Friday 20 January 2017

A Century of Poems

My latest charity shop find was a slim little paperback titled A Century of Poems, published by the TLS in 2002 to celebrate its centenary. It is, as you might have guessed, an anthology of poems published in the TLS in the course of its first century of existence, but it's not in the form of 'a poem a year' - partly because the TLS published no poems between 1917 and 1936, and partly because some of the early poetical contributions were too dire to merit reprinting. Things picked up with the Second World War (both Keith Douglas and Alun Lewis are represented, also Alan Pryce-Jones), which was followed by phases in which the TLS became fixated on translated verse and on American poetry, before settling down in the Seventies to publishing something more or less like the best stuff being written in the British Isles (Geoffrey Hill's The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy was published in its entirety in the TLS, and is represented here by an excerpt).
 Some of the poems in the anthology were published posthumously in the TLS - including this fine piece by Ivor Gurney, written around 1926 and resurrected by Geoffrey Grigson in 1978):

 Going Out at Dawn
Strange to see that usual dark road paving wet
With shallow dim reflecting rain pools, looking
To north, where light all night stayed and dawn braving yet
Capella hung, above dark elms unshaking, no silence breaking,
And still to dawn night’s ugliness owed no debt.
About eleven from the touch of the drear raining,
I had gone in to Shakespeare and my own writing,
Seen the lovely lamplight in golden shining,
And resolved to move no more till dawn made whitening
Between the shutter-chinks, or by the door mat.
Yet here at five, an hour before day was alive . . .
Behold me walking to where great elm trees drip
Melancholy slow streams of rain water, on the too wet
Traveller, to pass them, watching and then return,
Writing Sonata or Quartett with a candle dip.

  I shall be returning to this anthology - there's some wonderful stuff in it.

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