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Conceit -- Mervyn Peake

Guest poem submitted by Mukund Rangamani:
(Poem #664) Conceit
 I heard a winter tree in song
 Its leaves were birds, a hundred strong;
 When all at once it ceased to sing,
 For every leaf had taken wing.
-- Mervyn Peake
I am sure others can say a lot about the poet (I for one have yet to read
Gormenghast), so I will content myself with saying something about the poem.
For someone who has lived a good part of life in tropical climes, the change
of seasons through fall and winter is a fantastic revelation. The fleeting
nature of the beautiful season before all turns grey and dull is beautifully
captured in the poem. And the analogy of the song, a snippet of melody,
heard but a short while, before silence, works just so well...


[thomas adds]

Yesterday's poem, and the associations it called up in my mind, prompted my
choice of guest submission to run today: Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy
has much the same texture (rich, mysterious, forbidding and just plain
weird) as Graves' nightmarish vision.


Martin once ran a theme on poems written by fantasy authors; check out
J. R. R. Tolkien, "Three Rings for the Elven Kings", Poem #257
Lord Dunsany, "Songs from an Evil Wood", Poem #259
Robert E. Howard, "Recompense", Poem #261
in the Minstrels archive,

Of course, there's a lot more Tolkien in the archive; go to
[broken link] for a full listing.

Like Peake, Edward Lear illustrated many of the strange worlds he conjured
up; the link above features several of his poems as well.

Mukund suggested for more about the poet, and I
concur - it seems to be an excellent site, and does ample justice to Peake's
multifarious talents, as poet, novelist, artist, illustrator, writer of
children's books and nonsense verse.


 b. July 9, 1911, Kuling, Kiangsi Province, China
 d. Nov. 17, 1968, Burcot, Oxfordshire, Eng.

English novelist, poet, painter, playwright, and illustrator, best known for
the bizarre Titus Groan trilogy of novels and for his illustrations of his
novels and of children's stories.

Educated in China and in Kent, Peake went to art school and trained as a
painter, but he was stricken with a progressive illness that made him
increasingly helpless until his death.

His Titus Groan novels--consisting of Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast
(1950), and Titus Alone (1959)--display a gallery of eccentric and freakish
characters in an idiosyncratic Gothic setting. Peake's drawings and
paintings, particularly his illustrations for the novels and for children's
books, are only a little less known, and his poem The Glassblowers (1950)
won a literary prize, together with Gormenghast. Peake also wrote a play,
The Wit to Woo (performed 1957).

        -- EB

46 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Alan Cobden said...

Peake's poem takes me back 60 years to my childhood.
I have seen that tree, I have seen those birds take flight, black against the bleake winter fields of rural Ontario.

Alan Cobden

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