Some might think that a week off from work presents great opportunities to make enormous numbers of journal entries on all manner of subjects and perhaps get on with some other writing, like the old poems I’m supposed to be revising. As the long silence on these pages demonstrates, this would be a profoundly erroneous assumption. I picked up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which was supposed to be started after War and Peace was finished, and here I am with nothing done.

Susanna Clarke isn’t entirely to blame, though. Stuart and Ellie stayed the night on Tuesday, and I spent quite a lot of Wednesday with them, watching Green Wing and going to Orcombe Point for a swim. Then there was the long-planned trip over to Cambridgeshire with Dad to research the family’s history, which took all the time from Thursday to Saturday. All the good pictures were taken on the digital cameras we took and I don’t have copies, but one of the shots from my phone sums up the trip as imperfectly as any single photograph can.

Beware of ducks. Giant ducks if the sign is in any way accurate.

Beware of ducks. Giant ducks if the sign is in any way accurate.

That brings us relatively up to date with activities under the Shadow, and it’s time for the poems again. This week’s selection has no particular theme: the poems are chosen at random from the first few books I dragged off the shelf this evening. The first is a cheery little piece from Helen Gray Cone, which has a really good title.

Heartbreak Road

As I went up by Heartbreak Road
Before the dawn of day,
The cold mist was all about,
And the wet world was gray;
It seemed that never another soul
Had walked that weary way.

But when I came to Heartbreak Hill,
Silver touched the sea;
I knew that many and many a soul
Was climbing close to me;
I knew I walked the weary way
In a great company.

Next is a strange anonymous piece about two Scottish rivers, which is pretty self explanatory. The second stanza is my translation, just in case the meaning’s a little obscure.

Two Rivers

Says Tweed to Till –
‘What gars ye rin sae still?’
Says Till to Tweed –
‘Though ye rin with speed
And I rin slaw,
For ae man that ye droon
I droon twa.’

Says Tweed to Till –
‘What makes you run so still?’
Says Till to Tweed –
‘Though you run with speed
And I run slow,
For each man that you drown
I drown two’.

It’s about time we had some Keats around here, so I’ve included one of his sonnets. I’ve had days like this one, and it’s always a shame to see them end.


To one who has been long in city pent,
‘Tis very sweet to look upon the fair
And open face of heaven, – to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
Who is more happy, when, with heart’s content,
Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair
Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair
And gentle tale of love and languishment?
Returning home at evening, with an ear
Catching the notes of Philomel, – an eye
Watching the sailing cloudlet’s bright career,
He mourns that day so soon has glided by:
E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear
That falls through the clear ether silently.

This poem by Amelia B. Welby should have gone in with the sea poems two weeks ago, but as twilight approaches here it might still be appropriate for today.

Twilight at Sea

The twilight hours like birds flew by,
As lightly and as free;
Ten thousand stars were in the sky,
Ten thousand on the sea;
For every wave, with dimpled face,
That leaped upon the air,
Had caught a star in its embrace
And held it trembling there.

Sorry to have kept you hanging on for eight days waiting for only four poems. I hope they’re enjoyable enough to be worth the wait.