FROM THE CYCLOPS (Menard Press 2002, AVAILABLE through CENTRAL BOOKS)
He who had been Lord General of the Parliament of England,
Broken one king and helped restore another,
By the mutiny of his bones was confined to a chair,
And the shadows of Old Age came across his face
And he refought the former wars in his mind.
"I have written something in justification of what I did
And put it in the great chest, and told various people
Where it is hid, and no doubt in time some English Livy
May give to it the eloquence it lacks.
But in my heart I return to these matters again and again.
We came to Charles Stuart at York that bright day in June
When Yorkshire had been summoned to doff its hats.
It would have cost him nothing to have listened to our petition
Which was offered in all loyalty
In knowledge of how affliction had fallen on our Northern counties
But because we criticised him he took us to be not of his party
So we had to follow him round, and turn our loyalty into a demonstration.
In the end I ran forward and thrust the paper on his saddle bow
From which of course he tossed it off again.
And after that, because he chose it, Yorkshiremen trying desperately
To avoid having to fight each other,
To which I and my Father, knowing it must come were unwillingly averse.
And when the storm of War finally burst
You rapidly discovered the true neutrals
Who changed their party with each hint of rain.
But why was I so certain?
Oliver conceived he had a duty from God
But to me nothing very much was certain
Except that Charles Stuart meant to break the old custom of England.
Richelieu had been doing the same in France
And it had been done long ago in Spain.
Having to discuss one's actions with one's subjects
Must seem a waste of time to Kings, and even Oliver
When Lord Protector, suffered from something of the same.
But I like a man who meets your reason with his own.
There was that chap Winstanley, refusing to doff his cap
To a general with the best cavalry in Europe at his back,
But he reminded me of my dalesmen
Who were heroes in our forlorn bewintered cause
But were known to vanish into an ale house
In the middle of an overhot retreat.
So I went back to London, and said as much to the Council of State.
But there are dark rocks about Menston
And over towards Almscliffe, and I grew up
Seeing the moor about them
Which is neither pleasant nor christian
And fills me with a dreadful exhilaration
In the presense of destruction
But also makes you aware
Of the sheer pleasure
Of staying alive in an impossible situation.
Odd you may say in a man who has looked after stained glass
And preserved ancient records
And always been in favour of good government
But it has kept me going all the same."
I was called out unexpectedly about
eleven in the morning, just too late to
be offered a drink, and was asked not to wait
for their architect in the afternoon
but to dig at the back beside the french windows
and find the old sewer underneath their lawn
and house, which they were quite sure must be smelling.
For myself I thought it unlikely.
What sane builder would risk a house collapsing
into the remains of something old? But they pay me,
so I get out my tools, and begin to dig.
Grass and good soil, which came out easily.
But then it was clay - quite dry, and then soggy.
Now that's hard, when it goes and gets soggy. But
they pay me, so I go on perseveringly.
And they don't come out offering a cup of tea
but asking if I have found it yet.
And I tell them I can't find anything smelly.
And they look at me oddly in all that wet
and tell me they're nearly sick with the stench.
And me I can't begin to understand that.
There's no smell there, I think, let alone a stench.
Anyhow I do get down to flowing water
- and quite a lot of it - full of fish, maybe tench
though how any fish should come to such
a place I do not know, and they all had
something strange to their mouths. Still it is all work.
So I start to broaden out my hole to find
this sewer under the house they're going on
about. And that of course is much easier said
than done. But then there's a real complication.
This water with all the fish in does not run
underneath their house as they think, but is coming down
from what's hidden under those mounds shaped like creatures
at the top of the hill. Must be some spring hid there.
You wouldn't build on top of a hill with no water.
But I've never worked out what is hid under there.
It's altogether the wrong shape for a farm.
Strange thing is they applied when I was younger
to close the footpath down past their house from the mounds
as if their Sixties brick might be discoloured.
But they were turned down, and we walk there on sundays.
Anyway I told them it straight, and I had to get quite firm
when they said I did not know my job, and
ought to go on, and that I must be getting warm.
People! Well I told them it was no use, and
I'd prefer cash. Then they got in a bit
of a tizz and said they'd only got old
money in the house! I ask you! What did that
mean! Perhaps it was me, and I didn't hear them right.
