In response to Victoria Slotto‘s challenge over on ‘Into The Bardo‘ yesterday, my mind fell to both ekphrasis and response poems, both of which I have done, on more than one occasion, particularly ekphrasis in collaboration with my Grass Roots Poetry Group friends, one such example of which is here.
However, at this time of year my mind begins to wander towards war and our remembrance of those, who were mortally, physically or mentally affected by them; and we are not far away, next year, from having to remember the beginning of a war that should have ended all wars, World War One, on its centenary. Lord knows, I’ve written enough poems about war, but one comparatively recent conflict that I wrote about, was the Falklands War: ‘Twenty Nine“, which paid deference to the poetic form of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic elegy for a friend “In Memoriam A.H.H.”. It was this elegy that I used in my attempt to write a Cento, a form of poetry inspired by Samuel Peralta over at dVerse Poets Pub ‘Form for All’, in which Samuel writes brilliantly about this form as “Collage and the Art of the Cento“. It gave rise to “Too Young to Die“
This resulting poem has ten stanzas, three of which (stanzas 2, 6 and 7) came from my poem, “Twenty Nine”, the other seven from Tennyson’s. Apart from using, albeit a very small part of Tennyson’s poem, I felt my adjustment of the metre to Tennyson’s tetrameter (compared to my original pentameter in “Twenty Nine”) pays deference, if not allusively, to the great man and his amazing elegy. So, whilst this is not as much literary allusion as the ekphrastic example I’ve given a link to above, there is an element of allusion in recognition of Tennyson’s work. So apologies to Victoria, if this is slightly ‘off piste’, but it struck me as appropriate, nonetheless. If it alludes to anything, it does so to the huge pain that Tennyson obviously felt for his lost young friend that caused him to slave over his poem for seventeen years before he completed and published it; this is the same pain we can feel in grief.
Too Young To Die
Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in your wisdom make me wise.
Remember this, that we shall ever
Bow our heads and fill with tears
Life’s cup of mercy; recall what sears
The heart, not dim their great endeavour.
Something it is which you have lost,
Some pleasure from your early years.
Break, you deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief has shaken into frost!
That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.
Old Yew, which grasping at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Your fibres net the dreamless head,
Your roots are wrapped about the bones.
Whose stolen duty marked by stope
For graves, but far too little memory
Of their names, rough cut in grey,
But for one, they leave us hope
That every day we take their lead
That we may see the need for us
To find a little courage, not fuss
On things that threaten not our needs.
O living will that shall endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rock,
Flow through our deeds and make them pure,
With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul.
Whereof the man, that with me trod
This planet, was a noble type
Appearing when the time was ripe,
That friend of mine who lives in God.