnsoldaten by Michael Gogol on Amazon Music - Amazon.com

More poems by Rosa Ausländer may be found at https://allpoetry.com/Rose-Auslander

 

Discovering a new poet- Ciaran Carson

The town where I live has many barber shops, betting shops (gambling dens) and fortunately many charity shops. Since the end of lock-down, as part of the recovery process I have been raiding the latter and especially one which has a rich supply of poetry books. Taking advantage of my reduced price filter coffee at 50p per cup, I thumbed through, “Poems of the Decade”  in which I happened upon two remarkable poems about historic battles by Ciaran Carson.

Here is the start of a poem about Gallipoli from a collection called The War Correspondant.

Take sheds and stalls from Billingsgate,
glittering with scaling-knives and fish,
the tumbledown outhouses of English farmers’ yards
that reek of dung and straw, and horses
cantering the mewsy lanes of Dublin;

take an Irish landlord’s ruinous estate,
elaborate pagodas from a Chinese Delftware dish
where fishes fly through shrouds and sails and yards
of leaking ballast-laden junks bound for Benares
in search of bucket-loads of tea as black as tin;

The full poem may be found at https://genius.com/Ciaran-carson-the-war-correspondent-annotated

My knowledge of Gallipoli comes from a visit during a minitrek in the early seventies and in addition the outstanding film with Mel Gibson https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallipoli_(1981_film) 

However, this poem is remarkable with the tumbledown and dilapidated nautical images. There is a clear underlying structure but the surreal images build throughout this poem. I particularly liked the word “mewsy” and there are clear political references in the poem. The situation along with the following poem “Balaklava” show the desperation of war and both battles show the limits of British Imperialism. There is a strange surrealism to the lines-

elaborate pagodas from a Chinese Delftware dish
where fishes fly through shrouds and sails and yards

These somehow reflect the weirdness and disorientation of the context. The Delft reference reminds me too of another favourite poet, Derek Mahon. Yet there is also an association as the poem progresses of Kipling. Then there is a reference to horses which were present in the cramped situation. They were there to move the heavy guns of the Anzac forces. 6100 horses were ready to disembark but only a few were actually put ashore. A search reveals-

After Gallipoli many moderate nationalists began to lose faith in the idea that supporting Britain in the war would assure Home Rule. … But it was in August that Irishmen arrived at Gallipoli in large numbers as part of Allied commander Sir Ian Hamilton’s plan to break the stalemate and go on the offensive.

Sadly in discovering this new poet, I also found how recent was his passing in October of last year https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciaran_Carson

 

A politician finds in difficult to retire

Sometimes it is the state of the world that preoccupies him,

campaigning for peace and pensioners.

Although public opinion has moved his way,

Meetings, groups and such occasions eat up his time.

 

He is powered with a zeal for international security.

 

The state of his roof preoccupies him and in a rash rush of

domestic disasters, he almost gassed himself.

He put his pipe alight into his pocket and burned his coat.

The car breaks down and is broken into.

 

Now the roof caves in when the builder walks across it,

and accidentally puts his foot right through the ceiling.

 

His old adversaries would need hard hearts not to sympathise

with his bouts of depression. He becomes deaf and has trouble

with his heart and legs.

Only his friends sustain him and the pride he feels

at his children’s success is uncontainable.

 

His jokes are demonstrably unribtickling.

He marches out into the world with a thermos flask

and a Mars bar.

He remains unashamedly sentimental.

 

The case for working people is coming back and

though there are times for despair, there are still days of hope

as he enjoys life’s afternoon sunshine

with his grandchildren.

(Found Poem -With thanks to the Guardian Review  20.10,07 by  David McKie

reviewing More Time for Politics; Diaries 2001-07 by Tony Benn)

“Bronte Territories” by Melissa Hardie-an Appreciation

The Brontë sisters with their brother, Branwell, in a painting by him called the Gun Group Portrait.

Wandering down Chapel Street in Penzance, you cannot fail to recognise that you have entered that part of town where history feels close-by. The sea in the distance, the church and the chapel architecture is impressive, the Turk’s Head Tavern and the baroque wonder of the Egyptian House, the Portuguese consulate and almost opposite the house where George Eliot stayed waiting for calm weather for her voyage to the Scillies. Reading Melissa’s book is like taking a similar peregrination through lost corridors of time to recover a sense of the rich liveliness of Penwith’s past. Welcome to the psychogeography of Bronte’s Territories.

