Mar 18, 2012

Broken Flutes

As you know, if you noticed, I missed another Friday Notebook. My notebook has become a not-book. The pages hate me. This is because I'm spending all my energies on old poems, proofing pages for Thread of the Real, flirting with the gone rhythms, the tropes obvious or arcane, the little turns in the path no one knows about but me. No notebook entries, no. And besides, there have been no compelling poems from others at the moment (though some are in the offing—that is, in the stack by my bed—I feel sure). And yet—

And yet there is this sweet bit of musing by Bill Knott, in one of his affectionate moods, which are always wandering the way I imagine Wordsworth and Coleridge wandering, Sam (not Bill) chattering with leisurely brilliance. Knott is not a theorist, but a table-talker, a walker-talker. Listen to him sauntering from Dowson to Eliot to ... well, the rest of us. D. and E. both knew in their bones what Edwin Arlington Robinson knew and wrote about—oh, before 1897, when this poem was first published in his collection The Children of the Night:

Ballade of Broken Flutes
(To A. T. Schumann)
In dreams I crossed a barren land,
   A land of ruin, far away;
Around me hung on every hand
   A deathful stillness of decay;
   And silent, as in bleak dismay
That song should thus forsaken be,
   On that forgotten ground there lay
The broken flutes of Arcady.

The forest that was all so grand
   When pipes and tabors had their sway
Stood leafless now, a ghostly band
   Of skeletons in cold array.
   A longly surge of ancient spray
Told of an unforgetful sea,
   But iron blows had hushed for aye
The broken flutes of Arcady.

No more by summer breezes fanned,
   The place was desolate and gray;
But still my dream was to command
   New life into that shrunken clay.
   I tried it. And you scan to-day,
With uncommiserating glee,
   The songs of one who strove to play
The broken flutes of Arcady.


So, Rock, I join the common fray,
   To fight where Mamman may decree;
And leave to crumble as they may,
   The broken flutes of Arcady.

1 comment:

  1. E.A. Robinson's 1929 Cavender's House
    some time in about 1958 or '57 chained
    (changed?) me forever !

    an huge leap or me (far beyond Old Mother Hubbard &/or
    Captain Kidd)

    Into that house where nom man went, he went
    Alone; and in that house where day was night,
    Midnight was like a darkness that had fingers.


    Imagine as in this poem you present what, some 40 years earlier anyone thinking
    as if naturally in those rhyme schemes and NOT being

    neat "stuff" Joe....

    thanks for the reminder.... of a solid poet....


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