Monday, 23 April 2007

"On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble..."

A.E Housman, 1859-1936

On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
When Uricon the city stood:
'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
But then it threshed another wood.

Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.

There, like the wind through woods in riot,
Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
Are ashes under Uricon.

The Night Mail. By W H Auden.

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.

Thro' sparse counties she rampages,
Her driver's eye upon the gauges.
Panting up past lonely farms
Fed by the fireman's restless arms.
Striding forward along the rails
Thro' southern uplands with northern mails.
Winding up the valley to the watershed,
Thro' the heather and the weather and the dawn overhead.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses.

Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheepdogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens, the climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers' declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?

Night Mail, 1936.

Auden wrote the poem for this short film made by the G.P.O. (Post Office), music was by Benjamin Britten, Auden read the poem himself.
I'm definitely not a fan of Britten!
The last TPO, or 'Travelling Post Office', ran in 2004. These trains snatched mailbags from trackside gantries as they thundered past, dropping new bags into catch nets at the same time, letters were sorted as they travelled through the night, whilst writers and recipients slept.

The Truth About Northern Lights by Christine Hume

I'm not right. I'm interfered with
and bent as light. I tried to use the spots,
for months I tried with rings.
Only now I'm thinking in cracks
that keep a modern light
lunged. I keep the porch light on
to burn you off in ghosted purls,
the licks of which filament me.
My Day-Glo tongue's cutthroat.
Though I'm not clear,
I'm a sight whose star stares back:
it's a new kind of dead;
it hides its death in my cinched
testicle. That bright burr makes me
unreal and itch. By the time
I'm something else, you're making weather
with so-and-so. Drama tenants you;
it wades in queasy waves,
mottled to the marrow.
My mean streak beams neon
so I won't be refracted
or led to reflections. My eyes
trick god's and kick the careless reversals
of radio cure-alls. Rays suffer
until they clench the damaged night in me:
where I go out, gone as done
in a mood of black moving through.
Darkness sits there, pleased.
An iridescent ire could not go unaired,
my limbs wicking at the window.
Look out the window.
I've outened the world
to show you real barrenness:
a void a light
warps into want and then wants
until it warps all it glances.