Monday, September 14, 2009

... rhyme and rhythm

when i was a kid, my uncle (i think) gave me and my sister a cassette tape called "rhyme & rhythm". it had a lot of interesting and old poetry on it - it was the first time i'd heard the hilaire belloc poem, matilda, who told lies and was burned to death - and there were some english folk songs and poems set to music - the death of admiral benbow, the coasts of high barbary and bruton town. this last one was made popular by a group called "the pentangle" and, given the subject matter, i am these days surprised that such a dark and gruesome murder balled should be on a tape given to six-year-olds and not found instead on a nick cave album!

i've been thinking of a poem that was on the tape but i could only remember the last line: "and the moon sank red". turns out the poem is by a war poet named siegried sassoon; here is the poem in its entirety:
middle-ages

i heard a clash, and a cry,
and a horseman fleeing the wood.
the moon hid in a cloud.
deep in shadow i stood.
‘ugly work!’ thought i,
holding my breath.
‘men must be cruel and proud,
‘jousting for death’.

with gusty glimmering shone
the moon; and the wind blew colder.
a man went over the hill,
bent to his horse’s shoulder.
‘time for me to be gone’...
darkly i fled.
owls in the wood were shrill,
and the moon sank red.
just something i had to exorcise from my brain and now i know where i'll always be able to find it if it gets lodged in there again.

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