It’s World Poetry Day today and I’ve been inundated by at least two requests to share one of my own poetical musings.
It’s not something I do, often. Poetry, in Wordsworth’s famous definition consists of ’emotion recollected in tranquillity.’ I have plenty of emotion; just not so much tranquillity. And my attitude to sharing verse is a bit like that towards letting your children play on the road… far too risky.
But who dares, wins as they say. And although it’s not a medium I often use or share, poetry does give me immense pleasure. I love the work of Philip Larkin; admire Hardy; recite whole chucks of A.E. Housman.
When I am inspired (or less feared) I find my other great passion – for music – frequently stirs whatever poetry remains within me. So it is with this offering, entitled ‘Spem in Alium’ after the forty-part motet by Thomas Tallis variously described as a birthday gift to Elizabeth 1st (on – what else – her fortieth) or more realistically a plea for her to spare the life of the Catholic Duke of Norfolk.
“Spem in alium numquam habui praeter in te, Deus Israel”
I have no hope in any but in you, God of Israel
A thread of silver, spun in darkness:
A lone voice crying in a wilderness
Of silence. One small light, one harbour
Shining in the distance; then another
And another: calling for an answer.
Wave on wave of sound builds
Adding substance to the plea
To save our brother.
Cries for mercy: plea on plea,
Yea forty times a plea:
Have mercy, King of Glory,
Majesty, My Lady
Be not angry.
Spare us, Mary;
Pardon our iniquity.