Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul:
(Poem #991) Seascape
In memoriam M.A.S There are some days the happy ocean lies Like an unfingered harp, below the land. Afternoon guilds all the silent wires Into a burning music for the eyes On mirrors flashing between fine-strung fires The shore, heaped up with roses, horses, spires Wanders on water tall above ribbed sand. The motionlessness of the hot sky tires And a sigh, like a woman's from inland, Brushes the instrument with shadowy hand Drawing across those wires some gull's sharp cry Or bell, or shout, from distant, hedged-in, shires; These, deep as anchors, the hushing wave buries. Then from the shore, two zig-zag butterflies Like errant dog-roses cross the bright strand Spiralling over waves in dizzy gyres Until the fall in wet reflected skies. They drown. Fishermen understand Such wings sunk in such ritual sacrifice. Remembering legends of undersea, drowned cities. What voyagers, oh what heroes, flamed like pyres With helmets plumed have set forth from some island And them the seas engulfed. Their eyes Distorted to the cruel waves desires, Glitter with coins through the tide scarcely scanned, While, far above, that harp assumes their sighs.
One of my favourite poems about the sea - I'm fascinated by the way Spender manages to create a poem that, rather like the sea, is full of movement, but is fundamentally unmoving. This is not just a sombre poem - it is a poem in which all movement (butterflies, winds, invasions) is drowned and sacrificed to the staid permanence of the afternoon, of the sea, of death. Even the sorrow is gentle here - like a soft undertow of current tugging at you - a requiem of harps and not of trumpets. The other thing I love about this poem is the rhyme (I can't honestly remember having read any other Spender where the rhyme pattern is this complex) with the constant repetition of rhymes creating a resonance that however avoids becoming a regular beat - thus creating a sound that is musical yet dissonant. Aseem.