Guest poem submitted by Aparna:
(Poem #685) The Old Ships
I have seen old ships like swans asleep Beyond the village which men call Tyre, With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep For Famagusta and the hidden sun That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire; And all those ships were certainly so old Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun, Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges, The pirate Genoese Hell-raked them till they rolled Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold. But now through friendly seas they softly run, Painted the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green, Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold. But I have seen, Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn And image tumbed on a rose-swept bay, A drowsy ship of some yet older day; And, wonder's breath indrawn, Thought I - who knows - who knows - but in that same (Fished up beyond Ææa, patched up new - Stern painted brighter blue -) That talkative, bald-headed seaman came (Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar) From Troy's doom-crimson shore, And with great lies about his wooden horse Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course. It was so old a ship - who knows, who knows? - And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain To see the mast burst open with a rose, And the whole deck put on its leaves again.
The first time I read any Flecker was in the preface to M.M. Kaye's "The Far Pavilions"... those lovely lines from the The Golden Journey to Samarkand beginning, "We are the pilgrims Master..." After I dug up and read the whole poem, the enchantment was complete and Flecker became and remains one of my favourite poets. What I love about this particular poem is the _colours_ I associate with it ...it's replete, drenched with all the richness and colour and patterns I would expect from a place that sounds as beautiful as Cyprus itself -- " dipping deep for Famagusta and the hidden sun..." -- just saying "Famagusta" out aloud would be enough! Or that amazing juxtaposition of images ..."questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges..." - absolutely lovely. Despite everything I still think that "Golden Journey" is the best Flecker I've read. Besides I might be biased but Samarkand (like caravanserai, as Martin pointed out some time ago) is one of those words that has loveliness and dust and distance and magic in every syllable so... :-) Aparna. [Biography] James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915) was born in London on November 5, 1884. His death in 1915 at the age of thirty was "unquestionably the greatest premature loss that English literature has suffered since the death of Keats" (Macdonald, 1924). The eldest son of the Rev. W. H. Flecker, Headmaster of Dean Close School, Flecker attended Trinity College, Oxford, and also Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied oriental languages in preparation for a consular career. From 1910 to 1913 he held a series of minor consular posts in Constantinople, Smyrna, and Beirut, and these appointments reinforced his life-long love for the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Flecker's health was not robust (he had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1910 shortly after he entered the consular service) and he was forced to take frequent leaves of absence from his posts, sometimes to return to England and sometimes to visit sanatoria in Switzerland. He died in Davos, Switzerland, on January 3, 1915, and is buried in Cheltenham, England, at the foot of the Cotswold Hills. His grave is marked with a granite cross inscribed with the poet's own words: "O Lord, restore his realm to the dreamer." "Flecker had a splendor and breadth of vision unmatched among young English poets of his time" (Philadelphia North American). His writings include poetry, short stories, non-fiction prose, and two plays that were published posthumously. Though sometimes grouped chronologically with the Georgian poets, Flecker's real literary affinity is with the French Parnassian school. [Georgian poets are early twentieth-century poets like Rupert Brooke or W.H. Davies/Flecker but I have no idea what the French Parnassian school is. Could anyone elucidate? - Aparna] -- http://www1.arcs.ac.at/users/wk/fairway/flecker.html The Poets' Corner has some stuff from Flecker at [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/gp2_5.html and there's a photograph at the University of Toronto site http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/flecker.html [thomas adds] Aparna suggested revisiting the Silk Road theme which I had mentioned in yesterday's post; you can read all the poems of the original theme at the Minstrels website, http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/. Specifically, Poem #504 - Li Po, "About Tu Fu" Poem #506 - Christopher Marlowe, "Lament for Zenocrate" Poem #509 - James Elroy Flecker, "The Golden Road to Samarkand" Poem #513 - Jalaluddin Rumi, "The Tavern" Poem #515 - Robert Graves, "The Persian Version" Poem #518 - James Elroy Flecker, "The Gates of Damascus" Poem #522 - Constantine Cavafy, "In Harbor" Poem #526 - Robert Browning, "A Toccata of Galuppi's" And in response to Aparna's query: "Parnassian - French PARNASSIEN, member of a group of 19th-century French poets headed by Leconte de Lisle, who stressed restraint, objectivity, technical perfection, and precise description as a reaction against the emotionalism and verbal imprecision of the Romantics. The poetic movement led by the Parnassians that resulted in experimentation with metres and verse forms and the revival of the sonnet paralleled the trend toward Realism in drama and the novel that became evident in the late 19th century. Initially taking their themes from contemporary society, the Parnassians later turned to the mythology, epics, and sagas of exotic lands and past civilizations, notably India and ancient Greece, for inspiration. The Parnassians derived their name from the anthology to which they contributed: Le Parnasse Contemporain (3 vol., 1866, 1871, 1876), edited by Louis-Xavier de Ricard and Catulle Mendès and published by Alphonse Lemerre. Their principles, though, had been formulated earlier in Théophile Gautier's preface to Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835), which expounded the theory of art for art's sake, in Leconte de Lisle's preface to his Poèmes antiques (1852), and in La Revue Fantaisiste (1860), founded by Mendès. Gautier's Émaux et camées (1852), a collection of carefully worked, formally perfect poems, pointed to a new conception of poetry and influenced the works of major Parnassians such as Albert Glatigny, Théodore de Banville, François Coppée, Léon Dierx, and José Maria de Heredia. Heredia, the most representative of the group, looked for precise details, double rhymes, sonorous words, and exotic names, and concentrated on making the 14th line of his sonnets the most striking. The influence of the Parnassians was felt throughout Europe and was particularly evident in the Modernist movement of Spain and Portugal and in the Jeune Belgique (Young Belgium) movement. In the late 19th century a new generation of poets, the Symbolists, followers of Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine, themselves Parnassians in their youth, broke away from precise description in search of an art of nuance and musical suggestion." -- EB