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Old 03-13-2001, 02:00 AM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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This is as good a place to start as any.


<u>The Sunlight on the Garden</u>

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.


<u>The Brandy Glass</u>

Only let it form within his hands once more -
The moment cradled like a brandy glass.
Sitting alone in the empty dining hall...
From the chandeliers the snow begins to fall
Piling around carafes and table legs
And chokes the passage of the revolving door.
The last diner, like a ventriloquist's doll
Left by his master, gazes before him, begs:
'Only let it form within my hands once more.'



[This message has been edited by MacArthur (edited March 13, 2001).]
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Old 03-13-2001, 01:23 PM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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Though not very conversant with MacNeice, I know this poem well. It has always been a favorite of Tim Murphy's, though I think he loved it more for its sound and its clever use of literary allusion than its sense. The enjambed female rhymes and nonce stanzas make this poem especially attractive for anyone who considers alternatives to conventional forms. Despite a considerable amount of metrical substitution, iambs predominate, and the stanzas run in a very definite grove, with primary stresses numbering 3,3,3,3,2,3 in the respective lines of each stanza.

Grave and graceful, "Sunlight in the Garden" uses the techniques of light verse to achieve a serious aim.

Alan Sullivan
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Old 03-13-2001, 02:05 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Mac, I am pleased that you posted this almost perfect poem. Long after I started working primarily in trimeter and dimeter, and twenty years after I'd last read the poem, it came into my mind. And having NEVER memorized it, I recited it word for word. MacNeice's buddy famously defined poetry as memorable speech, and I don't know how you get any more memorable than that. Does memory serve me right? "Advances toward its end?"
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Old 03-13-2001, 03:33 PM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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Tim,
You are right. I cut-and -pasted this with my mouse of an internet site, but another site has it as you say. I was looking for a poem called "The Brandy Glass" and found so many good things I decided to start a thread.
Re the connection between ideology and Formal Verse. MacNeice was a committed communist-- but felt that the proles should have the same cultural advantages as the patricians -- and that Formal Verse had more to say to the mainstream of humanity, whereas Free-Verse was an in-bred decadent upper-class cult. Dana Gioia might say the same thing!

Duh! forgot I could edit my own Topic! Fixed. Also inserted The Brandy Glass...the Headless Hexameters are delicious. MacNeice was partial to a long line...perhaps because of his classics training.

[This message has been edited by MacArthur (edited March 13, 2001).]
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Old 03-14-2001, 12:40 PM
robert mezey robert mezey is offline
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Alan, don't see why you should think it a
light verse form. There are such things, but
this is equally available for either light or
...heavy. Iambic trimeter mostly. What it
"says" is pretty simple, but he says it
beautifully. Maybe his best lyric. In any
case, I share Tim's feeling for it. And
another of his poems occurs to me, which I
think you'll all enjoy.

Goodbye, Winter,
The days are getting longer,
The tea-leaf in the teacup
Is herald of a stranger.

Will he bring me business
Or will he bring me gladness
Or will he come for cure
Of his own sickness?

With a pedlar's burden
Walking up the garden
Will he come to bed
Or will he come to bargain.

Will he come to pester,
To cringe or to bluster,
A promise in his palm
Or a gun in his holster>

Will his name be John
Or will his name be Jonah
Crying to repent
On the island of Iona?

Will his name be Jason
Looking for a seamen
Or a mad crusader
Without rhyme or reason?

What will be his message---
War or work or marriage?
News as new as dawn
Or an old adage?

Will he give a champion
Answer to my question
Or will his words be dark
And his ways evasion?

Will his name be Love
And all his talk be crazy?
Or will his name be Death
And his message easy?

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Old 03-15-2001, 09:52 AM
Alan Sullivan Alan Sullivan is offline
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Hello, Robert. Thanks for stopping by and adding this to the thread. My comment about light verse was not intended to belie the gravity of "Sunlight in the Garden." Quite the contrary. There is something especially poignant for me in the deployment of these techniques when a poet's theme is the transience of all things.

I am always dismayed that so many fine poets and critics seem suddenly nervous or defensive when the words "light verse" are used. I rarely employ this phrase in a pejorative or demeaning sense. When you say "there are such things," I assume you mean limerick and other forms of that ilk. But I was speaking of meter and rhyme rather than verse form per se. The use of female rhyme encourages a rhythmic lilt that is the metrical opposite of something like "Break break break on thy cold grey stones, O sea." Yet a light meter can be equally sorrowful.

I like the poem you quote, but its triple female rhymes push it further toward the realm of true light verse, and perhaps too far for the poet's purpose. The last stanza, taut and chilling, reminds me of Dickinson, but some of the middle stanzas are pretty fluffy stuff.

Alan Sullivan
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Old 03-15-2001, 01:30 PM
robert mezey robert mezey is offline
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I just misunderstood you. I love light verse
and included a lot of it in my book. As Gavin
Ewart said, "Good light verse is better than
bad heavy verse any day of the week." And
you're quite right that a good craftsman could
use a form associated with light verse for his
own purposes---for instance, Hardy's heart-
breaking poem "The Voice" which is in dactyllic
tetrameter of all things.
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Old 03-15-2001, 04:13 PM
Len Krisak Len Krisak is offline
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Robert, your mention of the Hardy is interesting.
For the last two years, using your edition, I have
set students a final exam essay on that very
poem. It would be difficult if not impossible
to describe what students claim to see in it--
and this after having read a hundred Hardy poems
in the weeks leading up to the exam. Many claim
not to have the slightest idea where "the voice"
is coming from. Sigh.

But your point about the meter is well-taken.
A haunting, haunting poem, with dactyls doing
no harm whatsoever.
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Old 03-15-2001, 05:47 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Bob, I love that longer lyric too, although I think it's flawed by the overwhelming influence of Auden. 'Course if I'd been A's contemporary and best buddy, I'd have been pretty derivative of him too.

Several years ago Dave Mason sent a fine young scholar named Paul Mussell to us for a tutorial. I taught him prosody and Hardy for a semester. I recall giving him six really tough poems, including The Voice. I was astonished when he returned with perfect scansions. Later I learned that he and Mason had stayed up half the night puzzling over those scansions. The lad decided his favorite Hardy was Castle Boterel. But The Voice ran a close second.

Now Len, that was at Moorhead State, so don't abandon hope for the Stone Hill kids!
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Old 03-15-2001, 07:52 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Lots of us think Derek Mahon is the greatest living Irish poet. In his early twenties he wrote this elegy for MacNeice, a really precocious performance. At some later time, I'll post some of his mature work on this board.


In Carrowdore Churchyard

(at the grave of Louis MacNeice)

Your ashes will not stir, even on this high ground,
However the wind tugs, the headstones shake.
This plot is consecrated for your sake,
To what lies in the future tense. You lie
Past tension now, and spring is coming round
Igniting flowers on the peninsula.

Your ashes will not fly, however the rough winds burst
Through the wild brambles and the reticent trees.
All we may ask of you we have; the rest
Is not for publication, will not be heard.
Maguire, I believe, suggested a blackbird
And over your grave a phrase from Euripides.

Which suits you down to the ground, like this churchyard
With its play of shadow, its humane perspective.
Locked in the winterís fist, these hills are hard
As nails, yet soft and feminine in their turn
When fingers open and the hedges burn.
This, you implied, is how we ought to live.

The ironical, loving crush of roses against snow,
Each fragile, solving ambiguity. So
From the pneumonia of the ditch, from the ague
Of the blind poet and the bombed-out town you bring
The all-clear to the empty holes of spring,
Rinsing the choked mud, keeping the colours new.

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