Anyhow I took a cheque. I did suggest
I filled the hole in, but they said that could wait.
No doubt they meant for the man who came after.
But they must have got the same from the architect
for they moved out sharpish, and no one knew where.
They gave no drinks, and spoke to no one unless forced;
and why were they old, yet never seemed older?
The sky is grey and has no end.
I can see no mortal building.
Even the sheep are gone away
And no birds give hint of song.
The only music is the wind's
And it pushes at me
As is if to overturn and break
Whatever stands in its way.
Soon no doubt I shall be dust
And joyful in the gale.
But today I must keep my feet
And hope my courage is adequate.
First hope and love have ended.
I may see red berries on that bush
Down by that stream we walked along
When we were very young
But I shall see them alone,
And their brightness be of death
And not the first discovery of self
And purpose in this life.
Tread on! Tread on! Most things can change
And this despair will pass.
But from now I walk to another state
I must face without abhorrence.
There is a shifting of sand under the feet,
And birds with delicate steps
Make patterns like stars, walking calmly
At no great distance. Great rocks
Perch one on another, islands of
Mutual support, that did not run
With the water, or disintegrate beneath its power,
But stayed, at least for a while,
And in their defiance are uncouth.
And on one of the black islets further out
A black cormorant, another grotesque
In this natural sculpture. And the horison
Has a marking of black, and leading away from it
And its strange legend of clouds
The grey waves do not blink.
FROM PLACES AND ELEGIES (Salzburg U.P. 1997)
When the winds blow at Burnham beeches
and remove the gold leaves from the trees
there will still be that terrible quiet
and the sound of the fall of single leaves
as loud and final as anything military
in the adjoining regions of our minds.
The patient tide of whose heart
is the murmur of our sea
moves inutterably in the stark
crystal of eternity
and shifts the fallible iniquity
into a bad-eyed dream
for the posterity that shall be
different from all we've known or been.
The essense of our material pride
waxed wild in Hereward
after the arrow brushed the King's helmet aside
and stone of old churches was overturned.
The poet sang beauty in a London dawn
though love-hurt himself, and knowing corruption gnawed
the vital organs of a humorous nation.
I stand as it were on an onanous shore
seared by the sensible doing of little things
the return of the poor
the insidious niceness of commercial wrong
blank indifference to past or future.
Send us some inner outlaw
send us some dream of love
not little things through a magic door
nor Eros as brother to War
but a mental wood where men may find
a place of faith against the dark
sure enough to roar with the boughs in a high wind
and forget the thorny wastes and the sun burning
and when Spring comes with its tide of despair
and there are seeds impossibly to rear
let us speak of Alfred, broken in war,
or of a young princess for whom the block was near.
The road divides. Her heart-light flickers on.
Down which road? It is too uncertain.
A distant light, which might be just the moon
catches trees along the steep way down.
Another flickers in and out
as on some hidden lane a tractor thrusts its snout.
But where's the light for which I've searched
every hour without end for over thirty years?
I think I see it sometimes beyond a boulder
in the grey moor spaces of the inner mind.
I think I see it sometimes in the brittle day
but everytime I approach it has gone away.
Perhaps if I follow some skywinding bird
I will find the true point on the card.
Perhaps I grasp where I should find,
or am I merely man who cannot see his end?
Surely her presense chimed once with mine,
but since that day I cannot find the tune.
Sin with age makes us all cynical
and our flesh grows brittle.
But still I reach for her, cannot escape
the distant beckoning light.
TWO IMITATIONS (2002)
Dew like gems hurts and diminishes the maples in the wood.
From the mountains and gorges of Wu the wind is cold.
Waves, confined in the river, merge with a frantic sky.
Clouds, wind-tossed above the canyons, touch their shadows.
The chrysanthemums have opened twice, tears for what's been.
The boat of my grief stays moored: I shall never reach home.
In each home they measure and cut the clothes for next year
And up on the hill
The washblocks thump faster than last night, and as harsh.
The last sun glimmers on the remote walls of K'uei-chou.
Each night I find the Dipper and gaze towards the seat of power.
Its true when the gibbon shrieks thrice all men weep
But my tears are for this eight month journey to no-where.
In bed and sick I cannot smell the incense by the official portraits.
Just turrets, white against the hills, and no roll calls.
