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The Sunlight on the Garden -- Louis MacNeice

(Poem #757) The Sunlight on the Garden
 The sunlight on the garden
 Hardens and grows cold,
 We cannot cage the minute
 Within its nets of gold;
 When all is told
 We cannot beg for pardon.

 Our freedom as free lances
 Advances towards its end;
 The earth compels, upon it
 Sonnets and birds descend;
 And soon, my friend,
 We shall have no time for dances.

 The sky was good for flying
 Defying the church bells
 And every evil iron
 Siren and what it tells:
 The earth compels,
 We are dying, Egypt, dying

 And not expecting pardon,
 Hardened in heart anew,
 But glad to have sat under
 Thunder and rain with you,
 And grateful too
 For sunlight on the garden.
-- Louis MacNeice
An truly beautiful poem - the complex, intertwined images building up into
an ominous picture of a world spiralling into war. The superposition of the
large-scale and the highly personal is highly effective, the ending lending
the rest of the poem a new and enhanced perspective. And the poem is lent an
extra poignancy by the knowledge (see the first link) that it was addressed
to the wife who had just left him.

And speaking of complex and intertwined, don't miss the exquisitely crafted
rhyme scheme, the combination of internal and end rhymes having a delight
all their own. The technique of rhyming the last word of a line with the
first word of the next is, incidentally, reminiscent of Joe Haldeman's
"Lines Composed on a Noisy Plane to Atlantic City", in Zelazny's 'Wheel of
Fortune' anthology. Zelazny refers to it as an old Welsh verse form - if
anyone can shed further light on this, do write in.


  "We are dying, Egypt, dying": echoes Antony's word to Cleopatra in
  Act 4 of Antony and Cleopatra.
    -- [broken link]


  MacNeice, Louis:

   1907-63, Irish poet. Educated in England, he became a classical scholar
   and teacher and later was a producer for the British Broadcasting
   Corporation. In the 1930s MacNeice allied himself with a group of poets
   of social protest led by W. H. Auden. His later poetry, expressing the
   futility of modern life, retains the sparkling wit, ironical flatness of
   statement, and colloquial tone of his earlier verse. His volumes of
   poetry include Poems,, Springboard (1945), Holes in the
   Sky (1948), Ten Burnt Offerings (1952), and Solstices (1961). He also
   rendered poetic translations of Aeschylus' Agamemnon (1936) and Goethe's
   Faust (1951).

        -- [broken link]


  Seamus Cooney has an detailed commentary on the poem
    [broken link]

  Dickinson's 'There's a Certain Slant of Light' has reminiscent imagery
    poem #92

  And Henley's 'The Rain and the Wind' resonates nicely with the ending
     poem #117

  As for MacNeice, we've run two of his poems:
    poem #18
    poem #521


39 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Abraham Thomas said...

George Macbeth comments on this poem:

"One of MacNeive's saddest and most beautiful lyics. [MacNeice] once said
that if forced to choose between sound and sense he would have a slight
preference for [sound]. In this poem the sense seems to be conveyed
_through_ the music. The rhyme scheme ... has the effect of dovetailing the
lines together and producing a constant sense of echo emphasising the
lingering, fading quality of the joys of life which the poem is talking

-- George Macbeth, Poetry 1900 to 1975 (Longman)

Allstar Mortgage Inc said...

I am Rex Patton, an amateur poet.
I have come upon your listing while cruising the -net at work, thus the address: Allstar Mortgage. If you should wish to communicate with me please use this address :
I believe that the show of an end-rime being followed by the next initial rime, as in portions of Mr. Loius MacNeice's "Sunlight OnThe Garden", if followed to completion of the piece, is called Serpentine rime. If it is done on every-other-line, it is called Broken Serpentine rime. This would lead me to idenify Mr. MacNeice's example as perhaps being Partial Serpentine rime.
Your site is quite lovely and I shall be visiting often. Thank you. Rex Patton. Anderson, Indiana.

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