Sunday, 22 July 2007

Poem whilst walking to Croyde

22nd July Barnstaple to Croyde: Taw Estuary

'Day, full-blown and splendid--Day of the immense sun...' This line was repeating in my head as I walked the South West footpath to Croyde - So it has a place in my blog.

GREAT are the myths
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

GREAT are the myths--I too delight in them;
Great are Adam and Eve--I too look back and accept them;
Great the risen and fallen nations, and their poets, women, sages,
inventors, rulers, warriors, and priests.
Great is Liberty! great is Equality! I am their follower;
Helmsmen of nations, choose your craft! where you sail, I sail,
I weather it out with you, or sink with you.

Great is Youth--equally great is Old Age--great are the Day and
Great is Wealth--great is Poverty--great is Expression--great is

Youth, large, lusty, loving--Youth, full of grace, force,
Do you know that Old Age may come after you, with equal grace, force,

Day, full-blown and splendid--Day of the immense sun, action,
ambition, laughter,
The Night follows close, with millions of suns, and sleep, and
restoring darkness.

Wealth, with the flush hand, fine clothes, hospitality;
But then the Soul's wealth, which is candor, knowledge, pride,
enfolding love;
(Who goes for men and women showing Poverty richer than wealth?)

Expression of speech! in what is written or said, forget not that
Silence is also expressive,
That anguish as hot as the hottest, and contempt as cold as the
coldest, may be without words.

Great is the Earth, and the way it became what it is;
Do you imagine it has stopt at this? the increase abandon'd?
Understand then that it goes as far onward from this, as this is from
the times when it lay in covering waters and gases, before man
had appear'd.

Great is the quality of Truth in man;
The quality of truth in man supports itself through all changes,
It is inevitably in the man--he and it are in love, and never leave
each other.

The truth in man is no dictum, it is vital as eyesight;
If there be any Soul, there is truth--if there be man or woman there
is truth--if there be physical or moral, there is truth;
If there be equilibrium or volition, there is truth--if there be
things at all upon the earth, there is truth.

O truth of the earth! I am determin'd to press my way toward you;
Sound your voice! I scale mountains, or dive in the sea after you.

Great is Language--it is the mightiest of the sciences,
It is the fulness, color, form, diversity of the earth, and of men
and women, and of all qualities and processes;
It is greater than wealth--it is greater than buildings, ships,
religions, paintings, music.

Great is the English speech--what speech is so great as the English?
Great is the English brood--what brood has so vast a destiny as the
It is the mother of the brood that must rule the earth with the new
The new rule shall rule as the Soul rules, and as the love, justice,
equality in the Soul rule.

Great is Law--great are the few old land-marks of the law,
They are the same in all times, and shall not be disturb'd.

Great is Justice!
Justice is not settled by legislators and laws--it is in the Soul;
It cannot be varied by statutes, any more than love, pride, the
attraction of gravity, can;
It is immutable--it does not depend on majorities--majorities or what
not, come at last before the same passionless and exact

For justice are the grand natural lawyers, and perfect judges--is it
in their Souls;
It is well assorted--they have not studied for nothing--the great
includes the less;
They rule on the highest grounds--they oversee all eras, states,

The perfect judge fears nothing--he could go front to front before
Before the perfect judge all shall stand back--life and death shall
stand back--heaven and hell shall stand back.

Great is Life, real and mystical, wherever and whoever;
Great is Death--sure as life holds all parts together, Death holds
all parts together.

Has Life much purport?--Ah, Death has the greatest purport.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Writing in Kirkwall

3.30am Kirkwall Hotel, Orkney - thoughts while reading Seamus Heaney writing about Eliot.

And now I am reading words by Seamus Heaney (Finders Keepers Faber 2002). He is writing about the poetry of TS Eliot.

" ...Perhaps the final thing to be learned is this: in the realm of poetry, as in the realm of consciousness, there is no end to the possible learning's that can take place. Nothing is final, the most gratifying discovery is fleeting, the path of positive achievement leads to the via negativa..."

