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The Rattle Bag: The C poems 
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
Oooh I love Edward Thomas! His best poems are always Countryside genre I think.

Coombs are mostly in the West Country at the very southern tip of England. I very pretty coastline, Cornwall and Devon with caves and little quiet beaches. The weather is warmer down there and we go there a lot for holidays. There is a very nice place called Combe Martin - very pretty.

Lancashire isn't flat at all, it is very hilly with lots of moorland. Not pretty countryside, much more windswept and rugged. Beautiful in its own way. Now Cheshire, where I have lived for the last 40 years, is mostly flat - there is the Cheshire Plain, so that there are hills like the one we used to live near, called Mow Cop - where if you climb to the top you can see four Counties. Cheshire, the plains, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire. So we're told, anyway, because it's usually raining and you can't see a hand in front of your face. :lol:

The badger in the second poem is depicted as a typically English Wild Animal. They are one of our largest wild mammals and very engaging to watch. They usually live near running water and come out in the evening to play and feed. Unfortunately, they are blamed by the farmers for giving TB (tuberculosis), to the cattle, and although this is disputed, the farmers often cull the badgers although I do believe this has just been forbidden by our government.

Here is a video made by a Badger Watch (in Yorkshire I think), so you can see what Edward Thomas is saying about their being ancient and mysterious:

http://www.selbybadgerwatch.com/SELBY-B ... GER-VIDEOS

It does seem like a crime to kill them.


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Fri Jul 29, 2011 7:08 am
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
Penny: Whoops, thought maybe Lancashire was flattish like its neighbours (I have been to Staffordshire) but guess I was wrong. Thanks for the geography lesson! 8)

I've been reading over a few Edward Thomas poems, I guess he's known as a 'war poet' but many of his poems feature natural world images; I liked this one:

Beauty

WHAT does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease,
No man, woman, or child alive could please
Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh
Because I sit and frame an epitaph--
"Here lies all that no one loved of him
And that loved no one." Then in a trice that whim
Has wearied. But, though I am like a river
At fall of evening when it seems that never
Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while
Cross breezes cut the surface to a file,
This heart, some fraction of me, happily
Floats through a window even now to a tree
Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale;
Not like a pewit that returns to wail
For something it has lost, but like a dove
That slants unanswering to its home and love.
There I find my rest, and through the dusk air
Flies what yet lives in me. Beauty is there.

Edward Thomas



Fri Jul 29, 2011 2:56 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
Penelope wrote:
The badger in the second poem is depicted as a typically English Wild Animal. They are one of our largest wild mammals and very engaging to watch. They usually live near running water and come out in the evening to play and feed. Unfortunately, they are blamed by the farmers for giving TB (tuberculosis), to the cattle, and although this is disputed, the farmers often cull the badgers although I do believe this has just been forbidden by our government.

You're right that culling of badgers is against the law in Britain, per this quote from Wikipedia, interesting that it references fox hunting, a parallel to the poem's reference to hunting hounds perhaps? And amazing the British government would pass an Act just for badgers!

"The blood sport of badger-baiting was outlawed in the United Kingdom by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835 as well as the Protection of Badgers Act 1992 which makes it a serious offence to kill, injure or take a badger, or to damage or interfere with a sett unless a licence is obtained from a statutory authority. An exemption that allowed fox hunters to loosely block setts to prevent chased foxes escaping into them was brought to an end with the passage of the Hunting Act 2004."

Somehow badgers have a British identity even though they live in other regions as well. I do know of two badger appearances in British pop literature - the Badger that is Rupert's friend and co-adventurer in Rupert the Bear and the brief non-appearance of a 'giant badger' in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the Knights fail to take a French castle using a Trojan horse type wooden rabbit (because they put no one inside the rabbit) and then contemplate building a giant badger .... well, it was funny at the time. Enough about badgers, on to some Yeats.


The Cold Heaven

Suddenly I saw the cold and rook-delighting heaven
That seemed as though ice burned and was but the more ice,
And thereupon imagination and heart were driven
So wild that every casual thought of that and this
Vanished, and left but memories, that should be out of season
With the hot blood of youth, of love crossed long ago;
And I took all the blame out of all sense and reason,
Until I cried and trembled and rocked to and fro,
Riddled with light. Ah! when the ghost begins to quicken,
Confusion of the death-bed over, is it sent
Out naked on the roads, as the books say, and stricken
By the injustice of the skies for punishment?

