Friday, October 9, 2009

Shame, Loose Shunter, shame.

This is the Night Mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order,
Letters for the rich, letters for the poor,
The shop at the corner and the girl next door.
Pulling up Beattock, a steady climb:
The gradient's against her, but she's on time.
Past cotton-grass and moorland boulder
Shovelling white steam over her shoulder,
Snorting noisily as she passes
Silent miles of wind-bent grasses
Birds turn their heads as she approaches,
Stare from the bushes at her blank-faced coaches.
Sheep-dogs cannot turn her course;
They slumber on with paws across.
In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes.

Dawn freshens. Her climb is done.
Down towards Glasgow she descends
Towards the steam tugs yelping down the glade of cranes,
Towards the fields of apparatus, the furnaces
Set on the dark plain like gigantic chessmen.
All Scotland waits for her:
In the dark glens, beside the pale-green sea lochs
Men long for news.

Letters of thanks, letters from banks,
Letters of joy from the girl and the boy,
Receipted bills and invitations
To inspect new stock or visit relations,
And applications for situations
And timid lovers' declarations
And gossip, gossip from all the nations,
News circumstantial, news financial,
Letters with holiday snaps to enlarge in,
Letters with faces scrawled in the margin,
Letters from uncles, cousins, and aunts,
Letters to Scotland from the South of France,
Letters of condolence to Highlands and Lowlands
Notes from overseas to Hebrides
Written on paper of every hue,
The pink, the violet, the white and the blue,
The chatty, the catty, the boring, adoring,
The cold and official and the heart's outpouring,
Clever, stupid, short and long,
The typed and the printed and the spelt all wrong.

Thousands are still asleep
Dreaming of terrifying monsters,
Or of friendly tea beside the band at Cranston's or Crawford's:
Asleep in working Glasgow, asleep in well-set Edinburgh,
Asleep in granite Aberdeen,
They continue their dreams,
And shall wake soon and long for letters,
And none will hear the postman's knock
Without a quickening of the heart,
For who can bear to feel himself forgotten?


squib said...

Is this poem meant to be for children? It reminds me of Hairy Mcleary from Donaldson's Dairy

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

It's W H Auden, Squib.

squib said...

I like it but I have a soft spot for trains and Hairy Mcleary

Cath said...

Thank you Ramon... I was getting all aquiver without my dose of Poetry Slam Friday.

I like it. But maybe I like it because I don't get overdone imagery in poetry. Simplicity suits me fine!

patchouligirl said...

Yes I liked that, even though it was a rather long winded way of saying "look honey, another bill!"

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Sadly, I don't know if anybody has yet written a poem starting "This is the Night Email crossing my portal".

Perseus said...

"In the farm she passes no one wakes,
But a jug in the bedroom gently shakes."


Loose Shunter said...

Yes. It is my shame. But, as I said to my wife this morning, "Look past the idiot to find the nuffie inside of me".

On the other hand, you've picked a great poem, which was turned into a magnificent film in the 1930s by the British GPO Film Unit.

Kettle said...

I really enjoyed this poem except for the third stanza, which seems out of place to me? The list of letters seems a touch corny ("news circumstantial, news financial"), and I think there are too many 'tions' in the first half of the stanza (although, saying this is possibly as bad as saying Mozart is good but there are too many notes).

Otherwise, there are some beautiful images (the jug is nice, hey Pers, and I like the furnaces that look like gigantic chessmen), and the ending is rather nice-sad.

Can we excise a stanza from our reading of a poem if we don't like it, or must the poem stand as written?