Sunday, October 4, 2009

TC: Melancholy Watch, the Downs (September 1820)


A Jetty: Margate: Joseph William Mallord Turner, 1840s (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

My melancholy watch, mid-quarter-deck,
Drifting: I follow the play of gulls.
The sun is long gone down, the east darkling,
The ship drifts. In the west, some brightness remains.
Momently there are two flights of gulls moving
One to the east into the dark and one
Out of the west, in the last rays of the sun,
Left and right so entirely dissimilar
That the name gull quite falls from them
As I watch, and the chiaroscuro
Of the evening is torn open, altering
Everything: so that now everything is
Only itself: the gulls, myself closer
In nature than if I still knew their name,
Yet at the same time moving farther out,
Sinking deeper into a fading sky
Which soaks them up like ink accepting water,
Coaxing darkness out of reluctant night,
Bringing on the abolition of that false
Identity which made naming possible.

From TC: Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats


Phanero Noemikon said...

this is a really interesting series Tom. In this one I liked the play between watch and wash as in watercolors. the poem just left me wordless and stunned, I kept feeling as if some enormous being of cloud with a black paper tricorne might peer up over the edge of the world and hang a golden tree in the sky


TC said...

By God Lanny I do believe there is some net of sympathetic identification or affiliation or perhaps negative capability within which you and I happily co-exist, I can't define it exactly but whatever it is, I find myself also now overwhelmed by this feeling you describe, caught up in it, and alert with anticipation of its material fulfillment--which indeed may have already occurred out of the sheer gratuitousness of our mutual subscription.

I am going to wobble out into the chilly full-moonlit evening, tilt my head back, gaze upward and offer a silent celebratory hymn to that golden tree in unison with J. Keats, J.M.W. Turner and you, O Lord Phaneronoemikon!

Phanero Noemikon said...

If only the slow and solemn saddle
upon this caterpillar of endless night
were as warm as your words my friend..

A saddle with eyes.
A caterpillar of eyes
or argos bloss.
A rider, whose legs like smoke
entangle the arc of suns

the jester
with a sun
in its chin
called erd
irt, art
or ort


TC said...


You've put me in mind of an ancient R. Creeley offering--"More Orts for the Sports".

Lord Ert, I shall crown thee Ort.

ort (├┤rt)
1. A small scrap or leaving of food after a meal is completed. Often used in the plural.
2. A scrap; a bit.
[Middle English orte, food left by animals, probably from Middle Dutch : oor, out; see ud- in Indo-European roots + eten, to eat; see ed- in Indo-European roots.]

That about fits for both of us maybe, creating more grist for the eyeball mill in this long noctum of caterpillar saddlesores ad infinitum.

(Didn't Kyle McLachlan suffer from a case of those in Dune?)

Anonymous said...

I should read more of th 'old guys', they have much to teach. With their words, their ways of conjuring images in the minds eye.Thank you for opening windows to my Soul Thomas.

TC said...

And thank you for doing the same for me SarahA.

Oh yes, I continue to learn more about John Keats's conjurings as I grow older.

And what's curious is that while I grow every day more and more acutely aware of being one of the "old guys" (deteriorating geezers best kept out of sight!), the poet JK , who never was that sort (he died at 25 alas), seems to keep on getting fresher all the time.

He had virtually nothing, yet has given us, with a La Belle Dame Sans Merci or a To Autumn, almost everything!

TC said...


As I know you do your composing in longhand, perhaps a rarity these days, I thought you might be interested in seeing Keats's manuscript draft of To Autumn, done in Winchester in the early Fall of 1819. We can see in the draft that he was composing swiftly and decisively but also with precision and care, as each of his several working revisions marks a step up to a new level for the poem. His only passage of difficulty seems to have come in the second stanza, esp. lines 15-16, we can feel for him as he searches for easier rhyme words yet keeps his mind on the problem at hand: to draw a complete and vivid picture of Autumn.

When one sees the manuscript up close one sees his several wonderful "slips of the pen" which of themselves create mini-poems, as when he writes of the recumbent Autumn's "hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind", and it comes out "winmowing"... I've always been able to see in that line an image of her hair being both winnowed and mown, as field-grass is, by the soft breeze.

It's always in my mind this time of year, as we lose the warmth and light yet try to stretch the days that remain to the utmost... I think it's my favourite poem in English!

To Autumn ms. (first page)

To Autumn ms. (second page)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, you. Beautiful words and I am thinking, Mister Keats had beautiful hand writing too. Thank you Thomas.I am going to go read some more of Mister Keats. I want to.