W. B. Yeats


The Collarbone of a Hare

Would I could cast a sad on the water
Where many a king has gone
And many a king's daughter,
And alight at the comely trees and the lawn,
The playing upon pipes and the dancing,
And learn that the best thing is
To change my loves while dancing
And pay but a kiss for a kiss.

I would find by the edge of that water
The collar-bone of a hare
Worn thin by the lapping of water,
And pierce it through with a gimlet, and stare
At the old bitter world where they marry in churches,
And laugh over the untroubled water
At all who marry in churches,
Through the white thin bone of a hare.

W. B. Yeats



Fri Jul 29, 2011 11:52 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
It is interesting that these poems are about the natural history of the British Isles....and giselle, thanked me for the geography lesson, which made me stop and think.....always a good thing.

I am reading a book at the moment called, 'Calm for Life' by Paul Wilson, who wrote 'The Little Book of Calm' which was quite a trendy book a few years ago.

This book is much more meaty and interesting, if, like me, you like this sort of thing. Anyway, there is a wonderful passage, not poetry, but, I feel, near to it, describing the outback of Australia where Paul Wilson grew up. I think it is quite wonderful and wanted to share it....since we are recently discussing the effects of our natural environments upon our persons, are we not?

Quote:
It is so flat that a bend in the road becomes a landmark. At night, the canopy of stars is so alarmingly bright and close that you cannot help but see yourself as a part of the universe rather than an inhabitant of earth. This feeling is exacerbated by the inescapable aloneness. At night, car headlights can be seen approaching a full hour before they arrive.

Apart from a scattering of hardy bushfolk, and sometimes a few kangaroos around sunset, there are few signs of life here. The air is so still, and life so quiescent, that you can hear a fly approaching long before you can see it. From time to time, a distant crow might test its voice on the emptiness, but it will sound bored and non-communicative, as if just trying to affirm that life exists out there.
It's hot, too. When summer temperatures exceed 50 degrees C, the locals might be moved to mutter, 'Bit warm today'. Visitors never say anything. What can you say when the air is so hot and dry that each intake of breath scorches all the way to the bottom of your lungs?
You will understand why few visitors come to the place where I spent my childhood. What incentive is there for tourists to drive 2000 kilometers from Sydney, travelling vast distances without encountering so much as a ripple in the landscape, only to arrive at a place where the only direction to go is back?
However, what makes the greatest impression on those who do make the effort is not the searing heat, the remoteness or the endless horizon.
It is the silence.
There is nothing in a city dweller's experience to prepare them for the immensity of central Australia's silence. It's not something subtle that creeps up on you after an hour or so - it is immediate and dynamic! It is like an infinite auditory black hole. It is silence that cannot be ignored. It distorts the eardrums, emphasises the heartbeat and effortlessly draws attention to itself. In many ways it is like th first time someone witnesses an earthquake, tidal wave or hurricane: a moment as exciting as it is humbling. Most visitors find it an awesome, possibly even frightening, experience.
But to those who are familiar with it, this silence is the essence of peace and tranquillity. Just listen, without expectation, and calm engulfs you.


I just enjoyed this piece of writing so much....probably because it was unexpected.....

I typed it out manually from the book so apologise for any errors.


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He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad....

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Sat Jul 30, 2011 11:51 am
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
Penelope wrote:
It is interesting that these poems are about the natural history of the British Isles....and giselle, thanked me for the geography lesson, which made me stop and think.....always a good thing.

Penny - I really did mean 'thanks for the geography lesson' in a genuine way, not sarcastically!! I like to learn about places, especially from people who really know them, so thank you for telling me about Lancashire. The interior of Australia is an awesomely silent place on a still hot day ... a real stillness that I think would implant itself in those spending time there or living there.



Sat Jul 30, 2011 2:28 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
I wish I could evoke the feeling of a place the way Paul Wilson does with the Outback in that piece of writing.

I understand from reading it, more about the Aborigine Dream Time, I think.

When we were in the dungeons of Lancaster Castle - our guide locked me into a cell, with my consent of course. He said to listen to the sounds....because that would be the only thing that hadn't changed over history. Btw - lots of Australians visit Lancaster Castle because that is where their ancestors were tried and sentenced to be sent to Australia!

