A Death I Die

Loch Earn, Scotland

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow.

T.S. Eliot (The Journey of the Magi)

I wrote this poem, as I did several of my recently blogged poems, many years ago.
In ‘A Death I Die’ below the sober thoughts reflect a dark  mood,  the reason for which I now have no recollection.   For me, at the time of writing, they obviously represented the Shadow, that halfway house between knowing and not-knowing,
between what is and what might be,
between Eliot’s ‘the motion and the act’.

A DEATH I DIE

I have no heart for selfish love
that starts and ends with flesh.
It leads along an endless path,
it binds, compels afresh.

There is a sort of death I die;
Am killed and kill myself.
I am alone in this. I am a willing suicide.
I go on a journey bearing my own end.

This death is a habit, a nasty selfish habit
I know and hate it.
I both give and receive.
The giving is good
– but also a habit.

Receiving – an infinite regression.
We plan the means and the end is all.
Purgatory is the cemetery, time the resurrection.
And All is planned that This should be so.

THE JOYOUS DEAD

The souls of the dead are out for the night;
Relieved of life’s burdens, no cares in their world.
They’ve cast off their dresses, their suits and their coats.
They’ve shed their repressions, their shrouds now unfurled.

Yes, the souls of the dead are alive in this graveyard
They relish their freedom from exigent life.
It’s a long time since spirits were body and flesh,
And bound by a lifetime’s perpetual strife.

Their skulls and their cross-bones – now symbols of joy;
No more are they bound up by sinews and  flesh.
At last they are free to enjoy independence,
Instead of entangled in life’s viscous mesh.

The gravestones that tumble aren’t suffering from age,
But signs that life’s shadows from death have arisen,
And now are quite free to enjoy their repose;
No longer locked up in Life’s sepulchral prison.

‘Tis weird to think that those re-incarnated
Are liking their life in the desolate grave.
They’re loving their freedom to scare and to haunt
To curdle the blood and to panic the brave.

The ghosts of the past are there in the air
And hugely enjoying their spirited life
Their terminal death has brought to an end
Their fear of the gun, the rope and the knife.

They’re dancing on graves where their bodies were buried
Carousing as though not a netherworld care
‘Tis different from life all bedevilled with worries
Less urgent and pressing than work to be fair.

They hide when the day comes of course, as you know,
They do need to re-charge their unworldly spirits
To ready the next bout of haunting and mirth
For them now there aren’t any rational limits.

Crepuscular light is enough for their congress
With help from the thunder, the wind, and the lightning,
They frolic and haunt, enjoying the moment;
The wraiths, spooks and demons intent on their frightening.

The banshees and devils all join in the fun,
The shades and the vampires, the ghouls and the phantoms,
The wraiths with the zombies, kelpies and ghosts
Give vent to their passions in furious tantrums.

So do not despair when you‘re laid in the ground
A new life will certainly sprout from your ashes
A life full of spirit, of new spectral bliss
A bonus when mortal life finally passes.

The photographs used to illustrate this poem were all taken by me over a period of several years at churchyards in Surrey and in Devon, U.K.

Stop The Clocks

W.H.Auden … Pen & Sepia Wash: WHB – 2001

FUNERAL  BLUES by W.H.AUDEN

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. 

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. 

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Auden composed two versions of this poem.  This, the most popular version, was composed in 1938.  It was written to be sung by the soprano Hedli Anderson in a setting by Benjamin Britten.  It is now frequently used in funeral services, particularly since It was widely popularised in the 1994 British romantic comedy film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.

The pen and wash drawing above was made by me in 200. 
It is of Auden when in his sixties.

Stanley Spencer – A Happy Resurrection

Photograph of Spencer at work in Cookham Village … by WHB . . . 1957

Stanley Spencer, CBE RA (1891 – 1959)was an English painter. Shortly after leaving the Slade School of Art, Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Wikipedia

The sleepers awake
from an imagined death
A teasing adventure in insubstantial earth

Pram pusher extraordinaire
in the Village that lit up his life
inspired his vision
Trundled easel hearse
put to work in progress
To see, to feel, to breathe
destiny on the village green
The past become the present
resurrected in tranquillity
Life-lite under the churchyard yew
this moulded flesh – full featured
bringing joy from the stern grave
Life’s resurrection imagined
in hope and the churchyard
in his eyes and his pigment
Drawn and deified
Death and Resurrection as Spring
As buttercups in the greenest of fields.


The sleepers awake
from an imagined death
A pleasing adventure in insubstantial earth

Stanley Spencer: ‘The Resurrection, Cobham … 1924-27. Tate Gallery

Cycle of Life and Death

I came across its shrunken frame,
lashed to a random rail.
The secluded death, diminished frame,
told a sorry tale.

How once, a joy, a treasured pride,
it bore a life that mattered;
How love once dignified its role,
that now was broke and battered.

Where love had once upon a time
a vibrant life endorsed.
What pride and joy and patience once
was lavished on this corpse.

What story lay behind the scene,
what trauma caused this end?
How it had come to this sad state
I could not comprehend.

The violence of traumatic death,
the twisted sculpture left,
tells such a haunted tortured tale,
leaving a soul bereft.

AS SHADOWS COME AND GO

as more mute shadows come and go
so
my life does ebb and flow
clinging
disturbingly
with my every motion
not prepared to let me go
until at some time
not yet determined
in the day’s misty murkiness
I will merge with the darkness
along with life’s shrouded meaning
to await that time
which surely will arrive
for the putting out of the light
and the beginning
of death’s adventure

Death of the High Street

Death of the High Street

The toppled torso
tired and torn
lay in the Church Street window
Snapshot of fallen glory
now in tired languor
seeking to hide from view
attempting to forget its past 
Once peacock proud
And prettified
full-fashioned
Embellished and brocaded
Bedecked in yesterday’s mode
Reduced now to a fallen dusted death
Memento Mori
Of yet another High Street death

DEATH BY ICICLE

Inscription plaque under Bampton Church (East Devon) tower … Photo: WHB 2020

The above inscription reads . . .

IN MEMORY OF THE CLERK’S SON
Bless my i. i. i. i. i. i.
Here he lies
In a sad Pickle
Killed by Icicle
IN THE YEAR 1776.

DEATH BY ICICLE

A cold way to leave a life
Those many years ago,
Worse than any butcher’s knife,
The saddest way to go.

For standing looking at the tower
Of this his village church,
Caught by the sharp shard’s lethal power
He gave a sudden lurch,

And pierced to the very heart
He fell, struck by an icicle,
It must have been the devil’s dart
An ending diabolical.

For one of my previous blogs on this subject please visit . . . 

https://rolandsragbag.wordpress.com/tag/icicle/

 

While Time Ticks On: 2-word Tales #15

BigBen

Pen&Wash-WHB

WHILE TIME  TICKS  ON

Time tells
Its tale
Tick tock
Tock tick

If truth
Be told
When time
Runs out
I won’t
Be stressed
I won’t
Be tired
Just sad
Wist-full
Pen-sive
Love-sick

Yet still
Hell bent
To start
With zeal
Pre-pared
To do
Just what
It takes
To live
A-gain

Next time
In peace
Con-cord
Re-pose
While time
Still there
Ticks on

pexels-photo-50632