Seamus goes on to assert that Eliot forfeited his "expressionist intensity" when he renounced the lyric in exchange for philosophic song. Seamus suggests that the 'lyric' may even have renounced Eliot. He goes on to expound on the exchange of self knowledge for the renunciation of the lyric, and for Eliot, this proved to be maintaining a "strictness of intent" which allowed him to prove a truth. He showed how poetic vocation ( and you could substitute 'poetic' for 'creative') entails the disciplining of a habit of expression until it becomes fundamental to the whole conduct of a life. Disciplining the habit of creative expression until that becomes in itself fundamental to the creative person.

Eliot defines the auditory imagination as 'operating below the level of sense', but Seamus thinks it operates much more potently when the sounds are given audible expression. In CK stead's 'the New Poetic' he states that Eliot trusted the 'dark embryo' of unconscious energy. Stead reveals Eliot as a much more intuitive writer, "Eliot was a 'rara avis', one whole 'note' was uniquely below the common scale, a thin pure signal that might not wash genially across the earthly reaches of one's nature but that had the capacity to 'probe the universe of spirit as far as Pluto' - a very long way".

Seamus suggests that something fortifying can come from something so authoritatively unconsoling.

A lot of 'artists' set up a corroborative relationship between landscape and sensibility. For writers, the words on the page function in a way that is supplementary to their primary artistic function; they can have a window effect and open the blinds of 'language' on to subjects and places before or behind words.

The appeal is to the soul and actual physical representations are not necessary. The creativity produces an internalised landscape all of its own which feeds the inner space and is not meant to orientate in the external world, only the inner. The inner and outer landscapes are very separate and each needs navigation - only the external world is more urgent and obvious, the internal landscape can be overlooked.

We look to nurture the internal landscape with images, lyrics, poetry and music. Seamus suggests you need to build up a stamina in order to walk around the internal landscape, develop a vocabulary that helps you to go further from your anchor point, like in the external world we build up experience, a vocabulary of orientations points, habits of other creatures, observing the other forces, life forms interacting with us; without this knowledge we are helpless and in danger of injury or even death. We learn how to nurture ourselves in the external world, being fed by our own efforts and by others, clothed, loved - so all this is true of the internal landscape - there are many casualties.

Many of us are guides to internal landscapes, many of us are guided - we are all guides to somebody.

You need to be transformed in order to progress, coalescence together in groups is strengthening, each individual would need to correspond, to have a common connection to the internal landscape of the other. You also need to 'sing', to have your voice heard and reflected back to you. You need to see your internal world through the 'mirror'.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Word of the day

Eirenic, Irenic
promoting peace

I Shall Go Where The Great Trees Stand

Wayland Smithy 2005

Excerpt from Confessions of the Kibbo Kift by John Hargrave.

...Everyone will come at last, into the ship of the earth, but these go now while they yet live to open themselves, to unlock the spirit in timelessness, to receive the impress of the quiet world where no man is, where consciousness is not, where words are dispelled and thoughts hold no arguments but run ahead softly in supple forms, darkly.

Ah, no, no, they do not lose themselves, this is not the hemlock-drink of the soul. This is the time and the place of remaking, where the exhausted mind is laid aside, entering the gloom emptied of the echoes of broken thought and mental clatter carried over from the world of day, and here the whole being is cleansed of the close associations, the nearness, the hot imprint of other personalities, encountered in the day's work.

This is the coming together again, alone, in silence. This is the right and necessary retirement.

I shall go where the great trees stand, deep into the half-light of the woods, whelming upon the giant bodies of the beech. I know the place where the afterglow shines like a pale halo upon the hill, and there the ash and the elm take hold upon the earth, flinging their strength into the sky. And over the summit of the hill on slanting ground a crab tree and crooked thorn crouch and clutch each other.

