Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Lark Ascending

Vaughan-Williams made something lovely from it, but even the reflected musical glory can't redeem the ghastliness of this awful, awful poem:
He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolv’d and spreading wide,
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls
And eddy into eddy whirls;
A press of hurried notes that run
So fleet they scarce are more than one,
Yet changingly the trills repeat
And linger ringing while they fleet.
There's neither blitheness nor spirit to this: it's weirdly, inappositely material, solid, metallic: that heavy anchor chain being dropped into the ocean of the sky, together with the specific (tide, ripple, eddy) and inadvertent (can we read 'fleet' without thinking in a naval, rather than a swift, idiom?) semantic field of the poem's vocabulary, lead us to this conclusion: Meredith is troping a lark as a fucking battleship. 'The Dreadnought Ascending' ... now there's an intriguing title for a Science Fiction Story. I hereby pledge to write it.

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