Thursday, 12 November 2009

Devoutly drenching

Dire weather warnings since the morning. I am on trains again, London and back for the PBS Board and AGM. The train back packed to squeaking point, but no rain yet. Then, on the platform at Cambridge - where we arrive late - it begins, innocuously enough at first, and even fades a little on the second leg of the journey, so there is only a faint, barely-perceptible ghostly drip at Wymondham. But by the time I'm home from the station it is beginning to gather itself for a proper effort. Soon it snores and growls up, starts beating at the bathroom skylight and creeping in at the badly sealed hall skylight. It's still at it and is probably in for the night, possibly for two more days and nights. A furious devout drench, says Larkin. I suppose there is something devout about its earnestness, its sheer devotion to duty. Rain reporting, sir. Good chap. Go and polish those streets and when you've done see if you can get those gutters overflowing.

For some reason I start thinking of Frost's 'Home Burial' - the Jarrell and Brodsky essays - and want to reread it. This is how it begins:

HE saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again. He spoke
Advancing toward her: "What is it you see
From up there always--for I want to know."
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: "What is it you see,"
Mounting until she cowered under him.
"I will find out now--you must tell me, dear."
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence...

The question of verse as narrative has been in my mind this week, maybe that is why I think of this poem now, the sheer narrative that is, not meditation or development of idea, but story. What - apart from poetic 'effects' such as onomatopoeia, alliteration etc - makes it different from a story in prose. What is it about verse that changes story?

Another time... Late now. One tired week with one more to come. Then a spell of silence.

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