My thanks to Anustup Datta for introducing me to this poem, a long time ago:
(Poem #630) To Walter de la Mare
The children who explored the brook and found A desert island with a sandy cove (A hiding place, but very dangerous ground, For here the water buffalo may rove, The kinkajou, the mungabey, abound In the dark jungle of a mango grove, And shadowy lemurs glide from tree to tree - The guardians of some long-lost treasure-trove) Recount their exploits at the nursery tea And when the lamps are lit and curtains drawn Demand some poetry, please. Whose shall it be, At not quite time for bed? ... Or when the lawn Is pressed by unseen feet, and ghosts return Gently at twilight, gently go at dawn, The sad intangible who grieve and yearn; When the familiar is suddenly strange Or the well known is what we yet have to learn, And two worlds meet, and intersect, and change; When cats are maddened in the moonlight dance, Dogs cower, flitter bats, and owls range At witches' sabbath of the maiden aunts; When the nocturnal traveller can arouse No sleeper by his call; or when by chance An empty face peers from an empty house; By whom, and by what means, was this designed? The whispered incantation which allows Free passage to the phantoms of the mind? By you; by those deceptive cadences Wherewith the common measure is refined; By conscious art practised with natural ease; By the delicate, invisible web you wove - The inexplicable mystery of sound.
Written for inclusion in 'A Tribute to Walter de la Mare' (Faber & Faber Ltd., 1948), a book presented to him on his seventy-fifth birthday. In recent days we've been exploring various dream-worlds, and I can think of no better way to conclude the theme than with this homage to the master dream-weaver, Walter de la Mare. He'll never be counted a great poet; perhaps he won't even be remembered as a good one (his verse does suffer from sentimentality and an overly lush Romanticism); but to all those who (like me) have grown up with his poetry, voyaging in the far seas of his magnificent imagination, he's unforgettable. Let it be said, also, that there are very few writers with de la Mare's wonderful mastery of _atmosphere_: Yeats and Kipling spring to mind, though the immortal John Keats is perhaps the only poet who can unequivocally be called his superior in this regard . Even the normally staid Eliot is not unmoved by it; he talks about "the inexplicable mystery of sound" in terms approaching awe. As a matter of fact, Eliot does very well indeed in capturing the quiddity of de la Mare's art; his tribute describes - no, _explores_ various corners of the latter's wonderful, mysterious universe with great felicity; his verse is almost equally evocative , equally delicate and equally refined... today's poem is truly one of those rare occasions where sense, structure and intent come together in one happy whole. thomas. PS. "two worlds meet, and intersect, and change" - mmm. Lines like that ought to be savoured for hours on end, don't you think?  I _like_ Keats. Yes, he's a Romantic, and I tend to dislike the Romantics, but still. Keats was something special.  Damn, and I was doing so well, too. Sometimes I think I'll never be free of the tyranny of the E word <grin>. [Minstrels Links] Dream poems: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "The Slave's Dream", Poem #628 Laurence Hope, "Reverie of Mahomed Akram", Poem #627 Wilfred Gibson, "The Ice-Cart", Poem #622 and further back, a host of others, all of which you can read at http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/ de la Mare poems: "The Listeners", Poem #2 "Napoleon", Poem #272 "Breughel's Winter", Poem #483 Eliot poems: a whole bunch of them, which you can browse at [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/index_poet [Random Ramblings] WALTER DE LA MARE anagrams to TALL DREAMER: AWE!. (Sorry, it's three in the morning and I'm really sleepy).