Tuesday, September 21, 2010

More Muse Poems & Photos

Obviously, I am thinking a lot these days about the concept of the Muse.  Today, in addition to the Betjeman post (see below), I have two more Muse-related poems.

This first poet is fairly well-known, I think:

Sonnet 78:   by William Shakespeare
So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse
As every alien pen hath got my use,
And under thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing,
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learnèd's wing
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee.
In others' works thou dost but mend the style,
And arts with thy sweet graces gracèd be.
But thou art all my art, and dost advance
As high as learning my rude ignorance.
(Notes with paraphrase of the above, for modern readers, is to be found here.)

And this poet is not quite so well-known  (from here):
FOOLISH MUSE - by Anne Johnson
I fear she must have wandered far away;
I've looked most everywhere, she can't be found.
I find myself adrift; I can't convey
those thoughts and feelings locked within my mind.
Fey little sprite, she spoke to me alone;
Her magic something only I could know.
She'd made the tree outside my door her home
and played beneath where fragrant flowers grow.
I cannot comprehend why she would leave
for lacking me she'll have no way to spread
to human folk the poetry she weaves;
euphonic verses sadly left unsaid.
For none but I can realize her words
that tell of things that only she can see.
She needs my hands and voice so she'll be heard;
for mankind sees and hears her via me
That foolish little maid has strayed too long;
Her image fading more each day I wait.
I pray for her return each day she's gone.
Without each other we cannot create.

John Betjeman's Muse

Although I am 2.5 years late in finding it, fans of John Betjeman's poetry should love this story!

Most people thought that Joan Hunter Dunn, who died earlier this month, was a product of John Betjeman’s vivid poetic imagination. Then, in 1965, The Sunday Times Magazine revealed that she was real and had lived exactly the kind of home counties life Betjeman fantasised about in his famous poem A Subaltern’s Love Song.


Miss J Hunter Dunn, Miss J Hunter Dunn,
Furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament – you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father’s euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summerhouse, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o’clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light’s in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing’s the light on your hair.

By roads “not adopted”, by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o’clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl’s hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I’m engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

She went, unnoticed, to the memorial service for the poet laureate at Westminster Abbey in 1984 and shed a few tears for the man she had described to me as a good character and a religious man: “They say that God has his agents on this planet and I am sure that John Betjeman is one of them.”

I recommend this volume of Betjeman's poems, from Amazon.