April 15, 2003

Of verse and worse …

A conversation I had with a friend about Byron led to a whole journey through a full spectrum of poetry today 🙂 The talk about Byron made me want to re-read Alfred Noyes’ "The Highwayman" – how did I jump from Byron to Noyes you ask? It all has to do with the peculiar way I associate things :p Lord Byron led me to another lord – Alfred, Lord Tennyson and from there to to Alfred Noyes was but a hop, skip and a jump. I’ve always been haunted by "The Highwayman" (no pun intended … really :p) and re-reading the poem just made me feel melancholy since I find the imagery in the poem to be very tragic and moody. So I wanted to read some more poetry to get "The Highwayman" out of my mind.

I started out with William Cowper’s "John Gilpin" which made me smile – I’ve enjoyed "John Gilpin" since my school days but have not read the poem since then either <g> I then read a bit of Sir Walter Scott by way of "Flodden" and then went on to Lord Byron’s "The Prisoner of Chillon" which while having some beautiful lines – "A frantic feeling, when we know, that what we love shall ne’er be so", "For I had buried one and all who loved me in a human shape; And the whole world would henceforth be, A wider prison unto me:" – made me sad again. So I moved on to tarry a bit with Keats’ "The Eve of St. Agnes" before moving on to Robert Browning’s "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came".

Now this is a poem which has a lot of significance to me because I know of at least two series of books which are based on the poem – one is Stephen King’s "The Dark Tower" series whereas the other is Gordon R. Dickson’s "Childe Cycle". I love the imagery in that poem but it has been a while since I’ve read it – in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve read it fully before. I’m currently reading the "Childe Cycle" and am on the last book and am reluctant to finish it since the cycle remains incomplete due to Gordon R. Dickson’s death. In fact, that other cycle, "The Dark Tower" is yet incomplete as well but I digress … I did learn something new since my anthology of poetry had a note to see Edgar’s song in "King Lear" at the beginning of "Childe Roland .." and so I went in search of my copy of the complete works of Shakespeare. I hunted through "King Lear" and found these lines "Child Rowland to the dark tower came, His word was still Fie, foh and fum, I smell the blood of a British man". Now, I have no idea if this is the only reference to Childe Roland in Shakespeare (I’ll have to do a more detailed online search tomorrow …) but I was fascinated since I’d never known of the reference before and also because of the whole "fie, foh, fum" bit which I’d always heard as part of Jack and the Beanstalk <g> I didn’t know that it had been used by Shakespeare too – now I’ll have to look into the roots of that too :p

By this time, I was tired of weighty matters poetic and wanted something light and so turned to my omnibus edition of Edward Lear. I always find Lear to be amusing and fascinating and a few minutes spent with the "Pobble who has no Toes" and "The Quangle Wangle’s Hat" made me feel much better. I was reminded of Lewis Carrol’s "Old Father William" by a Limerick of Leare’s (funny the associations you make ..) it goes something like this:

There was an Old Man of Port Grigor,
Whose actions were noted for vigour;
He stood on his head,
Till his waistcoat turned red,
That eclectic Old Man of Port Grigor.

I would have liked to have completed my poetic journeys with some stuff by Lewis Carrol – maybe "The Hunting of the Snark" or "Jabberwocky" – since I enjoy Lewis Carrol almost as much as I enjoy Lear and my appreciation of the former is as old as my appreciation of the latter but I couldn’t find my edition of the complete works of Lewis Carrol either – wonder what’s happening to all my books? (Speaking of which, I just discovered that I have a 1935 reprint of the first edition of Dickens’ "David Copperfield" – some of my books are more than twice my age :p) I think my appreciation of "Jabberwocky" – Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimbal in the wabe … sorry if I misspelt anything but I’m quoting from memory and some of that is just made up anyway .. I mean by Carrol, not me :p – comes from a science fiction story which is built completely around the poem and the fact that the words might not be nonsense – I forget who wrote it but it might have been C. M. Kornbluth or Lewis Padgett (which was actually a pen-name for Henry Kuttner) … It seems to be kind of their style but I might be totally off here. I’ll have to look that up too.

All this poetry makes me want to write some "real" poetry. All I find myself doing these days is what I call doggerel – quick jobs done in the course of half an hour to one hour based on a central idea. It rhymes but I don’t feel it is quality work – more like a hack job. I can’t explain it fully but I guess the best way to do so is to give a sample … if I can find one …

I have lost my peace of mind
And instead, worry on all sides do I find.
I have lost the will to love
And in return think of a mailed-first, an iron glove!

My country has lost its peace, serenity and harmony,
Where once was calm, there now is only strife and agony.
Gone are the days of races living in peace, side by side
But instead, armies against each other stride!

Mothers their sons to a bloody war have lost,
Like blooming flowers to a cruel frost,
In their loss they’ve only found,
That in their loss all mothers are together bound!

I called the above "Lost and Found" and what I’ve posted here is incomplete since what I have on this machine is the incomplete version. I wrote that for the peace page I edit (and usually write too since there is a dearth of contributors :p) for work. I’ll post the full version (if I remember <g>) tomorrow when I get to work …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:13 pm  |  1 Comment