Crooked Rose My Youth – a Paean

I took a survey of British lit course in my first college term. We started at the front of our fat text, and over the weeks an exaltation of poems went winging past me and my fallow acre.

Two years—hear me, now—two real years later, while memorizing (because I needed to own it) “Lovers’ Infiniteness,” some insistent thumps began in my deep brain, my heart’s core. But they were not thumps of Donne.

Oh no, I thought. Those accents must be from a poem I read back in Survey. I’ll never trace them.

Still, I retrieved that old tome and, turning to Caedmon, put my ear to the page and started forward—from the strong stresses, forward through the wide centuries, into the accentual-syllabics (“and she me caught in her arms, long and small”)—with variations (here was “sighs, tears, and oaths, and letters”—that perfect double and)—into the strict countings (“to load and bless with fruit the vines”)—and the sprung rhythms (“that year of now done darkness I wretch”)—forward toward the new century—(“he, she, all of them, aye”)—its sonic mimeses (“Quick, boys!—an ecstasy of fumbling”)—beginning to despair now—

And then, there they were, sounding, sounding up from the print:

The fórce that thróugh the gréen fúse dríves the flówer

Blunt morphemes to me the first time, at 19—mad hammers, lacking all sense:

Dríves mý gréen áge

Beat-beat-beat-beat in me.
Break, break, break on my stone ears.
And then that thunderstruck finish:

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

Years later, you see, and even more years, that Welsh silversmith is still
beating and beating at my intractable metal.
__

[The force that through the green fuse drives the flower]
Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman’s lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather’s wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover’s tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

PWS was the professor of record.

o'keefe flower8

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s