End of the Roads
June 23, 2017 § 2 Comments
I’m enjoying Thomas Dilworth’s study of David Jones who, harried by a strict religious upbringing and his experiences in the trenches, suffers severe neurasthenia leading to a major breakdown and sustained mental ill health. In this context, it is both remarkable that he was able to realise his masterwork, In Parenthesis – and unsurprising that he describes its symbolic arc as transcendental.
Crossing similar terrain (somewhat unwittingly – I read Jones for the first time, and in snatches, while writing a long sequence of poems called The Grail Roads) I was always clear that the trajectory for my work would offer a very different perspective. Like Jones I draw heavily on Malory (though his chief source is the Morte D’Arthur whereas mine is the Sankgreal); but for me, the end of the road is just that: the tragic death of soldiers isn’t alleviated by faithful glory.
Of course, that’s easy for me to say: I wasn’t there. Men who came back had to live out their lives however they could. In Jones’ writing – and painting – ghosts are also angels. The ghosts in my poems haven’t moved on.
After Edward Thomas
Bors stirred at the jolted stop –
some empty platform outside,
bare sky, line curving towards trees
and a low building. The guard
passed down the train; someone
in the next compartment spoke to him.
Steam filled the window, cleared;
a cough repeated like an engine.
There was no sign on the platform
and in the late daylight the place
looked drab and somehow ruined.
Then a bird called, close and startling;
and Bors thought of what he might say
to Arthur when he saw him. Galahad
bydde him remember of this worlde unstable:
better, perhaps, than how and why he died.