(Poem #1301) Meeting Point
Time was away and somewhere else, There were two glasses and two chairs And two people with the one pulse (Somebody stopped the moving stairs) Time was away and somewhere else. And they were neither up nor down; The stream's music did not stop Flowing through heather, limpid brown, Although they sat in a coffee shop And they were neither up nor down. The bell was silent in the air Holding its inverted poise - Between the clang and clang a flower, A brazen calyx of no noise: The bell was silent in the air. The camels crossed the miles of sand That stretched around the cups and plates; The desert was their own, they planned To portion out the stars and dates: The camels crossed the miles of sand. Time was away and somewhere else. The waiter did not come, the clock Forgot them and the radio waltz Came out like water from a rock: Time was away and somewhere else. Her fingers flicked away the ash That bloomed again in tropic trees: Not caring if the markets crash When they had forests such as these, Her fingers flicked away the ash. God or whatever means the Good Be praised that time can stop like this, That what the heart has understood Can verify in the body's peace God or whatever means the Good. Time was away and she was here And life no longer what it was, The bell was silent in the air And all the room one glow because Time was away and she was here.
MacNeice in this poem tries to capture the suspension of time that seems to occur when one is in the company of a loved one. Three images in particular stand out for me: the stalled escalator (escalators being the embodiment of perpetual motion -- the infinite loop, as it were), the inverted bell (pendulums at their extrema always seem to slow down more than they should) and the empty desert (the high desert, like the Siberian tundra and the antarctic plateau, has a profoundly hypnotic _sameness_ to it). Sadly, the rest of the poem (beguiling rhyme scheme apart) doesn't quite do the trick. I found the sixth stanza somewhat pointless, and the scansion of the second stanza is decidedly uneven. (That said, I'm not sure if more exact prosody would have helped the poem or reduced it to sing-song triteness). And finally, the ambiguity that gives poems like "The Sunlight on the Garden" or "House on a Cliff" or "Snow" their power, here seems to betoken a lack of confidence, a thinning of the blood. Methinks I cavil too much. All criticism aside, this remains a very accomplished poem, if not MacNeice's finest. I really must read more of his work. thomas.