Guest poem sent in by Vivek Narayanan
(Poem #1691) You, Andrew Marvell
And here face down beneath the sun Here upon Earth's noonward height To feel the always coming on The always rising of the night: To feel creep up the curving East The earthy chill of dusk and slow upon those underlands the vast And ever climbing shadow grow And strange at Ecbatan the trees Take leaf by leaf the evening strange The flooding dark about their knees The mountains over Persia change And now at Kermanshah the gate Dark empty and the withered grass And through the twilight now the late Few travellers in the Westward pass And Baghdad darken and the bridge Across the silent river gone And through Arabia the edge of evening widen and steal on And deepen in Palmyra's street The wheel-rut in the ruined stone And Lebanon fade out and Crete High through the clouds and overblown And over Sicily the air Still flashing with the landward gulls And loom and slowly disappear The sails above the shadowy hulls And Spain go under and the shore Of Africa the gilded sand And evening vanish and no more The low pale light across that land Nor now the long light on the sea: And here face downward in the sun To feel how swift how secretly The shadow of the night comes on...
My number one memorisable poem has to be at the moment Roethke's The Waking; of course it's not about sleep at all, but the sleep of reason and anxiety, ie., an attempt to put reason and anxiety to sleep. Sure enough, it seems to have a very real, calming effect on me when I recite it to myself: which leads me to believe that the number one reason we memorise poems is that so they may be internalised in the living body and have an actual, physical effect, be a way of reforming the self. Well... since that one is already in the archive, I'm typing up this other famous poem from memory, a remarkable visualization of time in the shadow that creeps as the Earth turns. The poem's own movement/cadence and its eschewing of punctuation makes for a physical mimesis of the shadow's constant growing; and it manages both a very large scale and a minuteness of seen detail: such as (and how!) the wheel-rut left by centuries of wheels on Palmyra's street. Slightly longish, MacLeish's poem is nevertheless surprisingly easily to memorise because of the rhymed quartrains and the very steady, measured iambic (te-tum te-tum) line which is stretched out longingly by all those long vowels. When I checked my version out against the poem at the poets.org website there were a few things I'd gotten wrong, I'd typed: "the" for "those" in the 7th line, "darken" instead of "deepen" in the 21st line, and "downward" instead of "landward" in the 26th line. Thus the exercise was a very good one which made me pay renewed attention again to MacLeish's subtle and rather careful word-choices. I'd also kept the last four lines together and not used any punctuation. The punctuation seems to be a bit different in different versions on the net; for instance, in one version the poem ends in an ellipsis, in another in a full stop-- which makes me think, my humble opinion, that perhaps the poem would indeed be better without any punctuation at all. One clarification may also aid the memorising of the poem: going strictly by sense, the third stanza parses out as follows: "... and strange at Ecbatan, the trees take leaf by leaf the evening; strange, the flooding dark about their knees, the mountains over Persia change." So there should be a slight pause or breath just before the second "strange" to make the enjambment clear. Vivek [Links] A great piece by Mark Strand on today's poem: http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/author.pperl?authorid=30082&view=fromauthor Biography: http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/macleish/life.htm Today's poem is very reminiscent, in tone, feel and rhythm, of Auden's "The Fall of Rome" [Poem #494]