An Unseen – Carol Ann Duffy – Comments

An Unseen

I watched love leave, turn, wave, want not to go,
depart, return;
late spring, a warm slow blue of air, old-new.
Love was here; not; missing, love was there;
each look, first, last.

Down the quiet road, away, away, towards
the dying time,
love went, brave soldier, the song dwindling;
walked to the edge of absence; all moments going,
gone; bells through rain

to fall on the carved names of the lost.
I saw love’s child uttered,
unborn, only by rain, then and now, all future
past, an unseen. Has forever been then? Yes,
forever has been.

Carol Ann Duffy (1955 –

S1 … Carol Ann Duffy uses few words and grammar to accentuate the way love is articulated in everyday life. Love, or perhaps intense feelings, is always associated with personal departure whether permanent or not and the return greeting after absence if there is one. This depart-return cycle is portrayed in the season of late spring the old becoming new again (old-new) expressing the repeat of nature; of love. S1 ending with the ubiquitous nature of love in terms of looking and seeing another from first sight to the last sight.

S2 … now we have specific circumstance – the departure of soldiers to war – ‘the song dwindling’ gives the impression of soldiers moving away into the distance and I do like the way CAD expresses their precarious situation – ‘the edge of absence’ and the likelihood of a permanent departure, likewise equating death as giving no future to the soldier – ‘all moments going’.

S3 … interesting how a Church service in the rain with inscriptions to dead soldiers is implied indirectly by CAD’s words … and how love’s child is uttered and then unborn – a telling statement to the death of the young … who have no future and their future is their completed life – now in the forever … they are the forever has been … love is always the forever has been.

A very poignant poem defining grief and the suffering of those left behind. Grief comes in many shapes and sizes. Those that went or go to war usually have some expectation that things may not turn out well and they may not return. But life is fragile and the unseen can always occur, a car coming round a corner on the wrong side of the road. The atrocity in Manchester last week was totally unseen. An alien philosophy carried out by a warped mind contrary to the natural flow of decency and respect for humanity. My heart and thoughts go out to all those families in grief. For so many young people their future forever has been.

Originally – Carol Ann Duffy – Analysis

Originally

We came from our own country in a red room
Which fell through the fields, our mother singing
our father’s name to the turn of the wheels.
My brothers cried, one of them bawling, Home,
Home, as the miles rushed back to the city,
the street, the house, the vacant rooms
where we didn’t live any more. I stared
at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw.

All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow,
leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue
where no one you know stays. Others are sudden.
Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar,
leading to unimagined pebble-dashed estates, big boys
eating worms and shouting words you don’t understand.
My parents’ anxiety stirred like a loose tooth
in my head. I want our own country, I said.

But then you forget, or don’t recall, or change,
and, seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only
a skelf of shame. I remember my tongue
shedding its skin like a snake, my voice
in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space
and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.

Carol Ann Duffy

A poem about being asked this question … ‘where do you come from originally?’ … obviously you are now in another place. But being asked that question you have to give the questioner your own personal response to your original home place … and of course this may be many locations back depending on the extent of relocation in your life coupled with the time lapse of how long ago it was that you were back home in that original location.

This poem is the first poem in the book ‘The Other Country’. Arguably the first poem in a book is usually a key poem to entice readers to delve further. In similar regard the first stanza of that poem is most important.

For this Post I am going to look at that first stanza in the context of having read the whole poem enabling greater contextual background which might empower the text to greater understanding. That first line is so important too and the words ‘red room’ catch the reader into a bit of a thought puzzle. Here are my thoughts …

The poem is about the grief of a child in leaving their first home in the city to a place in the country. And the child remembers that time dearly and the journey is by car. The child is in a ‘red room’ so it could be reference to a red car. A child’s room in a house is very important to that child. Her new home in transit as she rides with her parents could in fact refer to the space in the car. ‘Red’ is a highly emotive colour for example a colour which promotes anger in a bull. The car is also ‘falling’ ‘through the fields as it travels personifying grieve.

Quite clearly there is great contrast between the emotional state of the child and the joy expressed by her mother as the mother sings to the tune of her husband’s turning wheels.

The child’s brothers appear to be younger but in great sympathy. And the contrast is again highlighted by the bawl of the brothers against the song of the mother. The brothers to not actually say ‘home, home’ – the ‘bawl, bawl’ states this meaning through these cries.

Although the car is travelling away from the city – in the eyes of the children each mile away is a mile back to their original home. Back to the city, back to the street, back to their original home and back to their precious first rooms. The rooms are now vacant which adds poignancy. Again there is great contrast in the two directions associated with the change of location. Joy in one direction sorrow in another.

It appears the child has something in her hands in the car to remind her of her room. She is holding the ‘paw’ (hand) of her precious mute toy-friend. A friend that is ‘blind’ to the predicament of the journey.

This poem gives reinforcement on why Carol Ann Duffy is such an eminent poet in the minds of many readers and gives authority to CAD in being chosen as the UK Poet Laureate in 2009.

Some more questions that you may be hesitant to contemplate – Where do you come from originally? and How does your current mind create the image of that past place?  How does it differ from the actual reality of that original first experience?

Carol Ann Duffy on Wikipedia

Richard – Carol Ann Duffy

Richard

My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; your own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead …

or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.

Carol Ann Duffy

When a poem has to be written for a special event it is not often that a brilliant piece of work materialises such as the above poem written by the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy for the reburial ceremony of Richard the Third after the discovery of his bones underneath a carpark near Leicester cathedral in 2012.

The following is a YouTube link to the ceremony of the reburial in Leicester Cathedral. Included is the reading of the above poem by Benedict Cumberbatch – a blood descendant on the female line … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvhLbqbVh24 – at 17m 10sec in the video.

Bones likened to human braille … braille = a writing system for the visually impaired … a very apt comparison for ‘Richard the Third’s bones lay hidden for more than 500 years and from and the ‘DNA language’ of his bones it was established that they indeed belonged to Richard the Third. And now he will be truly remembered with the carving of his name.

Votive = ritual. I particularly like the simple words ‘lost long forever found’ with the double meaning – his physical memorial in the cathedral and a biblical spiritual reference.

This link gives full details behind the text of the poem … http://genius.com/Carol-ann-duffy-richard-annotated including are references to a number of biblical texts and Christian philosophy.

Richard the Third died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1845, the last major battle in the war of the roses and he was the last English king to die in battle.

Here is the Wikipedia link to details of that battle … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bosworth_Field

And for those interested in the history of Richard the Third here is the Wikipedia link  to the king … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_III_of_England