I did like both of those Yeats poems. The one with the Rooks and the one with the Hare bone. Hares are wondrously mystical creatures.

We watch them from our bedroom window in the field opposite our house. They don't look quite as wondrous as this though:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvW92ksM_DE


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He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad....

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Sat Jul 30, 2011 2:50 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
The Compassionate Fool

My enemy had bidden me as guest.
His table all set out with wine and cake,
His ordered chairs, he to beguile me dressed
So neatly, moved my pity for his sake.

I knew it was an ambush, but could not
Leave him to eat his cake up by himself
And put his unused glasses on the shelf.
I made pretence of falling in his plot,

And trembled when in his anxiety
He bared it too absurdly to my view.
And even as he stabbed me through and through
I pitied him for his small strategy.

Norman Cameron


Cotton

The day they strung the cable from America to Europe
they did a lot of singing
The cable, the huge singing cable was put to use
And Europe said to America:
Give me three million tons of cotton!
And three million tons of cotton wandered over the ocean
And turned to cloth:
cloth with which one fascinated the savages of Senegambia,
and cotton wads, with which one killed them.
Raise your voice in song, sing
On all the Senegambic trading routes!
sing cotton!
cotton.

Yes, cotton, your descent on the earth like snow!
Your white peace for our dead bodies!
Your white anklelength gowns when we wander into heaven
saved in all the world’s harbors by Booth’s Jesus-like face.
Cotton, cotton, your snowfall:
wrapping the world in the fur of new necessities,
you shut us in, you blinded our eyes with your cloud.
At the mouth of the Trade River,
and on the wide oceans of markets and fairs,
cotton, we have met there
the laws of your flood,
the threat of your flood.

Harry Edmund Martinson
From the Swedish (trans. Robert Bly)

I found the 'Compassionate Fool' amusing. Compassion or pity to the point of surrendering one's self completely to a sort of defenseless immobilization. I found it hard to type the second poem, don't like it much.



Mon Aug 01, 2011 2:13 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
The Compassionate Fool made me think that it isn't kind to pretend to like someone. I don't mean that we should be unkind, but we should be honest enough, or brave enough, to behave with indifference.

I think the cotton poem is interesting, especially being Swedish. Coming from Lancashire, and remembering the cotton mills well, where the cotton came from India and America to be spun and woven. Almost everyone worked in the cotton industry in some way. My friends at school had Mum's who worked in the spinning mill. Norman's mum was a weaver for all her working life and was very proud that she could run twelve looms singlehandedly. My own Mum worked for a long time cutting and packing surgical dressings.

I am sure the cotton in this poem is a metaphore, but I don't quite know what for. I will need to think about it.

Your white anklelength gowns when we wander into heaven
saved in all the world’s harbors by Booth’s Jesus-like face.


Do you think this is referring to William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army? Do you think the 'white' and the 'cotton' might be referring to hegemony and our taking our morals and ethics from the powerful people made rich by the cotton trade. Senegambia, must refer to Senegal and The Gambia - did we kidnap slaves from there? Is this a reference to the slave trade? Am I being thick?


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He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad....

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Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:55 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
I think you're quite right Penny. Cotton was the quintessential colonial crop of Britain and European powers. And Senegambia was a colonial creation from which a significant slave trade was based and although Senegal and The Gambia are independent countries, I think they still struggle with the legacy of colonialism, strange borders drawn in London or Paris and imported values and language and other cultural issues. And of course the American cotton fields are amoung the most famous for use of slaves, along with sugar plantations. So, I think this is the context of "Cotton" but I'm not sure about the poet's views on colonialism and slavery ... I find the poem ambiguous and unclear on this point. Since the poet is Swedish I would think he might come from a euro-centric worldview, but that could mean a lot of different things.



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Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:18 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
I'm back, but quite busy with work, so having trouble catching up here.
I like The Compassionate Fool and your comment Penny, 'The Compassionate Fool made me think that it isn't kind to pretend to like someone.', hit home to me as I just spent some time around people who did a lot of pretending and I found it very frustrating. I do think there are times where you have to pretend a little, but in the long run it is much better to be as genuine as you can without being hurtful.

I actually liked Cotton. It had a nice rythym.

Quote:
but I'm not sure about the poet's views on colonialism and slavery ... I find the poem ambiguous and unclear on this point.


I think this is exactly what I did like about it.



