Saturday 25 November 2017

Poetic journey into the expanse of the subconscious

Writer Hilaire Belloc.
Writer Hilaire Belloc.

Ulick O'Connor

An important writer in pre-First World War England was Hilaire Belloc. He used to form a literary quartet with Bernard Shaw, GK Chesteron and HG Wells and take over a theatre to perform together publicly and receive the sort of reception that pop performers get now.

Of the four mentioned, Belloc is the least known today. He wrote prodigiously (perhaps over so), which is probably the reason why his genius has not got the recognition that it should have.

His poem 'To Sleep' takes the reader down the undiscovered expanse of the subconscious. A rhythm has to be created in dream-talk to describe a world we can never fully know. Belloc takes us nearer to doing so, dare I say, than almost any other poet, except perhaps Shakespeare with the Prospero speech in Twelfth Night, which ends with this: "We are such stuff. As dreams are made on, and our little lives are rounded with a sleep."

NB Belloc was invited along with GK Chesterton as special guests to the Tailteann Games (Ireland's version of the Olympics) in 1924.

To Sleep

O my companion, O my sister Sleep,

The valley is all before us, bear me on.

High through the heaven of evening, hardly gone,

Beyond the harbour lights, beyond the sleep.

Beyond the land and its lost benison

To where, majestic on the darkening deep,

The night comes forward from mount Aurion.

O my companion, O my sister Sleep.

Above the surf-line, into the night-breeze;

Eastward above the ever-whispering seas;

Through the warm airs with no more watch to keep.

My day's run out and all its dooms are graven.

O dear forerunner of Death and promise of Haven

O my companion, O my sister Sleep.

Hilaire Belloc 1870-1953

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