The Poetry in a Storm


I was up until some ungodly hour last night, celebrating my birthday, so I was mildly surprised to find that I’d awoken as early as I did, around 6am, but as my sleep patterns have been chaotic to non-existent so far this year, such things are perhaps inevitable.

After stumbling over Blueboy and letting out a string of Anglo-Saxon that went some way towards articulating my bafflement as to why a black dog had chosen to sleep in deep shadow at the foot of the stairs, I made my way into the kitchen and prepared myself a coffee. When it was ready and I was invigorated by the aroma wafting from the steaming mug, I wandered to the back door to get some fresh air, as a further means of trying to rouse myself from the zombie-like lethargy I’ve always felt upon waking.

By just about any reasonable standards, it was a bleak, miserable day, with a steady rain, gusts of cold wind and low grey clouds scudding across the sky, so I’m sure that most people in the region were cursing the change that’s occurred in the weather. Perhaps I’m fortunate inasmuch as I don’t have to work outside, although there will come a point when I’ll have to take an extremely reluctant Blueboy out for a brief walk for reasons I’m sure I needn’t spell out, but nonetheless, the vista before me made my spirit soar.

As I gazed up into the storm, a small group of seagulls drifted into my sight just a hundred feet or so above me, seemingly unconcerned by the bleak nature of the elements around them. This primaeval imagery immediately put me in mind of the opening lines of The Second Coming, one of my favourite poems, that begins with the evocative description of another bird dancing on the wind as a tempest approaches:

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer….”

This was so pleasing that I stood there and recited the entire poem aloud, with no audience but the dripping rosemary bush and tangles of mint immediately before me, for the pure pleasure of vocalising such wonderful verse, but as I finished and allowed the experience to become a part of me, something else equally pleasurable occurred to me.

I remembered a song entitled Grey Day by the British band Madness, which contains the chorus “In the morning I awake, my arms, my legs, my body aches; the sky outside is wet and grey, so begins another weary day…” I love this song anyway, but when it came to mind, it brought yet another warm and gratifying memory in its wake.

Five or six years ago, I had taken my young daughter with me on a trip to London and while we were both strolling through Soho one afternoon, I noticed Suggsy, the singer from Madness, quietly relaxing outside one of the many fine public houses in the district. My daughter recognised him as well and her eyes widened in amazement at seeing some enormously famous person whose music she enjoyed, standing just a few feet away from her, in the flesh.

I politely introduced myself to Suggsy and asked him if he would mind very much giving my daughter his autograph, as Tanith was rooted to the spot and utterly incapable of asking for herself. This fine English gentleman immediately and graciously obliged, treating one of his countless fans with typical kindness and consideration, so my young daughter was euphoric about this unexpected experience and as a father, it naturally gives me enormous pleasure to be able to recall such an event.

I could easily be struggling with a mild hangover now and cursing the incessant rain, but instead, I find myself unexpectedly uplifted, a mood and frame of mind I ascribe to nothing more than being generally familiar with verse and song lyrics. The more I think of it, the more I become certain that our awareness of the world around us and our subsequent happiness or satisfaction at what our senses present to us can be enormously enhanced through the simple expedient of familiarising ourselves with the work of some of the great poets and songwriters, with whom society is blessed and has been for millennia.

And if I possibly can, I hope to be able to add some small thing to this communal sense of well-being, to Mankind’s sum total of happiness. We’ll see.


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