The Brontes are still much in the news. The Irish Times, just two weeks ago, were reporting on the O.U.P. computer analysis of Wuthering Heights apparently confirming it to be the work of Emily and not, as had been suggested, that of her brother Branwell. Iconoclasm may be in vogue. However, a square in Brussels – the city where two of the Bronte sisters studied French – is to be named in honour of the literary siblings. Other authors make claim to curious events in Shropshire in the early years of the 19th century drew the parents of genius together. It is to the intellectual and feminine furore of Penzance and its inspiring hinterland that Hardie’s work appropriately returns us.

In a key chapter on the literature and legend of Cornwall from 1760 much mention is made of the intriguing and taciturn figure of Joseph Carne, a geologist of great renown and an energetic banker. His personality was such that he combined a skill with numbers with a strong Methodist belief and mixed in a variety of literary circles. Nearby Falmouth was a key port for the Packet boats recorded in the poetry and memoirs of Byron and Southey. It too was the home of the Quaker family of Foxes who founded the Cornwall Polytechnic Society in 1832. Carne was a friend and shared their Non-Conformist beliefs. Hardie shows how Carne encouraged his daughter in her geological studies and mentions the doctors, engineers, vicars and scientists whose cultural sources were enriched by contacts which included Bretons, Huguenots, Hessians as well as a significant Jewish community. She reminds us that in reading Davy, for example, we encounter not just a socially beneficent scientist, a traveller and a poet. This is the endowment the Branwell sisters took to Haworth.

It is interesting to consider that within this Cornish background at this period there were a number of competing beliefs and attitudes. There were the mythical beliefs fostered from folklore- piskies and stories in the expiring Cornish language. There was the old religion of Rome not far beneath the surface. Yet there were also new discoveries especially in medicine and geology that fostered a scientific empiricism. This can be seen in figures such as Davies Gilbert to whom this book gives due prominence- a polymath, mathematician, engineer and President of the Royal Society and a wonderful diarist to boot. William Temple much later stated, “The Church exists primarily for the sake of those who are still outside it. It is a mistake to suppose that God is only, or even chiefly, concerned with religion.” It was the evangelical zeal of the Wesley brothers and their belief in education, temperance combined with stunningly beautiful hymns. It was also a challenge to superstition. It is often said it averted revolution which France and later Peterloo portended.

Melissa Hardie shows us the other supportive factors that came into this heady mixture and sustained the Branwells and flowered in the Bronte’s work. These are twofold; the societies and the family or kinship links. The Penzance Ladies Reading group who carefully studied together a stunning variety of literature from the classics of the Ancients to the contemporary travel writings. Not forgetting the subversive eloquence of Lord Byron, a gentleman with Cornish links through the Trevanions. The founding of libraries and collection of artefacts had practical even economic benefits. The Royal Cornwall Geological Society studies into metallic intrusions assisted the efficiency of mining. Local banks provided the capital for further developments in the industry as well as the magnificent Wesleyan Chapels that the Carnes, Branwells and Battens founded and fostered.

The author has researched both land and legacy extensively. Her approach is frequently imaginative and sometimes speculative. This is a strength because she is also at pains to inform the reader of the limitations of the evidence. Footnotes and suggested reading in themselves are useful but the illustrations are worthy of pondering- several works of art in themselves. They add significant detail. This patient work by Melissa supported by other members of the resplendent Hypatia Trust must be counted as filling a deep fissure, or as we might say in Cornwall, a zawn in Bronte Studies.

See also from the Guardian –

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/29/bronte-grandfather-smuggling-past-financed-books-charlotte-emily-anne

 

Mein Herr Marquis- The Laughing Song

 

Mein Herr Marquis, ein Mann wie Sie
Sollt’ besser das verstehn,
Darum rate ich, ja genauer sich
Die Leute anzusehen!
Die Hand ist doch wohl gar zo fein, hahaha.
Dies Füsschen so zierlich und klein, hahaha.
Die Sprache, die ich führe
Die Taille, die Tournüre,
Dergleichen finden Sie
Bei einer Zofe nie!
Gestehn müssen Sie fürwahr,
Sehr komisch dieser Irrtum war!
Ja, sehr komisch, hahaha,
Ist die Sache, hahaha.
Drum verzeihn Sie, hahaha,
Wenn ich lache, hahaha!
Ja, sehr komisch, hahaha
Ist die Sache, hahaha!

Sehr komisch, Herr Marquis, sind Sie!
Mit dem Profil im griech’schen Stil
Beschenkte mich Natur:
Wenn nicht dies Gesicht schon genügend spricht,
So sehn Sie die Figur!
Schaun durch die Lorgnette Sie dann, ah,
Sich diese Toilette nur an, ah
Mir scheint wohl, die Liebe
Macht Ihre Augen trübe,
Der schönen Zofe Bild
Hat ganz Ihr Herz erfüllt!
Nun sehen Sie sie überall,
Sehr komisch ist fürwahr der Fall!
Ja, sehr komisch, hahaha
Ist die Sache, hahaha
Drum verzeihn Sie, hahaha,
Wenn ich lache, hahaha!
Ja, sehr komisch, hahaha,
Ist die Sache, hahaha  etc.

