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.

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