Friday, 7 October 2011

Poems and guns

09:17:00 Posted by Lindsay 3 comments

I’m not an avid poetry follower, but I do have favourites. Having mentioned Revolting Rhymes before I refuse to rehash old posts but Dahl’s rhymes have always been the best for me. I also love Sylvia Plath, her imagery is something that I can connect with and enjoy.

A poem which sticks with me was one I learned at primary school though. It was by Alfred Noyes and you’ve probably heard of it. I remember reading it for the first time at around the age of about 7 or 8 and it hitting me like a kick in the gut. Not only had the story enthralled me, but the imagery of the blood. It was far more vivid than anything I’d ever seen on television, and both disturbed and excited me for a long time after studying it. I was then obsessed with highwaymen, love, blood and the fact that there wasn’t happy endings all the time. It made my head spin but I loved it. Now as an adult it would not have had the same effect on me, but at that age it was perfectly timed. It wasn’t a short poem either, but it got me reading all of it over and over again. I can’t reproduce it here, it is far too long, but I’ll post some of it;

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o'er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord's daughter,
The landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i' the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

Now I don’t care if this is literary or not. Highly thought of or not, it painted a picture in my mind more entertaining, vivid and shocking at 7 or 8 than any scary film I’d ever watched (and I was brought up on horror) I could hear the horses coming closer, see the gallons of blood and thought ‘up yours’ to King George’s men. So it has to be there as one of my favourites. To scare me and stick with me this long it’s done its job well. And I still like highwaymen ;)

You can find the whole thing here;


Anonymous said...

Love this. We try and shield our kids from blood and gore and get them reading 'nice' poetry instead.

Another excellent post - and so much more literate than what I've got for tomorrow.


Barbara said...

It's not often poetry gets described as 'hitting me like a kick in the gut' I agree with you Lindsay this is a fabulous poem and I wish I'd have been introduced to it aged eight! I might have developed an interest in poetry a lot earlier.

Ste said...

I was introduced to this aged less than eight! My mum used to read me this! This is one of those half remembered poems I was talking about on Wednesday. Your post just brought it all flooding back - thanks Lindsay :) makes me wish my mum was visiting tonight rather than tomorrow - she did an ace reading of this poem :)