(Poem #973) Reveille
Wake: the silver dusk returning Up the beach of darkness brims, And the ship of sunrise burning Strands upon the eastern rims. Wake: the vaulted shadow shatters, Trampled to the floor it spanned, And the tent of night in tatters Straws the sky-pavilioned land. Up, lad, up, 'tis late for lying: Hear the drums of morning play; Hark, the empty highways crying "Who'll beyond the hills away?" Towns and countries woo together, Forelands beacon, belfries call; Never lad that trod on leather Lived to feast his heart with all. Up, lad: thews that lie and cumber Sunlit pallets never thrive; Morns abed and daylight slumber Were not meant for man alive. Clay lies still, but blood's a rover; Breath's a ware that will not keep. Up, lad: when the journey's over There'll be time enough to sleep.
Note: Reveille: A morning signal given to soldiers, usually by beat of drum or by bugle, to waken them and notify that it is time to rise. The usual military pronunciation is rive.li; in the U.S. service reveli --OED Today's poem is one of those wonderful blendings of sound and sense that, above all else, exemplify the sheer pleasure of poetry. Like the reveille itself, the lines are stirring, thrilling through the listener's veins with their call to action and their images of the "empty highways crying".  not 'reader', for this is surely a poem to be read aloud Which brings me to the other thing I like about the poem - its wonderful "open road" imagery. Towns and countries woo together, Forelands beacon, belfries call; Never lad that trod on leather Lived to feast his heart with all. captures the spirit of wanderlust as well as anything Masefield or Stevenson wrote. Again, although there is no explicit military imagery in the poem, the title (and the odd phrase) give it a definite martial undertone, so that even in isolation it seems to bespeak the thrill and excitement of soldiering. And, of course, viewed in the larger context of "A Shropshire Lad" the impression crystallises and is made explicit, but it is nice to see how well the subtext comes through unaided. Another nice touch is the deliberately 'poetic' imagery in the first two verses giving way to the more 'prosaic' - or, at any rate, less metaphorical - language of the later verses. The first verse, in particular, is very reminiscent of Fitzgerald's Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight: And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light. a resemblance that is very likely intended. Links: To fully appreciate "A Shropshire Lad", it really needs to be read in its entirety: [broken link] http://geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/housm02.html Housman poems on Minstrels: Poem #33, "White in the Moon the Long Road Lies" [ASL XXXVI] Poem #86, "When I Was One-and-Twenty" [ASL XIII] Poem #377, "Loveliest of trees, the cherry now" [ASL II] Poem #439, "Look not in my eyes, for fear" [ASL XV] Poem #588, "Terence, this is stupid stuff" [ASL LXII] Poem #539, "Yonder see the morning blink" [Last Poems XI] Poem #703, "On Wenlock Edge The Wood's In Trouble" [ASL XXXI] Biography: Poem #33 A nice Housman page: http://www.upei.ca/~english/202/modern/housman.html -martin