But look! Moon shines on ivy
And makes flowers among the reeds on the island's shore!
First light: the houses of this town are terribly still.
Too many days at this time I've sat, immersed by the blue hills.
Two nights ago the fisherboats came back, and moored, bobbing
- Just as the odd swallow, though autumn grows bleak, is still flittering:
So, what am I, but a source of good advice, that was ignored,
A reformer of universities, who never made Vice Chancellor.
And yet the friends I went to school with, mostly did well,
And do as they ought to do, having swallowed the official pill.
Yes, Ch'ang-an has some resemblance to a chessboard,
Which is to remember the bad news of a hundred years:
New pieces to each square, new princes and new nobles:
Gone, the old kind; a new type assumes the garb of the official.
Always the thump of gongs and drums in the northern passes.
And then, as if with wings, messengers hurtle to the Army of the West.
And the river of autumn flows cold, and fish and dragon are dormant.
My country in the time before these troubles never leaves my thoughts!
The gatehouse of the palace of the Immortals faces south:
The statues in the river mists have moisture on their mouths.
In the west observe - the mother of the Lord of the Gods descends
And from the eastern pass purple haze advances,
The clouds fold back, screens with rural scenes reveal the throne
And sun on dragon scales and robes: the vision of Heaven!.
Once I lay by the river of time to be and observed the years,
I who once answered the imperial summons by a patterned door.
From the maw of Ch'ut-tang gorges to Crooked river
Mist and a slight breeze, and autumn for ever and ever.
From Calyx Hill by walled ways imperial processions rolled,
But at Hibiscus Park news from the frontier arrived.
Blinds of pearl, well-made pillars, contained the yellow birds,
And cable and masts frightened off the white wild gulls.
Think of the singing land and mourn!
This, from the first times, was the seat of emperors!
In the time of the Han they made K'un-ming Pool as a memorial,
And the banners of Wu are before my eyes - still imperial!
But under the moon the weaver girl no longer weaves
And the scales of the great stone whale clatter about in the breeze.
The waves toss up a seed over clouds that seem sunk in the lake
and the red lotus has dropped its pollen, and has a cold calyx.
The sky road is only for birds
And by each lake and river the fisher of mortality
By Yu-su river the road to K'un-wu wanders along
And into lake Mei-p'i the shadow of Turret Peak is falling.
Parrots peck and drop the seeds of the scented rice-stalk.
The phoenix perched when old on the wu-t'ung branch.
Lovely girls gathered kingfisher feathers in the Spring:
Immortals in a boat we departed again at evening.
This brush once coloured the world!
Possessed by words, peering, my head hangs in anguish!
Moor and rock, and you cascades
That rush tumbling off tall crags
With measured stride;
You forest waters by wild meadows,
You trees above rural brooks
Listen to my words:
When fate or the body's decline
Determine I must die,
Though full of joy for the beauty I saw
In my brief time in the world,
Let no one ruin marble for my name,
But plant me an evergreen
And there let children hide, or lovers sit
And the world be renewed.
FROM THE WHITENESS OF HER BECOMING (Selected Poems,Salzburg U.P. 1992)
Such a pure blue winter's day a bit like now
When frost makes the earth hard and glittering
Light shivers on the lichened green walls and boughs
And the brown leaves hang down like thin foil
I so utterly tired might as well 'been dead
England entangled in order's hydra
Too many desiring their deserved limelight
Yet I walked by the farms and churches
The fields and bright brooks of ageless Somerset
Aware of the old squires and their dames
If mouldering remains both their marriages and their
Loves both those that were sane and those that
Were utterly insane those that helped their rough
Peasants and those that made their lives dark
And I felt a thawing but so very faint
Everything seeming too bright and stark
But when I came to the graveyard isle of a
Small village mother goose was hidden
In the shade of its base protecting her young
With the dark of man's death and at this
Wise ignorance of a simple bird every song
that is not man's seemed to glimmer round.
His voice roared in untuned majesty of faith
The hymns of the harvest as one who
Has been into the dark and knows that it is
Not wholly without fruit, but for these
Who desired untroubled and everlasting life
This old man joining in with the children
In a voice so wholly of himself just spoiled
The singing's well-ordered innocence.
They lay here fifty years ago in
The tower's shadow, on a bare moonlit ridge.
