Image result for candle flame

                STREET ORPHAN

Wreath your head, lady, wreath your head,
Come so lately from the hard sleeping,
Come now from the hard, uncertain dreaming,
Where remnants of the past alone are spoken,
Where the fallen lie where they have fallen,
Until the music, tap, tap, tap, awakes them,
With its grave and terrible clatter-mouse tapping.

She is one of those who walk abroad,
Restless hope getting the better of her,
Forcing her out into the wide open.
She is the one who has already come
From that drowsy place of lonely grieving.

Her eyes are slate.  For, dreaming,
She walks without seeing, stumbling
In her cracked and chattering shoes.
With cold legs, roughly chapped,
Mottled blue with cold,
Icicles hanging from her heels and toes.

See how she dances, this lone street orphan,
Out there dancing when the street is empty.
Her little feet clattering, leaping and jumping,
Like a foxy little hare seeking its own annihilation,
Like a little hare frightened of its own fierce ending.

She wears the coat of the hare, grey and grey,
Sweeping the skirt around her thin ankles,
Brittle little bones that snap when you kick them.

Watch our valiant Matador, ignoring
The curved and piercing horn looking to find her.
See her cover her eyes with painted fingers,
Pictures of roses, of ships sailing into oblivion
Finding a home on her own bitter parchment.

Until the written ink signs off, taking with it the lonely dancer.
Drowsy.  Drowsy. Taking with it the slumbering ballerina.

                                                              © Gwen Grant


penguin book


On a bitterly cold and snow laden day and looking for something cheerful, I searched my bookshelves for my ancient copy of The Penguin Book of English Verse, which cost 4/6d so many years ago. This book is so old, it’s in pieces. Small children have, at some time or other, drawn rings and very tall stick figures on what is left of the back page. In the middle of the book, I found a drawing of a fire engine and a house. There is only a tattered front cover, the back cover has vanished, so the lovely book above is not the one I have!

But I was looking for two poems. One was Auden’s ‘Lay your sleeping head, my love,’ and the other was Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress.’ These poems have been such good companions for so many years that even when they present themselves on really old and brown edged paper that will tear in an instant without careful handling, they never fail to cheer. It’s the exquisite telling that makes a celebration of life.

Here’s the first verse of Auden’s poem:

Lay your sleeping head, my love, / Human on my faithless arm; /Time and fevers burn away / Individual beauty from / Thoughtful children, and the grave / Proves the child ephemeral: / But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie, / Mortal, guilty, but to me / The entirely beautiful.

And here’s the first few lines of Marvell’s poem:

Had we but world enough, and Time, / This coyness Lady were no crime. / We would sit down, and think which way / To walk and pass our long Loves Day. / Thou by the Indian Ganges side / Should’st Rubies find: I by the Tide / Of Humber would complain…..

Wystan Hugh Auden born 1906 died 1973and the Editor, John Hayward, has this poem written on lst September 1939.

Andrew Marvell born 1621 died 1667.