Most of my poems, as readers will know, are simple constructions that yield their meaning on a first reading. These poems are a little different. In this thickening of the senses, where reference shifts without explanation, there is a long ancestry, from the early Geoffrey Hill back through the Surrealists, to Pasternak and Rimbaud. I have some antipathy to name dropping, however, and suggest readers simply skim through the lines, taking the phrases as they come.
All the poems here are hexameters, which creates a measured delivery but also problems of pace and phrasing. In fact they are difficult to write, but I hope not too difficult to understand. Anyone with a little history should be able to understand the general drift of The Tudors. The other poems are a good deal easier: The Road to Leningrad, The Sinking of the Indianapolis and various Still Lifes.
Abrupt and bitter trepidations of the rain
on battlements and limpid moats, the autumnal smoke
suffusing slowly through the leaves, the brilliant stain
of verdigris in stone cathedrals where our Saviour spoke.
A brittle coinage kept their glittering kings and queens
high-ruffed in festivals and part unsanctioned laws:
England of forest lands, where placid village greens,
held dynasties of hurtful and ill-buried wars.
Insolent is the rich magnificence, but still the smells
of plague-pits press on banners of high feudal names.
The monkish orders flare about communal wells,
dark-hooded is the unburned halo of the candle flames.
White-cuirassed, they stride about: the cold strikes up
from these hard lozenges of purpose and of battles lost
across the sung-of seas to Saracens. None sup
with angels now, or speak the tongues of Pentecost.
After the Sabbath of their days, with confessions shed,
the poor enter the wheat-ears of the whispering dead,
all around are graveyards enumerating the incremental loss
as, distractedly at night, the large winds blunder across.
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