The older I get, the more pleasure and satisfaction I derive from reading poetry, although I wouldn’t say that my tastes are all-encompassing. When I was a child in the 1960s, I was thrilled to hear songs by the Beatles and the Stones on the radio, so certain tracks such as She Loves You, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Satisfaction, Street Fighting Man and others have the ability to roll back the decades in the blink of an eye to a joyful time that I don’t feel I need describe.
I was also introduced to the works of Dr Seuss, while my mother bought me a hardback book of poetry for children containing a cornucopia of ‘greatest hits’ such as Tyger Tyger, Jabberwocky, The Charge of the Light Brigade, a poem about a dog called Tray that I cannot bear to recall, Ozymandias and a few score others, including Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman that contains the following unforgettable imagery:
“And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—”
As the years went by, I learned of and came to appreciate works by supremely gifted writers such as Homer, Virgil, Catullus, Dante and Shakespeare, which in turned whetted my appetite for others. I’m rarely stuck for inspiration when it comes to writing, although time and application are entirely different considerations, while I find myself leafing through books of quotations and anthologies of poetry by habit these days, as I’m never disappointed with the results. Earlier today, for example, I came across these lines by Wordsworth:
“Where the statue stood of Newton,
With his prism and silent face,
The marble index of a mind forever
Voyaging through strange seas of Thought, alone..”
I find it hard to imagine that it’s possible for anyone to create a greater or more powerful tribute to a towering genius like Newton, so Wordsworth’s lines are outstanding for this reason alone. However, I was also immediately reminded that I’ve been planning a post on Newton for around five years, so this is something I will apply myself to as a matter of priority.
The idea of a mind voyaging through strange seas of thought reminded me of a post I wrote many years ago entitled The Prince. I’m no Newton, of course, but this imagery brought to mind the endless hours of silent pleasure I’ve derived from studying Stonehenge, Silbury Hill and the lives of our remote ancestors, although I’ve not been alone in this because the miracle of the internet has allowed me to converse with others the world over via the medium of this magical screen that glows before me in the pleasant gloom of my study, like some mystical portal in an ancient pagan temple.
It also occurred to me that Stonehenge itself has effectively been voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone, when we consider how impenetrable the ruins have been for so long and when we bear in mind how many of our fellow human beings have pondered the mysteries of the place for decades of their lives. Given Stonehenge’s fixed physical location, however, I suppose it would be more accurate to envisage it as a kind of inland Inchcape Rock, more so when I recall those who have ‘torn their hair and cursed in their despair’ when encountering some aspect of the monument that did not please them, but I’ll leave the matter there.
All this is pleasing enough, but better still, I’ve learned over the course of the past ten years or so that Stonehenge and poetry come together in a surprising amount of ways, one mesmerising example being the poem The Spoils of Annwn and another being The Ruin, a work I’ve had cause to mention here a couple of times recently. Best of all, perhaps, is the fact that the supreme master William Blake had a notable interest in Stonehenge and this is a matter I’ll continue to explore in the weeks, months and years to come.