Monday 18 December 2017

Poetry - Ulick O'Connor: A paean to nature's tent lit by Atlantic light

Magic skies: English war poet Rupert Brooke
Magic skies: English war poet Rupert Brooke

Something we share in common with the English are our marvellous cloudscapes. Who wouldn't be left breathless at the armadas of white clouds which sail in our skies and assume fantastic shapes as they move against the blue backdrop?

George Bernard Shaw thought our skies the most beautiful in the world. He might have added that this is something we share with our neighbours, England, living nearby under nature's tent lit by Atlantic light.

To Rupert Brooke, the English war poet, these clouds were voyagers of the sky representing the souls of men and women released from the prison of the grave. Sometimes it is fashionable to describe Brooke as a handsome Englishman who was quite good at poetry and wrote poems about the trenches.

The poem below, 'Clouds', shows how wrong this could be. I don't think there is a better sonnet in the English language which has captured the magic of our kaleidoscopic skies and lie beyond even the reach of Brexit!


Down the blue night the unending columns press

In the noiseless tumult, break and wave and flow,

Now tread the far South, or lift rounds of snow

Up to the white moon's hidden loveliness.

Some pause in their grave wandering comradeless,

And turn with profound gesture vague and slow,

As who would pray good for the world, but know

Their benediction empty as they bless.

They say that the Dead die not, but remain

Near to the rich heirs of their grief and mirth.

I think they ride the calm mid-heaven, as these,

In wise majestic melancholy train,

And watch the moon and the still-raging seas,

And men, coming and going on the earth.

Rupert Brooke 1887-1915

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