autorotation, Beaumont Hamel, Bois des Fourcaux, Bois l'Eveque, calvaire, Cambrai, Craiglockhart, del Gesu, Delville Wood, Dufay, dunnock, Hamel, Hebuterne, Last Tree, lynchet, Mametz, mandrake, Maricourt, Napier University, Ors, Queen's Hall, remblais, Sassoon, Somme, Steve Burnett, sycamore, The Branch, Wilfred Owen, World War 1 poetry
A friend told me about an amazing radio programme about Steve Burnett,
in Edinburgh, making a Wilfred Owen violin from a fallen branch from a
sycamore tree from Craiglockhart Hospital, now Napier University,where
Sassoon and Owen met and discussed their poetry, before Owen
returned to the trenches and met his untimely death.
I listened to the programme and then felt compelled to write the
The Sycamore Sings
Shall life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will he annul…
(amended words from his poetry on Wilfred Owen’s gravestone)
Where a mother muted her offspring’s ire,
deleting his line’s interrogative;
where Dufay scored his music at Cambrai;
St Quentin’s corpse loomed from the Somme marshland,
to hallow the grandest basilica;
where guillotines did their grisly work,
fog lifted from shattered Bois l’Eveque-
new dawn drawing back night’s curtain of war.
On a towpath, a twenty five year old,
tried not to fret how he would cross the bridge.
Mesmerised by the autorotation
of seeds, he foresaw his own slow spiral,
where magpies croaked in blasted canopies.
Dark, stark poplars had been lopped long before;
the copses razed; the rides and lynchets scarred.
Mametz, Maricourt and Bois des Fourcaux:
sweet chestnut, lime, beech, hazel, oak, hornbeam-
mad mandrakes uprooted; bi-furcated trunks.
Sad remblais of Hebuterne (No Man’s Land)
absorbed shrill batteries near sunken lanes.
Calvaires bowed before continuous suffering.
In Beaumont Hamel, a single tree remains,
petrified. In Delville Wood, The Last Tree
stands like a gibbet. Sycamores survive.
They grow where other trees give up the ghost.
One such, at Craiglockhart, he could recall.
Again he heard the dunnock’s douce refrain,
singing for dear life, from lush foliage,
before its notes were silenced, once for all.
Fragments of father’s sermon rose to mind-
about The Branch, hope, regeneration.
Now, while still green, a supple slice is bent
into a tongue which will tell of all loss,
tears oozing like resin from a wounded bark:
man and nature in divine harmony.
In Queen’s Hall, it will sob and it will sing
of the pity of war – the air fleshily weeping.
And, one being dead, yet will be speaking
through a universal language of peace,
from a pattern once conceived by Gesu.
A bad musician
always blames his instrument.
the go and jo stops in flutes
are not in accord
with the others and when played
together, sound harsh.
He recommended that stops
like these should be lifted
before the next one
is put down. Kagemochi
disagreed. It takes
modulation and true skill
to blow correctly. You’ll see!
(Nakanokimi being serenaded)
To switch affection
to Nakanokimi was
to replace a love
unrequited, for something
less passionate and,
for her, humiliating.
The vesper bells rang.
The prince arrived, unhappy.
She was relenting at last,
in spite of herself.
He was irresistible.
He left for Sanjo,
to make plans to bring her back.
Kaoru wished he’d done the same.
(Genji meets his daughter for first time: The Wind in the Pines,
Burke Collection, NY. Toso Mitsunori – 1583-1638)
When the snow drifted
and thick ice glazed the river,
the child and her doll
were despatched in a carriage,
without her mother,
but in the charge of her nurse.
It did not take long
till she transferred affection
to her generous guardian.
The Lady of Ashaki.
Could he make amends?
She offered him no reproach,
as they played a brief duet.
(A Rack of Clouds Sumiyoshi Gukei 1631-1705 Picture taken from a Tumblr site on The Tale of Genji: mostbeautifulgenji. The author didn’t say where they had found it. Will be glad to acknowledge location, if told)
A 13 stringed koto. Photo originally
uploaded by Smgregory (Wikipedia)
mode, the instrument was tuned.
Third Princess tried hard
to blend with the others.
Willow-like, she stood,
her hair like trailing leaves.
hair was a cascade in spate.
Some instruments move the gods
and demons also.
The envoi, in minor mode,
marked a subtle shift
in the harmonious play.
Discord crept in stealthily.