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Songs from an Evil Wood -- Lord Dunsany

A doubly appropriate poem...
(Poem #259) Songs from an Evil Wood
                 I.

 There is no wrath in the stars,
       They do not rage in the sky;
 I look from the evil wood
       And find myself wondering why.

 Why do they not scream out
       And grapple star against star,
 Seeking for blood in the wood,
       As all things round me are?

 They do not glare like the sky
       Or flash like the deeps of the wood;
 But they shine softly on
       In their sacred solitude.

 To their happy haunts
       Silence from us has flown,
 She whom we loved of old
       And know it now she is gone.

 When will she come again
       Though for one second only?
 She whom we loved is gone
       And the whole world is lonely.

 And the elder giants come
       Sometimes, tramping from far,
 Through the weird and flickering light
       Made by an earthly star.

 And the giant with his club,
       And the dwarf with rage in his breath,
 And the elder giants from far,
       They are the children of Death.

 They are all abroad to-night
       And are breaking the hills with their brood,
 And the birds are all asleep,
       Even in Plugstreet Wood.

                 II.

 Somewhere lost in the haze
       The sun goes down in the cold,
 And birds in this evil wood
       Chirrup home as of old;

 Chirrup, stir and are still,
       On the high twigs frozen and thin.
 There is no more noise of them now,
       And the long night sets in.

 Of all the wonderful things
       That I have seen in the wood,
 I marvel most at the birds,
       At their chirp and their quietude.

 For a giant smites with his club
       All day the tops of the hill,
 Sometimes he rests at night,
       Oftener he beats them still.

 And a dwarf with a grim black mane
       Raps with repeated rage
 All night in the valley below
       On the wooden walls of his cage.

                 III.

 I met with Death in his country,
       With his scythe and his hollow eye
 Walking the roads of Belgium.
       I looked and he passed me by.

 Since he passed me by in Plug Street,
       In the wood of the evil name,
 I shall not now lie with the heroes,
       I shall not share their fame;

 I shall never be as they are,
       A name in the land of the Free,
 Since I looked on Death in Flanders
       And he did not look at me.
-- Lord Dunsany
I was considering interrupting this week's theme to post a World War I poem,
and will admit to getting carried away by the sheer serendipity of finding
one written by a fantasy author.

Like Wodehouse, Dunsany's prose is far better than his poetry; still,
today's poem gives some indication of his style - highly coloured,
imaginative, abundantly supplied with imagery and atmosphere, and fantastic
in every sense of the word.

The last section anchors the poem directly in reality (Dunsany was a WW1
veteran), and involves a fairly noticeable change in style. The images are
quieter, and less 'wild', the tense shifts slightly into reminiscence.
While in no way original (all the images and concepts have been used time
and again, and by a number of poets) it winds up the poem nicely and leaves
the reader with an interesting blend of the more ominous aspects of fantasy
and reality.

Biography:

  Dunsany, Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th baron of

   b. July 24, 1878, London d. Oct. 25, 1957, Dublin

  Irish dramatist and storyteller, whose many popular works combined
  imaginative power with intellectual ingenuity to create a credible world
  of fantasy.

  Educated at Eton and Sandhurst, Dunsany served in the South African War
  and World War I. His first book of short stories was The Gods of Pegana
  (1905); his first play, The Glittering Gate, was produced by the Abbey
  Theatre in Dublin in 1909; and his first London production, The Gods of
  the Mountain, at the Haymarket Theatre in 1911. As in his more than 50
  subsequent verse plays, novels, short stories and memoirs, in these works
  Dunsany explored in a richly coloured prose mysterious kingdoms of fairies
  and gods; he also introduced a characteristic element of the macabre.

        -- EB

Links:

For a wonderful site on Lord Dunsany, see
  <[broken link] http://www.interlog.com/~case/support/dunsany.html>

Some WW1 and related poems run previously on Minstrels:

  'In Flanders Fields', probably both the best-known and the best WW1 poem: poem #11
  'Tommy' - not directly WW1 related, but nonetheless relevant: poem #43
  'Dover Beach': poem #89

m.

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