Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

It Is Getting Late (May 1819)


Walking Back: photo by Tom Raworth, 2009

Half bottle of claret drunk alone--a soft
Dusk falls in this dragon world of men
Who cannot see what flowers are at their feet
Once the swarming of phenomena begins

Better perhaps to guess than to see
Those flowers of death's close growth and breathing,
Lustrous, fragrant, spongy, aethereal,
Shadowy thought left to supply its own

Earth-figuring text finds this evanescent
Diffuse sense efflorescing, this slow
Faint luminous phosphorescence rising
From the forever speculative ground

From Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from the Life of John Keats by Tom Clark


parallax said...

A wolf in the sky and grape trance induced verse, thank you btp.

'Earth-figuring text finds this evanescent
Diffuse sense efflorescing'

fleeting, powdery, passing substance? Yes to the clouds - but otherwise ... you're surely re-iterating? Or - and I take my time to ask - freshly aghast by impermanence, which you know so well through poetry but now see as (gasp, air) probable?

and yet - I see new words and nascent poems everywhere I look on this blogsphere.

Thank you for "It Is Getting Late" for surely and deliciously, it is.

TC/BTP said...

Thanks Para,

The bio-historical context for this post may be obvious. Or not.

"Shadowy thought" comes of course from the first of Keats's Spring Odes, Ode to Psyche ("And there shall be for thee all soft delight/ That shadowy thought can win...").

The center of the scene, however, as staged in this poem, is the verdurous springtime evening setting of Hampstead and Brown's garden at Wentworth Place.

In the Ode to a Nightingale, an "embalmed darkness" seems to produce light, much as phosphorescence might seem to emanate from something rich and decomposing. (Recalling as we do that just around the corner, just a few months before, Keats has in close quarters nursed his dying brother and thus, as his medical training as well as his instincts may well now already be informing him, become infected with the bacillus of the same affliction, so aptly then termed "consumption".)

See the Ode stanzas 4/5: "But here there is no light,/ Save what from heaven is with breezes blown/ Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways./ I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,/ Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,/ But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet/ Wherewith the seasonable month endows/ The grass, the thicket..."

Over this richly endarkened scene in the poem there floats an illuminating presence however, for "tender is the night,/ And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne..." Here, her image atop the post is pictured this week in Southern England by the poet Tom Raworth; the photo is taken from Tom's luminous blog, which is never more than a click away from the BTP homepage.

parallax said...

Thanks TC/BTP

I made the (presumptuous?) leap towards auto-bio-historical context. A frequent mistake for readers of poetry.

Thanks for the context - I know Keats at a glance, whereas you are a scholar of his work - thanks for the signpost to see it more clearly - cue: Johnny NashI still think Tom Raworth's picture looks like a wolf in the sky.