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BRITISH-IRISH-POETS  1998

BRITISH-IRISH-POETS 1998

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Subject:

James Elroy Flecker: Three poems

From:

Douglas Clark <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Douglas Clark <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 13 Apr 98 11:01:49 BST

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And to complete my work of this morning I will post Flecker's only
three poems. I wish the pob would open...

...

To a poet a thousand years hence

I who am dead a thousand years,
  And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
  The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
  Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
  Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
  And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
  And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
  That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Maeonides the blind
  Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
  Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
  I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
  And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
  To greet you. You will understand.


War song of the Saracens

We are they who come faster than fate: we are they who ride early or late:
We storm at your ivory gate: Pale Kings of the Sunset, beware!
Not on silk nor in samet we lie, not in curtained solemnity die
Among women who chatter and cry, and children who mumble a prayer.
But we sleep by the ropes of the camp, and we rise with a shout, and we tramp
With the sun or the moon for a lamp, and the spray of the wind in our hair.

>From the lands, where the elephants are, to the forts of Merou and Balghar,
Our steel we have brought and our star to shine on the ruins of Rum.
We have marched from the Indus to Spain, and by God we will go there again;
We have stood on the shore of the plain where the Waters of Destiny boom.
A mart of destruction we made at Jalula where men were afraid,
For death was a difficult trade, and the sword was a broker of doom;

And the Spear was a Desert Physician who cured not a few of ambition,
And drave not a few to perdition with medicine bitter and strong:
And the shield was a grief to the fool and as bright as a desolate pool,
And as straight as the rock of Stamboul when their cavalry thundered along:
For the coward was drowned with the brave when our battle sheered up like
   a wave,
And the dead to the desert we gave, and the glory to God in our song.


The old ships

I have seen old ships sail like swans asleep
Beyond the village which men still call Tyre,
With leaden age o'ercargoed, dipping deep
For Famagusta and the hidden sun
That rings black Cyprus with a lake of fire;
And all those ships were certainly so old
Who knows how oft with squat and noisy gun,
Questing brown slaves or Syrian oranges,
The pirates Genoese
Hell-raked them till they rolled
Blood, water, fruit and corpses up the hold,
But now through friendly seas they softly run,
Painting the mid-sea blue or shore-sea green,
Still patterned with the vine and grapes in gold.

But I have seen,
Pointing her shapely shadows from the dawn
And image tumbled on a rose-swept bay,
A drowsy ship of some yet older day;
And, wonder's breath indrawn,
Thought I --- who knows --- who knows --- but in that same
(Fished up beyond Aeaea, patched up new
--- Stern painted brighter blue ---)
That talkative, bald-headed seaman came
(Twelve patient comrades sweating at the oar)
>From Troy's doom-crimson shore,
And with great lies about his wooden horse
Set the crew laughing, and forgot his course.

It was so old a ship --- who knows, who knows?
--- And yet so beautiful, I watched in vain
To see the mast burst open with a rose,
And the whole deck put on its leaves again.


[typed from `The Collected Poems of James Elroy Flecker' edited by
Sir John Squire, London, 1916.

`To a poet a thousand years hence' has echoes in my `The Master Poet'
at the end of my `Selected Poems', and it would be silly to say that the
`War song of the Saracens did not have a bearing on my `The Mong'
and `Hulagu's Ride'. It would be interesting to know if John Masefield
wrote `Cargoes' before or after reading `The Old Ships'.]




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