Sunday, 3 June 2012

Tom Clark's Blog

Tom Clark has posted my poem Bus notes 4 on his marvellous blog, Beyond the Pale. If you haven't come across Tom's site already (if not, what the hell else have you been doing?) throw yourself in. It's very gratifying to have a poet and critic of Tom's stature pay serious attention to the work.

For all you Brummies and YamYams, he's found some great photographs of West Midlands buses to accompany the work. The image of Rugeley in the Sixties is the bestest.


  1. We here view the matter as follows. We always rode the tops of buses through East Anglia, Essex and the remnants of Constable Country extending over to the fishing port of Brightlingsea (where we lived), and passing the military barracks at Colchester where our congenial and generous night hosts & hostesses dwelt.

    (The B film actor Klaus Kinski once later confessed to us he had been held prisoner there, having enthusiastically surrendered, as a 17 year old child recruited into the German army in the final days of the War, and wearing women's underwear in lieu of uniform. There being by then a shortage of the real kind.)

    In any case, forgive me for dithering about so, before coming the point: to us, here, Wooden Boy appears much as Eden Hazard might appear upon Cheyne Walk, were Whistler to become Roberto di Matteo.

    But here -- no such yacht budgets, in truth.

    So realistically, we look upon Wooden Boy as our Gyllfi.

    Gyllfi, the poor man's fair-haired Eden. Let us confess in the end that we here have no yachts, often not even a bus. Wooden Boy is our Gyllfi. Great touch, lovely on the dead ball. The probing full view of play, the limited athleticism, the strong leg, the probable quiet dry good manners. They survived a bank crisis there, after all. (Must have been the hostesses.)

  2. I'm not sure about the probing full view. The limited athleticism would be about right, in more ways than one.

    Essex and East Anglia are remarkable parts of the country. I know cambridgeshire a little but I've only visited Essex as a child. The fens, the salt marshes have a particular beauty.

  3. Yes, and I could probably add further ways to yours to construct a phenomenon.

    I had long ago a few years in Cambridge where of course the fens are so near. Rooms upon the Newmarket Road with escape to the Races. I did love the pleasant bus trip over to the so grandly built upon Isle of Ely, where King Cnut once went rowing past the monks. (Can that really be how he spelt his name? -- One means no disrespect.) The thought that Cromwell was dwelling there, in Ely, tending his prickly pear, the reluctant debutant, when the Republic called, always struck me as vaguely odd. I mean the idea of his being the shrinking violet, being perhaps somewhat hard to buy. I like better the Roman legend in his poem justifying the Irish Massacres, the bleeding head in the origins of Rome. That felt closer.

    We had the Roman Road in Colchester too, memory of another far less ambitious (in the long run) Empire.

  4. It is this one I mean, WB.

    This below is the Ely bit (the Bergamot was said to be the "Prince's Pear"). The private gardens, those of OC, whence he was drafted into that sort of iron leadership which Marvell deemed best, on his behalf, writing as his propagandist, yet all the while perhaps smilng behind his hand, to mask as a form of loyal servitude. (In the "if we would speak true" there is I suspect something slightly defensive, as a sort of "Do admit...", with a preceding "In any case" or "But even so..." clause implicit but missing, as if conveniently ellipse'd out.)


    'Tis Madness to resist or blame

    The force of angry Heavens flame:

    ..And, if we would speak true,

    ..Much to the Man is due.

    Who, from his private Gardens, where

    He liv'd reserved and austere,

    ..As if his highest plot

    ..To plant the Bergamot,

    Could by industrious Valour climbe

    To ruine the great Work of Time,

    ..And cast the Kingdome old

    ..Into another Mold.


    And this below, the bit about the Bleeding Head. Parliament of course had at the time a bleeding head of its own on its hands. Seeing a Happy Fate in the symbolic portent of a Bleeding Head would after all take some rosier-than-rose-coloured spectacles, for any State. And what Power ever was not forced really? The ironies, rather chilling when you think of it. Marvell, harder than wood, colder than steel. Which side he was actually on, at any moment in time, remains I think open to question.


    This was that memorable Hour

    Which first assur'd the forced Pow'r.

    ..So when they did design

    ..The Capitols first Line,

    A bleeding Head where they begun,

    Did fright the Architects to run;

    ..And yet in that the State

    ..Foresaw it's happy Fate.

  5. Thanks, TC. This is an astonishing piece. There's little "party-coloured" about Marvell's writing. He's an elusive sort.

    Us Britishers have never known what to do with Cromwell, regardless of our allegiances. What can anyone do with these democratic butchers, these enlightened despots?

    I'm going to read it a good many times.

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  7. Some people will do anything to sell a shoe.

    Even to a parti-coloured Scot.

    (Johnson would have had us think they stumbled barefoot across the rocky moor and glen -- perhaps this appropriately effaced footwear vendor is a churlish descendant of one of the highland Clans?)