A reading of one of his best poems
Everything about ‘Poem’ by Simon Armitage is understated. It opens with a casual ‘And’ (‘And if it snowed’), as if merely a continuation of something already in progress. It has an ‘anti-title’ which refuses to comment on the content of the poem that follows. (Armitage is fond of using such titles.) Its lines are all end-stopped with a full stop, suggesting a flatness of expression. Yet there is more to it than might first meet the eye. In this post, we’re going to offer some words towards an analysis of Armitage’s ‘Poem’, which you can read here.
‘Poem’ is a sort of obituary for an anonymous man – we know it’s an obituary because he is referred to in the past tense and is being ‘rated’ by people at the end of the poem, as if they are seeking to assess his whole life. The poem notes the different sides to the man’s personality. The fourth, eighth, and twelfth lines provide an insight into the darker and less pleasant side of the man, while the rest of the poem – or those first twelve lines, anyway – describe the good things he did. When it snowed, he would go out with a spade and clear the driveway. He was an attentive father, tucking his daughter up in bed every night. His daughter was clearly a good child, as she only ever lied ‘one time’, we are told; but he beat her with a slipper for this single transgression. Read the rest of this entry
A moving poem by a largely forgotten WWII poet
In the latest post for our occasional series on neglected poems (see Anna Seward’s brilliant poem ‘An Old Cat’s Dying Soliloquy’ for a previous title in the series), we thought we’d share with you this little-known poem written by a young Welsh poet, David Rhys Geraint Jones, during the Second World War. ‘Let Me Not See Old Age’ (sometimes known by the alternative title ‘A Wish’) was written in spring 1944, not long before Jones’s untimely death in action during the War, in Normandy in June 1944. Jones was just 22 years old, and so – assuming the poem expresses the poet’s own wishes – his entreaty, ‘Let me not see old age’, was honoured. ‘Live fast, die young’, as the rock star’s later motto has it. Not much else is known about D. R. Geraint Jones, so we would welcome further information from anyone who does know more about him. Read the rest of this entry
In yesterday’s advent calendar post, we shared a little fact related to an enduring Christmas carol. Today, another carol-related fact – though this time, involving one of the Victorian era’s leading poets.
Christina Rossetti (1830-94), the prolific Victorian poet, is perhaps most famous for writing ‘Goblin Market’. Except that that isn’t her most famous poem. Her most famous poem is not principally known as a poem, nor is it as widely known that Rossetti was the writer of it.
This is because Rossetti wrote the words to the Christmas carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. It was written some time prior to 1872 when Scribner’s Monthly magazine requested a Christmas-themed poem. But it was only published in 1904, ten years after Rossetti’s death. Shortly after this, in 1906, it became a musical piece, one of the most popular Christmas carols. The first musical accompaniment for Rossetti’s poem was the work of none other than Gustav Holst, the British composer most famous for the Planets suite.
But it is Harold Darke’s setting of 1909 that is probably more familiar to people around the world.
You can hear a performance of the carol here.
Image: Portrait of Christina Rossetti by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1866), public domain.