Sunday, March 31, 2013

Poems to Remember the Past By


SO, we'll go no more a-roving 
  So late into the night, 
Though the heart be still as loving,
 And the moon be still as bright. 

For the sword outwears its sheath,
  And the soul wears out the breast, 
And the heart must pause to breathe, 
  And love itself have rest. 

Though the night was made for loving, 
  And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving 
  By the light of the moon.

Francis Thompson

* For the field is full of shades as I near a shadowy coast, 
* And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost, 
* And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host 
* As the run stealers flicker to and fro, 
* To and fro: 
* O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago !

 The story goes that “Not long before his death and long after he had watched Hornby and Barlow bat at Old Trafford, Thompson was invited to watch Lancashire play Middlesex at Lord's. As the day of the match grew closer, Thompson became increasingly nostalgic. At the end, he did not go for the match, but sat at home and wrote At Lord's. The original match in 1878 ended in a draw…”

I was reminded of both of these poems the other day (the second is a fragment of a longer poem) and remembered that I wanted to write about this. About the stark feeling of having done everything worthwhile that you are ever going to do. Good memories are good, but they shouldn't remind you too clearly that they are now only memories. These lines do.

There are many things I will never do again, or never do at all. And there are many things I will do, if I choose to or am lucky enough.  It is these last that are the future, that make the present worth prolonging, that cause optimism, happiness even. And memory is good, even memories of what is gone forever.

But there is a finality about these lines. The simplicity of the metres, the bareness of the images, the lack of any contrast with a worthwhile present, lead to a feeling that what is good is lost. And perhaps was never truly had.

Just poetry, and I like it. It provokes an emotional response, which is one of the things I like in writing. But don’t read them under the influence.


Sackerson said...

Byron's brings one near to tears; as does Clough's Fear Not The Struggle Nought Availeth. Odd how both failure and success (or rescue) can make one weep. I think we live as long as we are between the two.

Brett Hetherington said...

And eventually memory is kind, it allows the pain to pass, at least at a conscious level. So many English writers and musicians do nostalgia as well if not better than anyone else. I happened to have this version of a great Bob Dylan song playing when I started reading your post and Sackerson's insightful comment. It was apt, I thought:

CIngram said...

Thank you both for your comments, and for the references, which contribute to broadening the ideas suggested by the lines I quoted. Clough's poem introduces a very powerful element of hope, or at least an appeal to belief in the possibility of hope.
I didn't know the Dylan song, but it is apt, as you say. There are some memories which are not sad, they are good in themselves, even when what is remembered is gone.
There is a very long list that could be made of poems which address diffetet ways of remembering, and all the emotions memory can bring. Hmm. I think I have work to do.