Friday, 5 March 2010


Walter de la Mare's 'Remembrance':
The sky was like a waterdrop
In shadow of a thorn,
Clear, tranquil, beautiful,
Dark, forlorn.

Lightning along its margin ran;
A rumour of the sea
Rose in profundity and sank
Into infinity.

Lofty and few the elms, the stars
In the vast boughs most bright;
I stood a dreamer in a dream
In the unstirring night.

Not wonder, worship, not even peace
Seemed in my heart to be:
Only the memory of one,
Of all most dead to me.
I quote it because it strikes me as representative of a huge mass of poems, not just De La Mare's (although certainly his). Which is to say: poems in which occasional lines and images of great beauty and resonance are muddled in with huge quantities of chaff and crap. In this case, is it possible to recuperate the poem simply on the strength of
The sky was like a waterdrop
In shadow of a thorn
and either to gloss over or in some other way redeem the remainder? Perhaps what's needed is a critical sifting; or a lifting on the embargo concerning the reworking old texts. Rewiting King Lear to give it a happy ending is absurd; but reworking this poem to make it equal to its superb opening would be a worthwhile endeavour.

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