The older I get the less I know. When one is young, one is marked out by great certainties. God does not exist. I am right. Love conquers all. And so on.
Then life adds years to us, and each winter that passes chips away at the glorious arrogance of youth. And all the while, things happen, that we just can’t explain. Today I have noticed two dates that have meaning, that had meaning two years ago and have come round on a loop again, on the same dates. One is a post about Henry Cecil I wrote on the 11 June 2011, it’s here should you care to read it, given his sad death on the 11 June 2013, two days ago. I read it myself today. I am glad I wrote it then. I should not wish to be in the business of obituary writing. The second is another post I wrote two years ago today. I have returned to it today to use in a larger project. Whether it will stay there in the longer term, I can’t say. It just seems odd because that intention was never there in the first place. Don’t worry if that doesn’t make sense, I am not sure it does to me either.
Oh well, this is why we have poetry. It can explore the strangeness of life far better than mere prose.
Another poem on the radio programme from Tuesday was this one by Wilfred Owen. I doubt I shall ever keep such hallowed company again. There’s one more by Gerard Manley Hopkins to come, and then we are done.
I am the Ghost of Shadwell Stair
Wilfred Owen 1918
I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
Along the wharves by the water-house,
And through the cavernous slaughter-house,
I am the shadow that walks there.
Yet I have flesh both firm and cool,
And eyes tumultuous as the gems
Of moons and lamps in the full Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.
Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
Where I watch always; from the banks
Dolorously the shipping clanks
And after me a strange tide turns.
I walk till the stars of London wane
And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
But when the crowing sirens blare
I with another ghost am lain.