All entries for Wednesday 26 July 2006

July 26, 2006

'Love Calls Us to the Things of This World'

There is a line in this poem by Richard Wilbur which is very bold and challenging: 'The soul shrinks // From all that it is about to remember, / From the punctual rape of every blessed day'. Some writers, feminists, protest the use of 'rape' here, but I think that it is effective in the context of the poem. It tells of a surreal world of laundry where experience is always sublime, but then the feeling is burst as the inhabitants of the world awaken. I like the play of 'punctual' – 'puncture' – 'rape' here, and I think that the image works hard enough to justify using the image.

The Shirt of a Lad: Anonymous Poem trans. Tony Conran

As I did the washing one day
Under the bridge at Aberteifi,
and a golden stick to drub it,
And my sweetheart's shirt beneath it –
A knight came by on a charger,
Proud and swift and broad of shoulder,
And he asked if I would sell
The shirt of the lad that I loved so well.

No, I said, I will not trade –
Not if a hundred pounds were paid;
not if two hillsides I could keep
Full with wethers and white sheep;
Not if two fields of oxen
Under yoke were in the bargain;
Not if the herbs of all Llandewi,
Trodden and pressed were offered to me –
Not for the like of that I'd sell
The shirt of the lad that I love well.


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