Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Poetry of Margery Clute (7)

What is the World?

What is the world? Is there a scheme or plan
To that in which we sit and pass the time,
Or think, or act, or listen for the chime?
Has it been just so since time began?
Why do the stars shine in the sky?
Why are people born? Why do they die?

Such is the poet's lot, I deem! - To fret
On things sane men endeavour to forget.

Margery Clute (1824-76) 


Untouchable, invisible,
A breathless wind that blows
From whence it came
To who knows where!
The clock, it's weather-vane -
Tick, tock, tick, tock.
Time passes, pitiless,
Without a care!

Would that I might sail against the stream
Recapturing the youthful gleam;
But who can resist Time's ruthless flow?
If any can, please let me know!

Margery Clute (1824-76)

If you missed the first installment, which provided some background information regarding Margery Clute's poetry, you can read it here.


Elisabeth said...

She wrote these words so long ago and et they are so timely. Thanks Dominic. It's good to be here again after an absence, thesis finishing. Nearly there.

Rachel Fenton said...

First one makes me think of Wordsworth - second one Emily Dickinson....and yet both what has come to be apparent as a typical Clute! Loving this series, Dominic :)

The Solitary Walker said...

Dominic - I've been dying to tell you this! In another of those odd coincidences so prevalent in the blogosphere, on my recent journey on foot through France I happened to meet up with an elderly German scholar in a gîte d'étape somewhere in the Haute-Savoie. He had been a professor of English Studies at the University of Tübingen, was now retired, and, like me, was on the Camino. In the evening, over a more than pleasant bottle of Côte du Rhône and some pungently ripe local cheese, our conversation turned to 19th century English poetry - somewhat of a speciality of his, it transpired. Without so much as a prompt from me, the name 'Margery Clute' dropped from his rather moist and blubbery lips immediately.

You can imagine my surprised yet delighted reaction! Heinz - for that was his name - then proceeded to extract from his ancient rucksack a battered notebook full of abstruse quotations written in a spidery, practically illegible hand. You won't believe it - but it contained a poem of Clute's I'd never come across before and WRITTEN IN GERMAN! Heinz assured me it had actually been penned thus by Margery herself - it was not a translation. Apparently he had come across the poem in an obscure literary journal called 'Literarische Verworrenheiten' - which what been published irregularly by the University of Tübingen throughout the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately other pilgrims arrived at the gîte as this juncture, and we entered upon a merry evening of bland yet agreeable social chat with them, opening yet another bottle or three of wine. One thing led to another, and I completely forgot to transcribe this rare jewel of a poem into my own notebook. I think the first verse went something like this, but I can't vouch for total accuracy:


Ich sehne mich nach Schönheit.
Wie schön sind die Bergenblumen
Hier auf den Bergen! Und wie süss
Die Hasen und Kaninchen
Die unter den Felsen laufen!


I long for beauty.
How beautiful are the mountain flowers
Here on the mountains! And how sweet
The hares and rabbits
Running among the rocks!)

What a find, and how tragic for the literary world I consumed so much alcohol that night that I entirely forgot to copy out this gem of a poem - and also neglected to take Heinz's telephone number or email address.

Dominic Rivron said...

Elisabeth: Not that long ago! ;)

Rachel Fenton: Two of Margery's favourite poets!

SW: I'm sure I've heard that! I think Hugo Wolf set it in his 1893 Liederbuch. I have to admit I never knew it had been written by Clute.

Are you sure he wasn't pulling your leg?

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sounds to me as though that Heiinz had had too many beans to eat....never heard such a load of my life to the pair of you!

The Solitary Walker said...

Weaver! To hear such language from you - even in asterisks - is mildly shocking! That said, I think you may be right. And Dominic too - when he cast an ironically interrogative eye on my Teutonic encounter. I must admit, I do feel a bit silly now. I feel i've been well and truly duped. I mean, Clute writing in German? How likely is that, I ask you? It's a bit like discovering long-lost poems by Emily Dickinson in Swahili, or Tennyson writing in Romany dialect. Probably.

Gwil W said...

Enjoying these. Favourite so far is Night Thoughts. The idea of the uncorsetted Margery Clute dancing in the night by the Leeds-Liverpool canal is, as anyone who knows this stretch of water and the characters who live along there, is not quite so absurd. She probably knew the many hostelries along the canal and chatted gaily with the bargees over pints of Pendle Witch or some other such homely brew.