Monday, March 31, 2008

Some Rupert Brooke

Brooke is one of those poets to whom audiences of his own day paid the damaging compliment of overappreciation. Consequently he has been largely forgotten, with the exception of the sonnet beggining "If I should die think only this of me," which invariably turns up in anthologies of all sorts. Regardless of his lack of critical esteem, he had appreciable abilities as a writer of short lyrics and his is one of the era's few accomplished hands with the sonnet. If he had any crippling fault it was trying to out-Byron Byron, who did the job admirably the first time round.


Down the blue night the unending columns press
In noiseless tumult, break and wave and flow,
Now tread the far South, or lift rounds of snow
Up to the white moon's hidden loveliness.
Some pause in their grave wandering comradeless,
And turn with profound gesture vague and slow,
As who would pray good for the world, but know
Their benediction empty as they bless.

They say the Dead lie not, but remain
Near to the rich heirs of their grief and mirth.
I think they ride the calm mid-heaven, as these,
And watch the moon, and the still-raging seas,
And men, coming and going on the earth.


All night the ways of Heaven were desolate,
Long roads across a gleaming empty sky.
Outcast and doomed and driven, you and I,
Alone serene beyond all love or hate,
Terror or triumph, were content to wait,
We silent and all-knowing. Suddenly
Swept through the heaven low-crouching from on high,
One horseman, downward to the earth's low gate.
Oh, perfect from the ultimate height of living,
Lightly we turned, through wet woods blossom hung,
Into the open. Down the supernal roads,
With plumes a-tossing, purple flags far flung,
Rank upon rank, unbridled, unforgiving,
Thundered the black battalions of the gods.


In your arms was still delight,
Quiet as a street at night;
And thoughts of you, I do remember,
Were green leaves of a darkened chamber,
Were dark clouds in a moonless sky.
Love, in you, went passing by,
Penetrative, remote, and rare,
Like a bird in the wide air,
And, as the bird, it left no trace
In the heaven of your face.
In your stupidity I found
The sweet hush after a sweet sound.
All about you was the light
That dims the greying end of night;
Desire was the unrisen sun,
Joy the day not yet begun,
With tree whispering to tree,
Without wind, quietly.
Wisdom slept within your hair,
And Long-Suffering was there,
And, in the flowing of your dress,
Undiscerning Tenderness.
And when you thought, it seemed to me,
Infinitely, and like the sea,
About the slight world you had known
Your vast subconciousness was thrown.

O haven without wave or tide!
Silence, in which all songs have died!
Holy book, where hearts are still!
And home at length under the hill!
O mother quiet, breasts of peace,
Where love itself would faint and cease!
O infinite deep I never knew,
I would come back, come back to you,
Find you, as a pool unstirred,
Kneel down by you, and never a word,
Lay my head, and nothing said,
In your hands, ungarlanded.
And a long watch you should keep;
And I should sleep, and I should sleep!

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