Thursday, October 9, 2008

The River Dart by Alice Oswald

The River Dart

I read this poem years ago, a long epithany to a love affair with a particular river, following its early beginnings, its history winding through the moors, its usuage by people, an old man walking listening to the very sounds of his own body.
The liquid, flowing, winding nature of water sensuously felt, endlessly flowing through time.....

just the beginning.....

What I love is one foot in front of another. South south west and down the contours. I go slipping
between Black Ridge and White Horse Hill into a bowl of the moor where echoes can't get out.


and I find you in the reeds, a trickle coming out of a bank, a foal of a river

one step-width water
of linked stones
trills in the stones
glides in the trills
eels in the glides
in each eel a fingerwidth of sea

It also reminded me of of another famous poem Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, another weird sensuous poem written by a rather staid Victorian woman, sister to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In my book the poem is illustrated by Martin Ware, but in another book on Faeries I have, the illustration is more fulsome and dark.

We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits;
Who knows upon what soil they fed,
Their hungry thirsty roots.

At the top of this blog I have shown an illustration from the book of Faeries by Alan Lee and Brian Froud, it is of a landscape under the sea. But in actual fact it accompanies another celtic Irish poem about Bran, he of the famous head that travelled to London carried there by his friends. The following is a 12th century poem sung by Manannan Mac Lir to Bran who journeys through, what to him is the sea, but for Manannan is the sky....

"What is a clear sea
For the prowed skiff in which Bran is,
That is a happy plain with profusion of flowers
To me from the chariot of two wheels.

Along the top of the wood has swum
Thy coracle across ridges,
There is a wood of beautiful fruit
Under the prow of thy little skiff.

A wood with blossom and fruit,
On which is the vine's veritable fragrance;
A wood without decay, without defect,
On which are leaves of a golden hue.

1 comment:

Bovey Belle said...

My daughters both studied Goblin Market in school, and I have always found it a surreal poem from, as you described, someone other people probably saw as a staid Victorian.

I know the River Dart well - we used to camp alongside the West Dart, up on the moors by the Beehive Hut, lulled to sleep by its burbling and chittering over ancient stones.