[Spirit of Night, John Atkinson Grimshaw – 1879 – from: https://thehotbid.com/2019/04/25/john-atkinson-grimshaws-spirit-of-night-could-fly-past-500000-at-christies-new-york/ ]
This month’s blog entry was inspired by thoughts of the fey, fairies, elves, dwarves and dragons, other beings in other worlds. It was also helped by starting to watch Carnival Row and by the writings of Neil Gaiman. I think of myself as a spiritual person and someone open to ideas of other ways of looking at the universe. I’m a lifelong fantasy fan but also a lover of old tales such as the Celtic stories. The worlds of the fey and the literature of their worlds is such a rich seam for poets and writers. It’s also an excuse to include one of my favourite pieces. I first came across this poem in a very old Monty Python sketch where they ‘amended’ classic poems! The piece itself is so very evocative. my mind constructs the scene as I read it. I hear the horns sounding, horses neighing, huge gates crashing open or closed. Tennyson sometimes gets overlooked because he was poet laureate at a time when people were expected to be jingoistic and to support the empire. This is to dismiss his other work though. He was a decent man who tried to improve to lot of others and had many struggles himself. Splendor Falls is part of a much longer piece which is full of imagination and magic. Try him, if you like imagination and great writing, you will enjoy his work.
The Splendor Falls
The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
O, hark, O, hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O, sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugles; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
O love, they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field or river;
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow forever and forever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.
Alfred Lord Tennyson – 1809-1892
[“Golden Wood” by Ruth Sanderson, from: https://faefolk.weebly.com/lesson-2-2.html ]
My own piece, this time, is from a walk I did in the local area. Passing three big reservoirs and a country park, I arrived on a moor in the South Pennines. A glorious day with Sun but a cooling light breeze too. It was so easy to get lost in another view of the scene. Make your own mind up about what I saw, that’s a privilege we all should have!
So I sat on the hill, watching Faeries dance.
In bright, warm Sun. They didn’t mind, the watching.
Smiled and laughed at me, with me?
But not one spoke, no questions, greetings
went unanswered, unregarded, unimportant.
The lines they sang, seemed odd to me,
odes to flowers, words to the wind, songs about grass.
The dew and morning, the sunset and the dusk.
Then meaning, slowly seeps, to the part of my brain,
not constructed by society, not conditioned.
Rhymes and chimes, rhythms of life, no strife.
The height of grass, the things that pass,
and the things that remain, that endure.
Praise to the Green Mother and the powers
of seasons, to bring new things and bless old ones.
I move to take a picture, to have the evidence.
They don’t care, don’t scare, they just sing and dance.
Later, all alone, I open the picture, the record of music,
but all that’s there, is a hill top, covered in cotton,
buds and buds of cotton in the grass.
[Moor of Cotton Grass – picture from Author’s collection. ]
We’ll finish with another ‘empire’ poet, Rudyard Kipling. Kipling is famous for his prose, of course, but he was also an accomplished poet. Try his ‘Recessional’ for an awe-inspiring piece. He was adept at weaving meaning into his works so that you only realise what he was talking about much later. This shorter piece carries a stern rebuke for boasting, for arrogance, for trust in force of arms and tells of the futility of martial strength in the end. Don’t make empty threats to the fairy queen!
The Queen Of Fairy Land
“I have a thousand men,” said he,
“To wait upon my will;
And towers nine upon the Tyne,
And three upon the Till.”
“And what care I for your men? ” said she,
“Or towers from Tyne to Till?
Sith you must go with me,” said she,
“To wait upon my will.
And you may lead a thousand men
Nor ever draw the rein,
But before you lead the Fairy Queen
‘Twill burst your heart in twain.”
He has slipped his foot from the stirrup-bar,
The bridle from his hand,
And he is bound by hand and foot
To the Queen of Fairy Land.
Rudyard Kipling, 1865 – 1936
[Celtic Fairy Queen, Nene Thomas – image from: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/262334747020336360/ ]