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The Skater -- Charles G D Roberts

       
(Poem #851) The Skater
 My glad feet shod with the glittering steel
 I was the god of the wingèd heel.

 The hills in the far white sky were lost;
 The world lay still in the wide white frost;

 And the woods hung hushed in their long white dream
 By the ghostly, glimmering, ice-blue stream.

 Here was a pathway, smooth like glass,
 Where I and the wandering wind might pass

 To the far-off palaces, drifted deep,
 Where Winter's retinue rests in sleep.

 I followed the lure, I fled like a bird,
 Till the startled hollows awoke and heard

 A spinning whisper, a sibilant twang,
 As the stroke of the steel on the tense ice rang;

 And the wandering wind was left behind
 As faster, faster I followed my mind;

 Till the blood sang high in my eager brain,
 And the joy of my flight was almost pain.

 The I stayed the rush of my eager speed
 And silently went as a drifting seed, --

 Slowly, furtively, till my eyes
 Grew big with the awe of a dim surmise,

 And the hair of my neck began to creep
 At hearing the wilderness talk in sleep.

 Shapes in the fir-gloom drifted near.
 In the deep of my heart I heard my fear.

 And I turned and fled, like a soul pursued,
 From the white, inviolate solitude.
-- Charles G D Roberts
When I read the first couplet, I realised two things - firstly, that this
was not, critically speaking, a particularly great poem, and secondly, that
I was captivated anyway. Having read the entire poem, both impressions
remain - this will never be a great poem, but it's a beautiful one for a'
that.

It's hard to define exactly what it is about the poem that my inner critic
balks at. It's mostly the impression that the poet fails to achieve the
unselfconscious ease that marks the truly great poem - every now and then,
the images feel faintly forced, or the word choice suboptimal, which throws
me off my stride.

Far easier to say what I like about it - the fact remains that, for all my
nitpicking, this is a very pleasing poem. The imagery is beautiful, and very
evocative in places - the quiet, lonely stream winding through the wood,
its atmosphere slowly seeping into the narrator's mood, comes across
vividly.

Furthermore, couplets are a form I really like when they work, and they do
here, the poem being carried along as swift and as feather-light as the
skater on the cascading lines, and the slightly surreal atmosphere being
enhanced by the fragmentation.

martin

Links:

There's a bio of Roberts at
  http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/roberts.html

Two other poems that make effective use of couplets:

  Poem #84 R. L. Stevenson, 'From a Railway Carriage'
  Poem #209 Mary Robinson, 'The Camp'

22 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Monica F said...

I think this poem was pretty good. But I have read better poetry by Charles G.D Roberts. I think he has a different style of poetry than most of the poems I have read. All his poetry has touched me in all different ways.But as I read the poem for the second time. I understand it a bit better. Like I read on someone else's comment this poem show's he was trying a bit too hard on writing the couplets. ( There is a great possiblity that he is one of my ancesters.)

Monica

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