Tuesday, 1 January 2008


I don't do New Year's resolutions as a rule. Why set yourself up to be disappointed? Isn't that the world's job? But, watching The History Boys a few days ago (see earlier post) made me realise how few poems I knew all the way through. It also reminded me of how very impressed I was when Renata recited an entire canto of Dante from memory recently. (Canto 15.) So what I'd like to do this year, and this isn't so much a resolution as a fond hope, is memorise the rest of the many poems I can start but not end. The first one is going to be John Clare's I Am, because, like everyone else, I know and love the first three lines and then have very little memory of what happens next. To help me, I'll post it here:

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and live - like vapors tossed

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
Even the dearest, that I loved the best,
Are strange - nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smiled or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling, and untroubled where I lie,
The grass below - above the vaulted sky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year! I use my Birthday as that milestone of self-relfection...Did I open my eyes more...Did I open my heart more?
I find that the definition that most people apply to Resolution (as in New Year's Resolution) tends to complicate our life with self-doubt and disappointment...I prefer this definition and try to apply it on a daily basis:
Reduction to a simpler form; conversion.
This is the poem I have been working on memorizing...I pretty much have the last line down...It seems to be my mantra. Love you both! Tyla

The Layers (Stanley Kunitz)

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written,
I am not done with my changes.