What connects the popular Christmas carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ and the popular hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’? They both share an origin – but the origins of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ are not as famous as the words. And the words themselves deserve closer analysis…
Once in Royal David’s City
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child. Read the rest of this entry
‘Cradle Song’ is intended to be sung by a mother to her newborn child in order to lull the baby to sleep. The repetition of ‘Sweet’ at the beginning of many of the poem’s stanzas (or perhaps we should say, the song’s verses) helps to create a soothing effect. One wonders how many infants have been eased into dreamland by maternal recitals of Blake’s poem.
Sleep, sleep, beauty bright,
Dreaming in the joys of night;
Sleep, sleep; in thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.
Sweet babe, in thy face
Soft desires I can trace,
Secret joys and secret smiles, Read the rest of this entry
‘Mental Cases’ began life as a poem titled ‘The Deranged’ in late 1917, following Wilfred Owen’s famous meeting with fellow war poet Siegfried Sassoon in Craiglockhart Hospital. Encouraged by Sassoon, and partly inspired by his fellow war poet’s poem ‘The Survivors’, Owen set about depicting the terrifying mental landscape of those men fighting in the trenches during the First World War. ‘Mental Cases’ is a powerful evocation and analysis of the psychological effects of the world’s first mass industrial war on the young men who experienced it.
Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?
Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows,
Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish,
Baring teeth that leer like skulls’ tongues wicked?
Stroke on stroke of pain, — but what slow panic,
Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets?
Ever from their hair and through their hand palms
Misery swelters. Surely we have perished
Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?
— These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished. Read the rest of this entry