Sunday, 29 November 2009

ALFRED NOYES - English Catholic Poet, 1880 - 1958.

The older I get the more I realise how very little I know, and how very, very much I don't know! Hence this Post.

It was only very recently that I was introduced to the poetry of Alfred Noyes. I feel obliged to confess shamefully that his work was quite unknown to me, but having now read some of his poetry I feel duty bound to make satisfaction for this dereliction on my part. What made matters  worse was that after casually mentioning to my wife the name of the poet and how enjoyable I had found this particular poem, she then treated me to a rendition of one of his poems which she had learnt at school more years ago than I dare mention, as though she had learnt it last week!  I hope that you enjoy the two very different poems below  - 'The Answer' and  'Daddy Fell into the Pond' - as much as I do.

The Answer
DO YE BELIEVE?  We never wrote
    For fools at ease to know
The doubt that grips us by the throat,
    The faith that lurks below;
But we have stood beside our dead,
    And in that hour of need,
One tear the Man of Sorrows shed
    Was more than any creed.

DO YE BELIEVE? - from age to age
    The little thinkers cry;
And rhymesters ape the puling sage
    In pride of artistry.
Did Joshua stay a sun that rolls
    Around a central earth? -
Our modern men have modern souls
    And formulate their mirth.

But, while they laugh, from shore to shore,
    From sea to moaning sea,
Eloi, Eloi, goes up once more
    Lama sabacthani!
The heavens are like a scroll unfurled,
    The writing flames above -
This is the King of all the world
    Upon His Cross of Love!

His members marred with wounds are we
    In whom the Spirit strives,
One Body of one Mystery,
    One Life in many lives:
Darkly as in a glass we see
    The mystic glories glow,
Nor shrink from God's Infinity
    Incarnate here below;

In flower and dust, in chaff and grain,
    He binds Himself and dies,
We live by His eternal pain,
    His hourly sacrifice:
The limits of our mortal life
    Are His: the whisper thrills
Under the sea's perpetual strife
    And through the sunburnt hills.

Seek; ye shall find each flower on earth
    A gateway to My heart,
Whose Life has brought each leaf to birth:
    The whole is in the part!
So to My sufferers have ye given
    What help or hope may be,
Oh then, through earth, through hell, through heaven,
    Ye did it unto Me!

Darkly, as in a glass, our sight
    Still gropes through Time and Space:
We cannot see the Light of Light
    With angels, face to face;
Only the tale His martyrs tell
    Around the dark earth rings -
He died and He went down to hell
    And lives - the King of Kings!

DO YE BELIEVE? On every side
    Great hints of Him go by:
Souls that are hourly crucified
    On some new Calvary!
Oh, tortured faces, white and meek,
    Half seen amidst the crowd,
Grey suffering lips that never speak,
    The Glory in the Cloud!

DO YE BELIEVE? The straws that dance
    Far down the dusty road
Mean little to the careless glance
    By careless eyes bestowed,
Till full into your face the wind
    Smites, and the laugh is dumb;
And, from the rending heavens behind
    Christ answers - Lo, I come. 
                                                     Alfred Noyes
Daddy Fell into the Pond
    Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.
We had nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And then there seemed to be nothing beyond,
Daddy fell into the pond!

And everyone's face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
"Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He's crawling out of the duckweed!" Click!

Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft,
And it sounded as if the old drake laughed.
Oh, there wasn't a thing that didn't respond
Daddy Fell into the pond!
                                           Alfred Noyes

•    Alfred Noyes was an English poet born in Wolverhampton in 1880, died Isle of Wight 1958.. He taught English Literature at Princeton University, USA, from 1914 to 1923. His first wife died in 1926 and he subsequently married a widow, Mary Angela Mayne Weld-Blundell, originally married into the recusant Catholic Weld-Blundell family, settling at Lisle Combe, nr Ventnor, Isle of Wight.  Alfred Noyes was a prolific poet and writer, publishing his first collection of poems, The Loom Years, at aged 21. From 1903 to 1908 he published five additional volumes of poetry including The Forest of Wild Thyme and The Flower of Old Japan and Other Poems. In 1918 he followed with a short story collection Walking Shadows, SeaTales and Others which included the tale The Lusitania Waits, a ghost revenge tale based on the sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine in 1915 – although the story hinges on a misconception that the submarine crew had been awarded the Goetz medal for sinking the ship. In 1924 Noyes published another collection, The Hidden Player, and at the British Empire Exhibition, the same year, he wrote a series of poems set to music by Edward Elgar and known as Pageant of Empire.  Alfred Noyes converted to Roman Catholicism in/about the late 1920s, and wrote about his conversion in The Unknown God (1934). In  his later years he suffered from increasing blindness, and in 1953 he published his autobiography Two Worlds for Memory. In all he wrote about sixty books including poetry, novels, and short story collections. He died aged 77 years and is buried at Freshwater, Isle of Wight.  (Wikipedia)


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