Tue Aug 02, 2011 4:03 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
'Could mortal lip divine'

Could mortal lip divine
The undeveloped Freight
Of a delivered syllable
'Twould crumble with the weight.

Emily Dickinson


The Cow

The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other, milk.

Ogden Nash


Cowper's Tame Hare

She came to him in dreams - her ears
Diddering like antennae, and her eyes
Wide as dark flowers where the dew
Holds and dissolves a purple hoard of shadows.
The thunder clouds crouched back, and the world opened
Tiny and bright as a celandine after rain.
A gentle light was on her, so that he
Who saw the talons in the vetch
Remberered now how buttercup and daisy
Would bounce like springs when a child's foot stepped off
them.
Oh, but never dared he touch -
Her fur was still electric to the fingers.

Yet of all the beasts blazoned in gilt and blood
In the black-bound scriptures of his mind,
Pentacostal dove and paschal lamb,
Eagle, lion, serpent, she alone
Lived also in the noon of ducks and sparrows;
And the cleft-mouthed kiss which plugged the night with
fever
Was sweetened by a lunch of docks and lettuce.

Norman Nicholson

Rereading "Cotton" , I think its ambiguity on slavery and colonialism creates tension and doubt in the poem, which is interesting.

I'm really partial to Emily Dickinson poetry but not sure I'm really 'getting' this one. I'll read it over a few more times.

And this is quite a line ... 'and the cleft-mouthed kiss which plugged the night with fever' ...



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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
Beddoes did write sonnets and since this poem is 14 lines, I thought it might be a sonnet but the rhyming seems a little elusive and the meter .. well maybe .. anyway, to me, crocs are special because they inspire feelings of wonder and terror in roughly equal proportion. And they are so ... prehistoric. I think 'river dragon' is a great description. With all of its grotesque qualities, this croc is a mother (maybe a good mother?) and co-operates with the hummingbird for their mutual benefit .. interesting observations of crocodile personality and life we might not often think of.

A Crocodile

Hard by the lilied Nile I saw
A duskish river dragon stretch along.
The brown habergeon of his limbs enamelled
With sanguine alamandines and rainy pearl:
And on his back there lay a young one sleeping,
No bigger than a mouse; with eyes like beads,
And a small fragment of its speckled egg
Remaining on its harmless, pulpy snout;
A thing to laugh at, as it gaped to catch
The baulking merry flies. In the iron jaws
Of the great devil-beast, like a pale soul
Fluttering in rocky hell, lightsomely flew
A snowy trochilus, with roseate beak
Tearing the hairy leeches from his throat.

Thomas Lovell Beddoes



Wed Aug 03, 2011 6:08 pm
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
Hard by the lilied Nile I saw
A duskish river dragon stretch along.

What a brilliant opening. I love that word 'duskish'.

The description of the baby on her back is great too:-

with eyes like beads,
And a small fragment of its speckled egg
Remaining on its harmless, pulpy snout;
A thing to laugh at, as it gaped to catch
The baulking merry flies.


I'm glad giselle told us that the 'snowy trochilus' was a hummingbird.....because I wouldn't have known. Amazing word picture.


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Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:39 am
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
Going back to Edward Thomas, I recall from Robert Frost's biography that Frost and Thomas were good friends, and Frost must have met him when he went to England as a young man and there, actually, became a poet. Can anyone see why these two might have felt something in common?



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Thu Aug 04, 2011 6:47 am
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Post Re: The Rattle Bag: The C poems
The Dymock poets were a literary group of the early 20th century who made their home near the village of Dymock in Gloucestershire, England, near to the border with Herefordshire. They were Robert Frost, Lascelles Abercrombie, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, and John Drinkwater, some of whom lived near the village in the period between 1911 and 1914. Eleanor Farjeon, who was involved with Edward Thomas, also visited. They published their own quarterly, entitled 'New Numbers', containing poems such as Brooke's poem "The Soldier". The First World War, which saw the death of Thomas, resulted in the break-up of the community.

I think that Robert Frost and Edward Thomas both had a genuine love of rural life. Frost writing about New England and Edward Thomas writing, not so much about Old England, but with acute and affectionate observation, did they not?


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Only those become weary of angling who bring nothing to it but the idea of catching fish.

He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad....

Rafael Sabatini


Thu Aug 04, 2011 11:37 am
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