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Stevie Smith

Posted 12-20-2010 at 03:58 PM by Steve Bucknell
Updated 01-29-2011 at 02:48 PM by Steve Bucknell
I like this early poem by Stevie Smith, a typical mixture of melancholy and cheesy oddity, difficult to paraphrase or interpret. Her poetry and novels have moved in and out of fashion since their first publication. Her poetry remains delightfully sui generis.

Night-Time In The Cemetery

The funeral paths are hung with snow
About the graves the mourners go
To think of those who lie below.
The churchyard pales are black against the night
And snow hung here seems doubly white.
I have a horror of this place
A horror of each moonlit mournerís face
These people are not familiar
But strange and stranger than strange peculiar
They have that look of a cheese do you know sour-sweet
You can smell their feet.
Yet I must tread
About my dead
And guess the forms within the grave
And hear the clank of jowl on jowl
Where low lie kin no love could save.
Yet stand I by my grave as they by theirs. Oh bitter Death
That brought their love and mine unto a coffinís breadth.

From A Good Time Was Had By All (Cape, 1937)

Some Royal company for Stevie:

On Departure

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned.
Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.

Queen Elizabeth I.
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