25 May 2014

A Garland for Happenstance

How still, past customs lie in crumbling tombs
   where memory comes seldom to adorn
the greying graves with spring’s vivacious blooms
   whose scents and colours charm fresh calls to mourn;
for swathes of haze screen signs to culture mounds,
   each pathway spinning thickets to dissuade
the traveller from remembering the grounds
   of former fame, their mappings thus mislaid;
yet persevere, to track the treasure trails
   to yester realm, pass under old oak limbs
and raise tradition high in shining sails
   of greenest garlands, as forgetting dims.
Such monuments so tended may endure
and ancient arts revive for evermore.

* * *

I wrote this poem to present to Cressida at the GWSR event Wartime in the Cotswolds. This event ‘mark[ed] the official inauguration’ of the P-i-R (http://www.gwsr.com/news/latest-news/happenstance-border-morris-at-war-in-the-cotswolds.aspx), so it seemed courteous that the P-i-R mark this too. And many thanks to Brian for reading; it was a real treat to hear the ‘Garland’ in such pleasant and resonant tones <(:-)

It’s a sonnet! Huzzah! The English sonnet is my favourite poetic form, familiar from studying Shakespeare during the A-level years. It’s structured as three quatrains (a quatrain is a verse of four lines) and a final couplet, with the rhyme scheme ABABCDCDEFEFGG. The third quatrain tends to introduce a turn (known in the original Italian sonnet as the ‘volta’) towards resolution in the last two lines.

Inspiration for the ‘Garland’ came from the Squire’s thoughts on ‘intangible heritage’, see via GWSR link. I googled and arrived at UNESCO (http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=en&pg=00002). As I read, images came to mind of a burial ground for cultures, sparking the pictures I paint in the piece. However, each cultural form has potential for resurrection, for as long as it endures in living memory. I was musing also on Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin, in which the former composer pays homage to the Baroque French keyboard suite while remembering friends killed during the First World War (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_tombeau_de_Couperin).

I find I have many musings on intangible heritage, but this may suffice for now. The rhythm I hear is iambic pentameter, sustained throughout. There’s scope to mix things up with an extra-syllable feminine rhyme or trochaic foot (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonnet), but regularity comes naturally to the ears of the P-i-R, to the extent that irregularity makes me feel as though my head is falling off! That is not an enjoyable experience.