I shall come round them uneasily and pass under the ash and the elm with an intaking of breath, and so down the valley to the track that runs into a pine wood where the darkness closes in, and the feet tread noiselessly, and the lungs are filled with the scent of the hanging Curtains, the needled carpet and the cones.

Neither to look, nor to hear, nor to think but only to receive. After the work of the day, a little staggeringly, blundering without faltering through the high weeds. Neither asleep nor awake, but open. Not as one who flees the sharp outlines of the daytime, but as one mysteriously dead; quick now to the wide friendliness of the fields and the sudden, unaccountable fears of bracken dell and chalk pit, of softly cushioned ant-heap underfoot, of blossoming elderberry bush,
Melting into the bewildering dusk, looming again, pale and almost colourless.

Tread softly over the grass that springs out of the blood and bodies of old heroes of the Inkneild Way long since gone to dust. Back to the place of dwelling, to the encampment. Plunge, then, into the deep sleep that knows no fitful dreaming...

The Wild Places of the Earth

Dunkery Beacon, Somerset coast - July 2007

...The wild places of the earth do not care much about a man. He can't do much! When the woman appears the aspens shiver and the tamarisks tremble and even the oak is fearful, for a lone man is transitory and woman is permanent; she means a home and a whole lot more men; she is the beginning of civilisation...

HV Morton - The Heart of London 1925

Sunday, 15 July 2007


Stromness Cemetery

Pibroch by Ted Hughes - Pibroch is a piece of music for bagpipe

The sea cries with its meaningless voice
Treating alike its dead and its living,
Probably bored with the appearance of heaven
After so many millions of nights without sleep,
Without purpose, without self-deception.

Stone likewise. A pebble is imprisoned
Like nothing in the Universe.
Created for black sleep. Or growing
Conscious of the sun's red spot occasionally,
Then dreaming it is the foetus of God.

Over the stone rushes the wind
Able to mingle with nothing,
Like the hearing of the blind stone itself.
Or turns, as if the stone's mind came feeling
A fantasy of directions.

Drinking the sea and eating the rock
A tree struggles to make leaves-
An old woman fallen from space
Unprepared for these conditions.
She hangs on, because her mind's gone completely.

Minute after minute, aeon after aeon,
Nothing lets up or develops.
And this is neither a bad variant nor a tryout.
This is where the staring angels go through.
This is where all the stars bow down.

The Heart of London

Outside the Royal Festival Hall, London, 2005

The New Romance
HV Morton 1925

When eight million men and women decide to live together on the same spot things are bound to happen.

London in lineal descent from Thebes and Rome, is one of those queer massings together of humanity which Civilization dumps on a small plot of earth before handing the lease of Destiny, not knowing whether to laugh or cry about it. Great cities are strange inevitable phenomena. It is wrong to compare them with hives, for in a hive the wish of the individual has been sacrificed unquestioningly to the good of the community. Had we ascended from the bee perhaps the greatest happiness we could achieve would be an unspectacular death in the service of the London County Council. But in London, as in all modern cities, it is the individual who counts. Our eight millions split themselves up into ones and twos: little men and little women dreaming their private dreams, pursuing their own ambitions, crying over their own failures, and rejoicing at their own successes.

Fear Built the first cities. Men and women herded behind a wall so that they might be safe. Then came trade; and cities grew into lucky bags in which men dipped for profit. Essentially they remain lucky bags to this day. London's millions pour into London and carry off their loot every Friday; But that, thank heaven is not the whole story. A city develops Tradition and Pride. London has greater tradition and pride than any other city in the world.

So when I ask myself why I love London I realize that I appreciate that ancient memory which is London - a thing very like family tradition for which we in our turn are responsible to posterity - and I realise that I am every day of my life thrilled, puzzled, charmed, and amused by that flood-tide of common humanity flowing through London as it has surged through every great city in the history of civilization. Here is every human emotion. Here in this splendid theatre the comedy and the tragedy of the human heart are acted day and night. Love and treachery, beauty and ugliness, laughter and tears chase one another through the streets of London every minute of the day, often meeting and mixing in the strangest fashion, because London is just a great mass of human feeling, and Man, never clearly labelled "Hero" or "Villain" as in melodrama, is capable of so much moral complexity that you might almost say that good and bad exist in him at the same moment.

