Monday, 12 May 2014

Phantom Listeners

"I liked war poetry best, the more savage the better, and knew by heart most of Siegfried Sassoon's and many of Wilfred Owen's and Robert Nichols';  and the gentle magic of Walter de la Mare worked as powerfully in the glare of the African bush as among the haunted shadows, moonlit orchards and crepuscular churchyards that inspired his muse.  Riding M'zee through the coffee plantation my sun-warmed spine would chill to a vision of a host of phantom listeners thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair; I would see, among spiky, yellow sodom-apples beside a winding path through the reserve, a bank of ancient briars so old that no man knows through what wild century roves back the rose; and the two worlds joined when a red-eyed dove puffing its iridescent breast in song would recall the smooth-plumed bird in the emerald shade, the seed of grass, the speck of stone that the wayfaring ant stirs, and hastes on.   And although the poet's twilit northern land of yew-trees and goblins, and our scorched and dappled plains and heat-stunned ridges, were as far apart in character as in distance, there lay between them a bond of magic, of the feel of things just out of sight, of the blundering owl, the four-clawed mole and the hooded bat, and their enigmatic reminder that blind as these three to me, so blind to someone I must be.

A parcel from the Poetry Bookshop was therefore the most exciting argosy to be looked for from an English mail."

The Mottled Lizard  Elspeth Huxley

No comments:

Post a Comment