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The Travellers' Curse after Misdirection -- Robert Graves

Guest poem sent in by Jeff Berndt

Hello, Minstrels.

The other day, I had to walk to rent a car.  The car rental place was a
couple miles from my home, and it was poorly signed.  I could not find it.
I asked a fellow for directions and he sent me an extra mile out of my way.
I tried to find him on the way back, but he had gone.  This extra walking
put me in mind of the following poem, by Robert Graves:
(Poem #840) The Travellers' Curse after Misdirection
(from the Welsh)

 May they stumble, stage by stage
 On an endless Pilgrimage
 Dawn and dusk, mile after mile
 At each and every step a stile
 At each and every step withal
 May they catch their feet and fall
 At each and every fall they take
 May a bone within them break
 And may the bone that breaks within
 Not be, for variations sake
 Now rib, now thigh, now arm, now shin
 but always, without fail, the NECK
-- Robert Graves
Here's what has to say about Robert Graves:

Robert Graves

  Robert Graves was born on July 24, 1895, in Wimbledon, near London. His
  father, Alfred Perceval Graves, was a Gaelic scholar and minor Irish poet.
  His mother, Amalie von Ranke Graves, was a relation of Leopold von Ranke,
  one of the founding fathers of modern historical studies. One of ten
  children, Robert was greatly influenced by his mother's puritanical
  beliefs and his father's love of Celtic poetry and myth. As a young man,
  he was more interested in boxing and mountain climbing than studying,
  although poetry later sustained him through a turbulent adolescence. In
  1913 Graves won a scholarship to continue his studies at St. John's
  College, Oxford, but in August 1914 he enlisted as a junior officer in the
  Royal Welch Fusiliers. He fought in the Battle of Loos and was injured in
  the Somme offensive in 1916. While convalescing, he published his first
  collection of poetry, Over the Brazier. By 1917, though still an active
  serviceman, Graves had published three volumes. In 1918, he spent a year
  in the trenches, where he was again severely wounded.

  In January 1918, at the age of twenty-two, he married eighteen-year-old
  Nancy Nicholson, with whom he was to have four children. Traumatized by
  the war, he went to Oxford with his wife and took a position at St. John's
  College. Graves's early volumes of poetry, like those of his
  contemporaries, deal with natural beauty and bucolic pleasures, and with
  the consequences of the First World War. Over the Brazier and Fairies and
  Fusiliers earned for Graves the reputation as an accomplished war poet.
  After meeting the American poet and theorist Laura Riding in 1926,
  Graves's poetry underwent a significant transformation. Douglas Day has
  written that the "influence of Laura Riding is quite possibly the most
  important single element in [Graves's] poetic career: she persuaded him to
  curb his digressiveness and his rambling philosophizing and to concentrate
  instead on terse, ironic poems written on personal themes."

  In 1927, Graves and his first wife separated permanently, and in 1929 he
  published Goodbye to All That, an autobiography that announced his
  psychological accommodation with the residual horror of his war
  experiences. Shortly afterward, he departed to Majorca with Laura Riding.
  In addition to completing many books of verse while in Majorca, Graves
  also wrote several volumes of criticism, some in collaboration with
  Riding. The couple cofounded Seizin Press in 1928 and Epilogue, a
  semiannual magazine, in 1935. During that period, he evolved his theory of
  poetry as spiritually cathartic to both the poet and the reader. Although
  Graves claimed that he wrote novels only to earn money, it was through
  these that he attained status as a major writer in 1934, with the
  publication of the historical novel I, Claudius, and its sequel, Claudius
  the God and His Wife Messalina. (During the 1970's, the BBC adapted the
  novels into an internationally popular television series.)

  At the onset of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Graves and Riding fled
  Majorca, eventually settling in America. In 1939, Laura Riding left Graves
  for the writer Schuyler Jackson; one year later Graves began a
  relationship with Beryl Hodge that was to last until his death. It was in
  the 1940s, after his break with Riding, that Graves formulated his
  personal mythology of the White Goddess. Inspired by late
  nineteenth-century studies of matriarchal societies and goddess cults,
  this mythology was to pervade all of his later work.

  After World War II, Graves returned to Majorca, where he lived with Hodge
  and continued to write. By the 1950's, Graves had won an enormous
  international reputation as a poet, novelist, literary scholar, and
  translator. In 1962, W. H. Auden went as far as to assert that Graves was
  England's "greatest living poet." In 1968 he received the Queen's Gold
  Medal for Poetry. During his lifetime he published more than 140 books,
  including fifty-five collections of poetry (he reworked his Collected
  Poems repeatedly during his career), fifteen novels, ten translations, and
  forty works of nonfiction, autobiography, and literary essays. From 1961
  to 1966, Graves returned to England to serve as a professor of poetry at
  Oxford. In the 1970s his productivity fell off; and the last decade of his
  life was lost in silence and senility. Robert Graves died in Majorca in
  1985, at the age of ninety.


Jeff Berndt


Graves poems on Minstrels:

  Poem #55, Welsh Incident
  Poem #298, The Cool Web
  Poem #467, Like Snow
  Poem #515, The Persian Version
  Poem #564, Warning to Children
  Poem #663, A Child's Nightmare
  Poem #763, Love Without Hope

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