Literature Poetry

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!

Literature Poetry

Keats and Meg Merriles

Meg Merrilies


Old Meg she was a gipsy;
And liv’d upon the moors:
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
And her house was out of doors.Her apples were swart blackberries,
Her currants, pods o’ broom;
Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,
Her book a church-yard tomb.Her brothers were the craggy hills,
Her sisters larchen trees;
Alone with her great family
She liv’d as she did please.No breakfast had she many a morn,
No dinner many a noon,
And ‘stead of supper she would stare
Full hard against the moon.But every morn, of woodbine fresh
She made her garlanding,
And every night the dark glen yew
She wove, and she would sing.And with her fingers old and brown
She plaited mats o’ rushes,
And gave them to the cottagers
She met among the bushes.Old Meg was brave as Margaret Queen,
And tall as Amazon:
An old red blanket cloak she wore,
A chip hat had she on.
God rest her aged bones somewhere–
She died full long agone!
German Matters Literature Poetry

Und wer sind diese mit dem Priester hier Und jener Färse? (Ode to a Grecian Urn – Keats)

I have just received from Reclam “Englische Lyrik-50 Gedichte” English/Deutsch to add to the pile of interesting books I have collected recently. Briefly perusing them yesterday, brought to my attention several poems I had forgotten but interested me greatly. These included Sonnet 116 and also Charles Causley’s,”I Am the Great Sun”. The latter moving me to tears.


(Lassmich nicht fuer den Bund treuer Seeen

Hindernisse zu lassen:Die Liebe ist nicht Liebe,

die sich ändert, wenn sie Änderung vorfindet) Shakespeare Sonett 116
Charles Causley
Charles Causley
Ich bin dein Rat, aber du hörst mich nicht,

   ich bin der Liebhaber, den du verraten willst.
Ich bin der Sieger, aber du jubelst mir nicht zu,
   ich bin die heilige Taube, die du erschlagen willst.
(Von «Ich bin die große Sonne» Von einem Kruzifix in der Normandie aus dem Jahre 1632 Charles Causley-Heimatstadt, Launceston Cornwall)
However, since my previous posting on Gottfried Benn’s Cretan Vase, I have been thinking about Keat’s Ode to a Grecian Urn in something of a comparison.It contains many moving lines like:-
Heard melodies are sweet
but those that are unheard
Are sweeter;therefore ye sweet pipes play on
Not to the sensual ear, but more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit dities of no tone:
John Keats
John Keats
Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal – yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearièd,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
„Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”

Ode auf eine griechische Urne (German)

Liebkeusche Braut der steten Stille du,
Du Pflegekind von Tag und Tag und Schweigen!
Welch blumiges Waldgeschichtchen schilderst du –
Und sagst es süßer als ein Reimereigen?
Welch blattumrankte Mär umstreicht dein Rund
Von Göttern oder Menschen oder beiden
In Tempe oder in Arkadiens Hängen?
Wer sind sie, die an Mädchenangst sich weiden?
Was jagt so toll? Was ringt und flieht so bunt?
Welch Flötenlied? Welch lustberauschtes Drängen?

Gehörtes Lied ist süß, doch süßer ist
Ein ungehörtes: sanfte Flöte, weiter!
O wie du, klanglos, mehr als köstlich bist,
Du geisterhaft-lautlosen Lieds Begleiter!
Nie kannst du, Jugend, lassen von dem Sang,
Wie nie die Bäume hier ihr Laub verlieren;
Du keck Verliebter, nie, nie kannst du küssen,
So nah du auch dem Ziel – doch sei nicht bang:
Nie welkt sie! Wirst du auch entbehren müssen,
Wird Liebe dich und Schönheit sie stets zieren.

 Glücklicher Baum in ewiger Frühlingszeit,

Nie sinken deiner Zweige Blätter nieder.
Glücklicher Sänger, ohne Müdigkeit
Für immer flötend immer neue Lieder!
Und Liebe, Liebe, voll von größerem Glück:
Für immer heiß und der Erfüllung harrend,
Du immer jagende, du immer junge!
Wie steht vor dir lebendige Gier zurück,
Die Herzen satt macht, im Genuß erstarrend,
Die Hirn erhitzt und dürr versengt die Zunge!

Und wer sind diese mit dem Priester hier
Und jener Färse? Welcher Gottheit danken
Im Grünen sie mit schönstem Opfertier,
Dem Kränze blühen um die seidnen Flanken?
Welch kleine Stadt an Fluß, in Bergeshain,
An Seestrand, Stadt mit Burg zu Wehr und Frieden.
Steht diesen frommen Tag mit leeren Gassen?
Du kleine Stadt wirst ewig stumm nun sein,
Denn keinem wird die Heimkehr je beschieden,
Dir kundzutun, warum du so verlassen.

O attische Form, so schön wie nie erschaut,
Um die sich marmorn Mann und Mädchen ranken,
Mit vollen Zweigen und zertretnem Kraut,
Schweigende Form! du rufst in uns Gedanken,
Wie Ewigkeit es tut: kalt Schäferspiel!
Sind wir mit unserm Leid dahin, so findest
Du andres Leid und wirst in Kümmernissen
Den Menschen trösten, dem du dies verkündest:
»Schönheit ist Wahrheit, Wahr ist Schön!« – Nicht viel,
Nur dies weißt du – und brauchst nicht mehr zu wissen.

I am very much endebted to the following website where I hope readers will find much of interest:-,_John-1795/Ode_on_a_Grecian_Urn/de/4712-Ode_auf_eine_griechische_Urne