English Translation

 

My Lord Marquis, a man like you
should better understand that,
Therefore I advise you to look more
accurately at people!
My hand is surely far too fine, hahaha.
My foot so dainty and small, hahaha.
In a manner of speaking
My waist, my bustle,
The likes of things you’ll never find
on a maid!
You really must admit,
This mistake was very funny!
Yes, very funny, hahaha,
This thing is, hahaha.
You’ll have to forgive me, hahaha,
If I laugh, hahaha!
Yes, very funny, hahaha
This thing is, hahaha!

Very comical, Marquis, you are!
With this profile in Grecian style
being a gift of nature;
If this face doesn’t give it away,
Just look at my figure!
Just look through the eye-glass, then, ah,
At this outfit I am wearing, ah
It seems to me that love
Has clouded your eyes,
The chambermaid image
Has fulfilled all your heart!
Now you see her everywhere,
Very funny indeed, is this situation!
Yes, very funny, hahaha
This thing is, hahaha.
You’ll have to forgive me, hahaha,
If I laugh, hahaha!
Yes, very funny, hahaha
This thing is, hahaha!

Lockdown Litany

dutch east indies architecture | Tempo Doeloe #9 - Bandung, Hotel ...

The usual combination-

a doctor gone to seed and

a rum skipper in the South China Seas,

 

in accordance with the author’s predilections

a handsome tow haired young man

predictably on the run from some

funny business that sadly

he has done.

 

A storm arises and shakes

the bored doctor’s equanimity

to the core;

only the crafty wicked sea captain

can negotiate such raging seas.

 

They arrive to the transparent tranquillity

of a tiny Dutch island.

Finding lodgings and satisfactorily breakfasting

the travellers meet eccentric characters

both esoteric and exotic.

 

Naturally, a beautiful maiden arrives,

a stunning love scene soon  ensues

involving the tow haired Australian

on the loose from his dirty deed

and the prose flows engagingly enough.

 

The novelist must tie up his plot.

The women behave in various unladylike ways.

The story clangs, chancy and unreal.

The body count mounts

as fictional fate  mechanically reveals.

 

You really have to ask yourself

if this is the best use of your time.

Reading this second-rate novel

by this first-rate novelist.

 

Even then the ending was uncertain,

though

perhaps prefiguring the postmodern.

 

 

Gwyneth Lewis-Sea Virus

Sea Virus

I knew I should never have gone below
but I did, and the fug of bilges and wood
caught me aback. The sheets of my heart
snapped taut to breaking, as a gale
stronger than longing filled the sail
inside me. To be shot of land
and its wood smoke! To feel the keel
cold in a current! To see the mast
inscribing water like a restless pen
writing a fading wake! It’s true,
I’m ruined. Not even peace will do
to keep me ashore now. Not even you.

I was first attracted to Gwyneth Lewis’s work by a poem in Ruth Padel’s collection, 60 Poems for the Journey of Life where her attractive poem, The Flaggy Shore may be found. Clearly she is much interested in marine matters.

The poem has a tension and an elegance about it. It will appeal to anyone interested in messing about in boats but has an edge about it too. Much of the imagery is erotic even sexual. The word fug strikes and catches you back as she says in the next line. It is overpowering and yet speeds you along with considerable force like a dangerous attraction. The word “shot” adds to this general sense of menace and yet also implies the freedom experienced as the liberation of inspiration. The image of the pen as a sail-a simile- reminds of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam –

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

It also reminds of the words written on Keat’s Grave-

The best-known use of a similar phrase is on the gravestone of John Keats: Here lies one whose name was writ in water. (‘Writ‘ is a poetic form of ‘written‘.) This means his fame was transient; it passed away quickly. Then there is Catullus-

1 Nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle My woman says that she prefers to be married to no one
2 quam mihi, non si se Iuppiter ipse petat. but me, not even if Jupiter himself should seek her.
3 dicit: sed mulier cupido quod dicit amanti, she says: but what a woman says to her passionate lover,
4 in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua. she ought to write on the wind and swift-flowing water.

The poem then is about the possible effects of being driven along by the poetic imagination. The last line has an awesome direct remark to the reader. For some poets their trade requires passion even to the point of not counting the cost. Shelley in his boat springs to mind!