And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

fredag 30. november 2012

November Poetry - part III

While still labouring in the talons of post-thesis ennui I have been unable to summon sufficient strength of will to embark on a lengthy and scholarly blogpost, and as a consequence I present now the third installment in the series of November poetry. This time I give you an excerpt from Edmund Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender, which was his debut in the literary world. This cycle of twelve poems, one for each month, is modelled after Virgil's Eclogues and is exquisitely pastoral, each poem being a conversation between shepherds on subjects such as love, worldiness and death. The Shepheardes Calender is remarkable for its poetic range, encompassing a number of various rhyme scheme and verse forms.

The protagonist of the cycle is Colin Clout, a character taken from a poem by John Skelton (c.1460-1529), and he is widely agreed to serve as Edmund Spenser's persona. He also makes an appearance in the epic The Faerie Queene. In the 11th eclogue, the subject for Colin's mourning is a woman called Dido, and the eclogue itself is fashioned after a poem by Jean Marot (c.1450-c.1526). Since the poem is rather long, a present here only an excerpt from Colin's lament for Dido.

Shepheards, that by your flocks on Kentish downes abyde,
Waile ye this wofull waste of natures warke:
Wail we the wight, whose presence was our pryde:
Waile we the wight, whose absence is our carke.
The sonnne of all the world is dimme and darke:
The earth now lacks her wonted light,
And all we dwell in deadly night,
O heauie herse.
Breake we our pypes, that shrild as lowde as Larke,
O carefull verse.

søndag 25. november 2012

The Road to Ripon

During my stay in York this August a friend and I decided to take a trip to Ripon, a village a little northwest of York. I was excited to go there and see the cathedral, and I had entertained a certain fascination for Ripon ever since my student days in York, when one of my professors told that occasionally, when the populace of York was sufficiently hostile, the archbishop would retreat to Ripon. As a consequence the village grew in importance throughout the Middle Ages, and naturally a cathedral was erected.

Before coming to Ripon we drove by bus through a late-summer Yorkshire landscape of golden fields, meandering rivers, narrow roads and small hamlets. In time I intend to get back to the subject of Ripon on this blog, but for the time being - since post-thesis ennui has rendered me unable to compose long posts - I will here present a minor poem that grew out of a fond recollection of that archetypal English countryside.

The stone-built villages of England.
- Stone Villages, Joseph Brodsky

The Road to Ripon

There were hedgerows, open fields, and the narrow road
quarreling with the stone houses for its thoroughfare,
heading for Ripon in a quiet pilgrimage.
The houses were as I expected them to be,
the churches, too, and one by one each hamlet
flaunted their sleepy charm and was gone,
nameless to a stranger as if they were coyly shy
and sought by namelessness to be inviting.
Time ceased to pass on the country road;
the northern nooks, the mute river and the alleys
of chestnut or willow seemed not to know
there was a world outside, but rather found their peace
cradled in the orient corn of August,
whose light breeze whispered lullabies from when the North was young.
- November 05 2012

fredag 23. november 2012

November Poetry - part II

Today's November poem is a strophe from Spenser's alleged unfinished book of The Faerie Queene commonly known as The Cantos of Mvtabilitie, in which there is a pageant of the months riding, bearing or accompanied by emblems of the zodiac. November is described accordingly:

Next was Nouember, he full grosse and fat,
As fed with lard, and that right well might seeme;
For, he had been a fatting hogs of late,
That yet his browes with sweat, did reek and steem,
And yet the season was full sharp and breem;
In planting eeke he took no small delight:
Whereon he rode, not easie was to deeme;
For it a dreadfull Centaure was in sight,
The seed of Saturne, and faire Nais, Chiron hight

The Faerie Queene can be found here.

torsdag 22. november 2012

November Poetry - part I

For the past month this blog has been dormant as a consequence of my thesis work. I have now handed in the thesis to the Department and await the defence in medio December. I'm nonetheless trying to keep up four posts a month, and to achieve this I'm going the easy route: poetry posts. The first one is Geoffrey Hill's second sonnet from his cycle An Apology for the Revival of Christian Architecture in England, printed in Tenebrae, 1978.

II) Damon's Lament for his Clorinda, Yorkshire 1654

November rips gold foil from the oak ridges.   
Dour folk huddle in High Hoyland, Penistone.   
The tributaries of the Sheaf and Don
bulge their dull spate, cramming the poor bridges.

The North Sea batters our shepherds’ cottages   
from sixty miles. No sooner has the sun   
swung clear above earth’s rim than it is gone.   
We live like gleaners of its vestiges

knowing we flourish, though each year a child   
with the set face of a tomb-weeper is put down   
for ever and ever. Why does the air grow cold

in the region of mirrors? And who is this clown   
doffing his mask at the masked threshold   
to selfless raptures that are all his own?