But who can lie down as lovers forever?
Fifty years on bushes and trees have grown round
The tower, now locked against the young.
Yet young love has lasted through war, and children
And death (and what else?) till it lights
A single self near the final uncertain end.
2. SEDITIOUS LIBELS
He lives in a tent at the end
of the Tamar Peninsula
beard entangled with seawrack,
and crusted with shell fish, denying
The Deeds of Men in a sonorous Sumerian,
much to the consternation of the new Parson,
who, not being sure whether it was
Latin, Greek, or Russian
alerted the local social work team
to the possibility of subversion.
'But', they assured him,
'It's only Methuselah.
A bit tatty, but he's
been here since the Flood.
And, if you'd been here since the Flood,
we doubt if you'd look as good.
And the embarrassment of an enquiry
is something we would rather avoid.'
So - like the sound of the reeds on a remembered shore -
Methuselah can still be heard
denying the deeds of the Human
in a most beautiful Sumerian.
Hayseed blunders into the green light, glancing
At the numinous hill of himself:
Unhinged gates tied up with red-flecked bailer twine,
Sandstone walls, built to last, crumbling down.
It pays for the trips to China, and all that
Interest on the dairy's microchips.
The dairy's worth it though - keeps farmhands to the
Least possible. Oh, for that golden age
Under the Roman Squire: theft, whippable; and you could
Breed from slaves as desired. But now the
Squint-eyed stone head he carved in the making days
Of childhood smiles from the wall
Of the crumbling pigsty. Darkwards he descends
Into the dionysiac muck, to know once
Again that hope is memoried in the corn,
And that the cow is creatured with the worm,
And Man, in the genes of creation, one more step.
But though he is aware the Old Gods
Will take him out and crucify him on the
Soft green hill of himself for each of
Those meaning creatures factoried to senselessness, he
Is afraid of his wife. She wants cash
Today. She knows that Science says that all is fact.
He consults the vet on increasing
Milk yield, the rector on flowers for next Sunday,
Yet she fears the darkness of this place.
She senses doddering old Hayseed has it
Away with someone she doesn't know,
And for all her own infidelities she
Is jealous. If she had not been taught
That the spirit cannot exist, she would think
That it was some creature from this past
She has been told never really existed,
For she fears the darkness of this place.
Goliath after his technical knockout
found himself short of employment
and had to send back his armour
because he could not keep up with the payments.
And not wanting to be a burden on the state
he got up at five in the morning
and scrubbed at the stone of a staircase. But
he answered as one who had done the commanding
and they cast him out towards the Children of Judah,
who knew that David had killed Goliath , so this man
must be an economic migrant,
so they cast him out again
into the infinite desert. And it is rumoured
that he found his vision, and returned as a grain of sand.
Zutphen - was it '87?
that I plucked Death
- that peacock -
and adorned with the feathers
my unbedded one
and found it
Much the same
in that golden autumn
what we had begun
when they fought outnumbered
on the day of Crecy.
Always a good excuse is Death
when your mistress is out of sorts
or you want a new one
you may get to Heaven
while she is living it up
Gloriana has made a conquest
of Wolfe Tone and Michael Collins
bribed the guards
to allow galliards.
we get our daily exercise
but no dancing
and as for having
to be polite to Burleigh
is forever hinting
perhaps we could grab
St Peter's mitre
and get sent below
but it scarcely seems the action
of a gentleman.
Horatio is surprisingly good fun
after Emma Hamilton.
Someone should tell him
that sort of woman
is really not forever.
Winston I never know
whether to yield to
in silent admiration
or to loathe.
He's forever complaining
the brandy isn't up to scratch
and smoking's not allowed
and arguing with Wavell
over old strategy
(Big head Monty
got sent below.)
Still he has
to that very pleasant man
John Churchill -
so much nicer than in
Swift's lampoons -
and he really likes
(unlike that prig William
or that other William
- coal black Pitt)
Its getting a bit crowded
these days but with
this new (alleged)
Gloriana down in the old country
the rate of saints
(We got rather worried
in the Sixties)
Anyway additions should stop
in the next hundred years
after the Bomb.
no mention here
reforming English Verse
and making a dream
to last a thousand years
nor of Satan
- while as to Bottom! -
who except Zukofsky
(whose sole feat
was to make Pound's economics
who except Zukofsky
SUCH a vulgar name!
you want Horace
on the Ancient Poem
well dig out the Penguin
or maybe Sisson
I write what
(God or Marx bless them)
and as such display no shame
in calling myself
the POET PIMP
a valuable function
in a society
where the MUSE
grows ever more liberated
First of all
in the original.
