(I love this video)
A handful of phrases, images and lines of poetry seem to have stuck with me over the years – as if they were things I was meant to remember.
For example, there is a poem called On Wenlock Edge by A E Housman. Vaughan Williams would later translate it into a piece of music.
I’ve always been haunted by ‘the Roman and his trouble’ staring at the hill, watching the autum leaves falling like snow, observing the gale that plies the saplings double, and whose bones are now ashes under Uricon. And then there is the Middle English fragment Westron Wynde (don’t let the spelling put you off – just read it aloud):
Westron wynde, when wylt thow blow / The smalle rayne downe can rayne? / Cryst yf my love were in my armys / And I yn my bed agayne!
And sometimes two ideas get linked, and cannot thereafter be un-linked – conflated is probably the word – and a story begins to be born. I ‘sense’ a Roman soldier in the grip of some terrible sorrow, standing on a hilltop and allowing the wind to batter him, the rain lash down on him… and a modern man, standing in the same place centuries later, their stories somehow linked or parallel.
Also permanently connected in my imagination are Bede’s story/metaphor of a sparrow flying through a lighted hall in winter (see Passing from winter to winter again) and a line from a hymn we used to sing at ‘the Methodist’:
He sees the meanest sparrow fall unnoticed in the street…
So here is another conflation which, many years ago now, made itself into a poem:
I FLY TO YOU
I sail my little boat upon your sea – / A fragile craft, and sailing fearfully; / And when I sink, as sink I surely will, / Be you the billows, let me fall through you.
I fly to you, as on a sparrow’s flight / Across a lighted room from night to night; / And when I fall unnoticed, as I must, / Be you my busy street, my pavement dust.