Had I been born a few thousand years ago I feel sure that I could have written much the same book about Thebes or Babylon, because the only things that change radically in life are fashions and inventions. The human heat was patented long ago and the Creator has not seen fit to bring out a later model.

After dinner one night a woman fixed large eyes on me and confided that in a previous incarnation she had been Cleopatra. She was my tenth Cleopatra. She told me that there was no romance in modern life, and looking a little withdrawn as if remembering some Alexandrian indiscretion, she said: " No surprise, no - you know what I mean? - not real poetry."

I always think it best not to argue with queens; but I believe that the surprise, the romance, and the poetry of a modern city are fiercer than they were in the past. The drama of the ancient autocracies was played with so small a cast. the rest was suffering. People with large eyes were never in their past lives anything less than queens or princes, and thus their naturally vivid memories of a small and brilliant circle dim a recollection of the dumb majority beneath their wills. In spite of the supply of desirable lamps in Bagdad the census of owner-drivers must have been quite negligible, so that the average inhabitant must have lived through the romance of those days sitting in the same patch of sun, bitten by insects and trodden on by Negros.

In London, and in the free cities of this modern world, the drama of life widens, the characters increase and the unchanging human heart, no happier perhaps in the long run, beats less timorously than it did, yet leaping in sympathy to the same old loves and fears and hates.

Every day our feelings vibrate to some stray unimportance. Life is full of portentous triviality. Is it not strange that our minds often refuse to recognize some sensation - a word like a worn out boot - while they react immediately to something so small as to be almost foolish? You may be bored stiff by the front page of the evening paper, but you go home remembering some common thing seen or heard; some little humanity: the sight of a man and a girl choosing a child's cot, two people saying good-bye at a street corner, the quiet hatred in a man's eyes - or the love...

Sunday, 8 July 2007

If I were tickled by the rub of love

Stomness Cemetery looking towards Hoy 2007

Dylan Thomas

If I were tickled by the rub of love,
A rooking girl who stole me for her side,
Broke through her straws, breaking my bandaged string,
If the red tickle as the cattle calve
Still set to scratch a laughter from my lung,
I would not fear the apple nor the flood
Nor the bad blood of spring.

Shall it be male or female? say the cells,
And drop the plum like fire from the flesh.
If I were ticked by the hatching hair,
The winging bone that sprouted in the heels,
The itch of man upon the baby's thigh,
I would not fear the gallows nor the axe
Nor the crossed sticks of war.

Shall it be male or female? say the fingers
That chalk the walls with green girls and their men.
I would not fear the muscling-in of love
If I were tickled by the urchin hungers
Rehearsing heat upon a raw-edged nerve.
I would not fear the devil in the loin
Nor the outspoken grave.

If I were tickled by the lover's rub
That wipes away not crow's-foot nor the lock
Of sick old manhood on the fallen jaws,
Time and the crabs and the sweethearting crib
Would leave me cold as butter for the flies,
The sea of scums could drown me as it broke
Dead on the sweethearts' toes.

This world is half the devil's and my own,
Daft with the drug that's smoking in a girl
And curling round the bud that forks her eye.
An old man's shank one-marrowed with my bone,
And all the herrings smelling in the sea,
I sit and watch the worm beneath my nail
Wearing the quick away.

And that's the rub, the only rub that tickles.
The knobbly ape that swings along his sex
From damp love-darkness and the nurse's twist
Can never raise the midnight of a chuckle,
Of lover, mother, lovers, or his six
Feet in the rubbing dust.

And what's the rub? Death's feather on the nerve?
Your mouth, my love, the thistle in the kiss?
My Jack of Christ born thorny on the tree?
The words of death are dryer than his stiff,
My wordy wounds are printed with your hair.
I would be tickled by the rub that is:
Man be my metaphor.