No true English Person
can bear the affectation
of poetry in a foreign tongue.
English is all
you'll ever require.
If you must sound educated
quote a Roumanian
in decent English Prose
or perhaps a Russian.
Better be careful
with the Ruskies though.
they translate themselves
and sound like Poetry.
with cadence or meter.
- certainly no Shelley -
and not too much Eliot.
He's a classic
be talked of well
as the one
who introduced colloquialism
(don't mention Langland
That will only
But no suggestion
the Four Quartets.
But make clear
That will make them recognise
you're like them.
with Pound, Bunting or Prynne:
THEY want coach tours.
It is your simple self
you must follow
about a cup of tea
a love lyric
that could pass
mutter to a guitar
and they will buy it
for the tune
and not even notice
cannot get on
there is always
- failing even that -
you could be POET IN RESIDENCE
AT THE HOUSE
be better paid
than the usual thing
in Old Folks' Homes
and God knows
as Mr John Major
gets ever more minor
there's not much to choose
- and turquoise -
that snout the one return
our mark, cliffs
individual as a wave
the light off a gull's wing
as we clambered seed-wards beast-ways
the dimness of great waters
It was on a day of white frost like this that I pranced
through the fields towards the river.
A robin was perched on the catkins singing.
There I paused and listened.
I knew this was what I had come for, and not
the river's shifty hugeness. So I
listened till the frost entered into my feet
and my nostrils and throat grew too sore
and then returned to where we lived, which even
now I could take you into each
room of, though it is all of thirty years since
we left it for a place where the frost
could not craze the windows past the art of man.
The Romans to resolve
their death-grapple with Hannibal
sent a fair part of their cabinet
half the known world
to fetch a chancy god
from Asia Minor
When I was pruning
the Reverend Goodman's apple trees
nostalgic for a love
that shall not be repeated
an apple on a twig
brushed me with new beginnings
Somewhere beyond hopelessness
the two connect
How is it that among all this
grain and sheep touched
and all his brood
the light this dusk
concentrates its lastness
on one eyrie
the one radio mast
is half way along
some earthy backbone
that a bird of black
the last true light
Let it go under
turquoise egg shell
its turn is done
its bird is out
from TOWARDS THE WEST (Salzburg U.P. 1995)
You descend like a river
and become the tides of the sea
and the midnights of your morning
are the beginning of me
But you hide in strange faces
that do not know what you mean
and you leave them to dishonour
the something you have been
How should I dance
now my love lies crumpled
in the maypole-earth
a ladder thrust up
out of the trench
I am very very tired.
My soul is on the wind.
I wander through great skies
except these are my mind.
My soul is always lost.
My love is yet to find.
A little kindness in the dark
and the light must sear again.
The tree roots now despair.
The wind gathers
in the tree tops.
is the snow of us
I - like a whale -
- like a porpoise -
in your sea
when all your waters
on the grey beach
'Will she come on the winds of the South
or the gales of the North?'
But she has gone, my love is gone
and all lust for life to continue.
The wind must find us and break us
and then perhaps sun will show.
But who knows at moonless midnight
whether the sun will come out again?
There were dubious islands and a singing heart
white birds and a faking sky.
None but ill loves now
and nothing but loneliness of self.
'Come : Singer of Heaven'.
But the tune is forgotten.
How is it that Fortune now always ignores me?
What's happened to the Me that stood up to all trouble,
That shameless taste for immortality,
That fire whose flame is so rare in the mortal?
Under the rays of fertility the Muses once offered me
Such subtle pleasures in the shadows and dark
In learned dances under the glimmer of the Moon
At their green dancing place beside the brook's bank.
Now Fortune is my true lover I think
And my soul which was once its own self's master
Is slave to Trouble,and regrets cloud it over.
I have no interest in those that come after
And that divine fire is turning to clinker
And the Muses I knew grow further and stranger.