Wednesday, 21 March 2012

World Poetry Day

It's World Poetry Day today and I've been inundated by at least two requests to share one of my own poetical musings.

It's not something I do, often. Poetry, in Wordsworth's famous definition consists of 'emotion recollected in tranquillity.' I have plenty of emotion; just not so much tranquillity. And my attitude to sharing verse is a bit like that towards letting your children play on the road... far too risky.

But who dares, wins as they say. And although it's not a medium I often use or share, poetry does give me immense pleasure. I love the work of Philip Larkin; admire Hardy; recite whole chucks of A.E. Housman.

When I am inspired (or less feared) I find my other great passion - for music - frequently stirs whatever poetry remains within me. So it is with this offering, entitled 'Spem in Alium' after the forty-part motet by Thomas Tallis variously described as a birthday gift to Elizabeth 1st (on - what else - her fortieth) or more realistically a plea for her to spare the life of the Catholic Duke of Norfolk.

“Spem in alium numquam habui praeter in te, Deus Israel” 
I have no hope in any but in you, God of Israel

A thread of silver, spun in darkness:
A lone voice crying in a wilderness
Of silence. One small light, one harbour
Shining in the distance; then another
And another: calling for an answer.
Wave on wave of sound builds
Adding substance to the plea
To save our brother.
Cries for mercy: plea on plea,
Yea forty times a plea:
Have mercy, King of Glory,
Majesty, My Lady
Be not angry.
Spare us, Mary;
Pardon our iniquity.


  1. I am going to make the boys write a poem tonight and that is bedtime reading sorted (as she takes now we are six out of the bookcase)

  2. poetry is such a strange beast: as easy to some as brushing their teeth; as foreign to others as hieroglyphics. I once breathed poetry. That person loves this poem. It makes the person I am now feel more intelligent.

    1. Like you, I once breathed poetry. It's now a rare luxury and although I'm sad for that I'm glad it hasn't deserted me completely.

  3. I write very bad poetry full of teenage angst (yes, I KNOW I am in my 40s). I think your poetry is beautify both to read and simply to look at.

  4. Delightful. I once upon a time, taught poetry as part of English GCSE to a bunch of previously failing and disillusioned students-it was such an incredible challenge-so rewarding to see the kids find relevance and joy in the wonder of Seamus Heaney and others. Some even passed their GCSE that year. Bonus.

    1. Ah, a fellow former English teacher... greetings and commiserations! I used to find teaching poetry ok, but getting anyone to consider its relevance beyond the classroom was nigh on impossible.

  5. We got to attend a concert of the Tallis Scholars at a St. Andrews Wesley church in Downtown Vancouver many years ago. They were phenomenal.

    I am granted about two or three poems per year, if I'm lucky. Yours is lovely, and goes with the music very well.

  6. Weird, I always think I don't like poetry and yet when I read's amazing. Same with choral music. Thanks for this post. Youtube clip gone straight into favourites.


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