Joaney How Cairns

July 8th

Dunkery Beacon

Dunkery Beacon is the highest hill on Exmoor, south-western England, and the highest point in Somerset. It lies just four miles from the Bristol Channel at Porlock. The shortest route of ascent goes from the car park at Dunkery Gate, and is just 1.2 km long. There are extensive views from the summit, including both the Bristol and English Channel coasts, the Brecon Beacons including Pen Y Fan, Bodmin Moor, Dartmoor, the Severn Bridges and Cleeve Hill 86 miles away in Gloucestershire. The hill is blanketed in heather and in the summer this gives it a deep purple colour. Ling and bell heather, gorse, sessile oak, ash, rowan, hazel, bracken, mosses, liverworts, lichens and ferns all grow here or in surrounding woodland, as well as some unique whitebeam species. Exmoor ponies, red deer, pied flycatchers, wood warblers, lesser spotted woodpeckers, redstart, dippers, snipe, skylarks and kestrels are some of the fauna to be found here and in nearby Horner Woods. Horner Woods are also the home to 14 of the 16 UK bat species, which include barbastelle and Bechstein bats. Dunkery Beacon was given to the National Trust in 1935 by Sir Thomas Ackland, Colonel Wiggin and Allan Hughes along with the rest of the Holnicote Estate an event commemorated by the summit memorial cairn. There are several Bronze Age burial mounds at or near the summit, two of the larger ones are Joaney How and Robin How. Dunkery is composed of Devonian sedimentary rock, as can be seen in the red soil.

[edit] Trivia

The highest geographical point in Somerset, the tip of the Mendip TV Mast, is higher above sea level at 1924 feet (586 metres).

Based on the formula 'distance of hill from its nearest higher neighbour in km squared, multiplied by its height in metres', Dunkery is ranked 23rd in the UK in terms of dominance. The nearest higher hill is Yes Tor 37 miles (60 km) away.

It is the highest hill in southern England outside of Dartmoor.

Dunkery Beacon 8th July

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Spiritual Geography

Is there a spiritual geography?

Are there certain places upon the earth, which are more or less, attuned to certain modes of consciousness?

And if so, do such qualities belong to the earth itself, to certain qualities of light, or sound, or scent, and elemental spirits who inhabit such places, or kinds of place?

Or do people of a certain cast of mind import to the land their own qualities?

Kathleen Raine, The Lions Mouth (1908 – 2003)

Lincoln Cathedral

Away from time, always outside of time!
Between east and west, between dawn and sunset,
The church lies like a seed in silence, dark before germination.

Silenced after death, containing birth and death potential with all the noise and transitation of life, the cathedral remains hushed, a great, involved seed whereof,
The flower would be radiant life inconceivable,
But whose beginning and whose end are the circle of silence.

Spanned round with the rainbow, the jeweled gloom folds music upon silence,
light upon darkness, fecundity upon death, as a seed folds leaf upon leaf
And silence upon the root and the flower,

Hushing up the secret of all between its parts,
The death out of which it fell, the life into which it has dropped,
The immortality it involves, and the death it will embrace again.
Here in the church, “before” and “after” are folded together.

DH Lawrence 'The Rainbow'

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Monday, 2 July 2007

Silver Dagger

Trad Folk Song

Don't sing love songs, you'll wake my mother
She's sleeping here right by my side
And in her right hand a silver dagger,
She says that I can't be your bride.

All men are false, says my mother,
They'll tell you wicked, lovin' lies.
The very next evening, they'll court another,
Leave you alone to pine and sigh.

My daddy is a handsome devil
He's got a chain five miles long,
And on every link a heart does dangle
Of another maid he's loved and wronged.

Go court another tender maiden,
And hope that she will be your wife,
For I've been warned, and I've decided
To sleep alone all of my life.

A particular nice version is sung by Martha Tilston