This country's "Poet Laureate" - appointed by The Queen is of course a Yorkshireman. He's called Simon Armitage and he is from the village of Marsden near Huddersfield. Reflecting upon the COVID 19 lockdown he has recently written a poem for our times called unsurprisingly perhaps - "Lockdown". In this poem there are echoes of previous lockdowns - one in "The Plague Village" of Eyam in Derbyshire that I know very well and another way back in legendary times in The Himalayas.
At the parish boundaries of Eyam you can still see special stones with recesses in them where quarantined villagers left coins in vinegar to pay for deliveries of food from neighbouring communities. The Plague arrived in Eyam in a roll of a cloth from London. Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre were young lovers separated by that particular lockdown back in 1665.
Here's the poem:-
And I couldn’t escape the waking dream of infected fleas
the hieroglyphs of wide-winged cranes
in the warp and weft of soggy cloth by the tailor’s hearth
in ye olde Eyam.
Then couldn’t un-see
the Boundary Stone,
that cock-eyed dice with its six dark holes,
thimbles brimming with
vinegar wine purging the plagued coins.
Which brought to mind the sorry story
of Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre,
star-crossed lovers on either side
of the quarantine line
whose wordless courtship spanned the river
till she came no longer.
But slept again,
and dreamt this time
of the exiled yaksha sending word
to his lost wife on a passing cloud,
a cloud that followed an earthly map
of camel trails and cattle tracks,
streams like necklaces,
fan-tailed peacocks, painted elephants,
of meadows and hedges,
bamboo forests and snow-hatted peaks,
the hieroglyphs of wide-winged cranes
and the glistening lotus flower after rain,
the air hypnotically
the journey a ponderous one at times,
long and slow but necessarily so.
Nice poem by your poet laureate. I read a novel in the past year and of course I can't remember the name but it was about a town which avoided the plague, mostly, by means of self-isolation. The coins in vinegar were mentioned.ReplyDelete
It was most likely Eyam.Delete
Good poem. I have read one of his short story books. He talks about the Headlingley crowd singing to a security guard "Your only on two fifty an hour". He's got a great sense of Northern humour like you and me YP.ReplyDelete
Have you read The Plague by Albert Camus?
No. I don't believe I have read that Dave. I read "The Outsider" years ago. Is "The Plague" by any chance about a plague? I am just guessing.Delete
Actually, as I understand it, it's about fascism -- although it tells the story of a medical plague, it's an allegory. (Disclosure -- I haven't read it!)Delete
Yes YP it's set in the Algerian village/town of Oran in the nineteen forties and contentrates on people being powerless and rather like today's situation where we all have to do what we are toldDelete
Hell's bells! I didn't realise you were an intellectual Dave! You make me want to read "The Plague" now.Delete
Sarcasm is the lowest form of humour YP. I am only an Autodidact. I think my grammar shows that?Delete
Hey I was only joshing Dave. I hope I have not unintentionally offended you.Delete
Those darned Londoners again, sending their plague north once more.ReplyDelete
"Up North" should be a separate country with its own parliament - like Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland - except in terms of population - "Up North" would be bigger than the three of the them put together. We would have our own national anthem - "Hymn of The Yorkshire Pudding" and everybody would be allowed a day off work or school on their birthday when fresh "Arthur Scargill" pork pies would be delivered to them free of charge.Delete
Don't forget the eeh-bah-gumdrops for the kids.Delete
We wouldn't feed our gumdrops to goats JayCee! They'd be reserved for Up-Northish boys and girls.Delete
YP for PM.Delete
TD for MD*Delete
*Minister of Defence
You can't be a prophet in your own country. My daughter was at 6th form college with his daughter and they all thought it hilarious that the old fogey they knew simply as Emmeline's dad kept getting on television. She's pretty good too.ReplyDelete
Emmeline - after Emmeline Pankhursr. That's good. I bet you called your daughter Margaret!Delete
I thought maybe Emmott and Rowland were a gay couple, until I read online that Emmott was a girl!ReplyDelete
They both sound like male names don't they?Delete
A poem to make you think, especially in these times.ReplyDelete
He is a true wordsmith. Every word is weighed and measured carefully against the other words. It makes me feel like writing another poem...Delete
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the sea
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me..
I confess that I hadn't heard of Simon Armitage (or if I had his name hadn't stuck). The comments have raised a number of points in my mind though. After reading The Lord of the Flies (probably the most mentally revolting book I've ever read) I later started on The Plague (because I thought I ought to not because I thought I'd enjoy it) but it defeated me after a while. As for your comment about Yorkshire being the centre of attention in the new Independent State of Up North just remember who won the War or the Roses.ReplyDelete
When I was fourteen I read "The Lord of the Flies". You might say that it changed my life. Suddenly I realised what Literature was and what it might do. Unlike you I did not find it revolting. I found it illuminating. The idea that the Lancastrians triumphed in The War of The Roses is what the Isle of Lewis philosopher Donald McTrump would call "fake news".Delete
It's very interesting how different people view the same thing and, of course, 'twas ever thus otherwise the world would be a dull place. However, TLOTF obviously brought out very different parts of our characters or the way we look at things. I was horrified that people could do such things and was revolted and yet you saw past all that to the allegory of (or is it with or to?) life in general. And yet I devoured 'The Idiot' and 'Crime and Punishment' and 'The Brothers Karamazov' without being revolted. I wonder why.Delete
Sometimes it is all about the moment in time when we meet the book. We are not always ready.Delete
Simon Armitage was on Desert Island Discs this week, sadly I found him rather boring. But it made me think of being a Poet Laureate, noting the happenings of one's country. John Masefield was the P/L of my childhood (remember rote poetry?) and served in office for 37 years until his death. Carole Ann Duffy, only served 5 years till 2018 and wanted a black P/L to replace her. Renumeration is only about £6000 a year which is not much for a prestigious honour.ReplyDelete
Thoughts filter through my head on anti-government, anti-royalty poems, would you end up in the Tower?
I listened to Desert island Disks and whilst I didn't care much for many of his musical choices I thought that what Simon Armitage had to say about poetry was quite excellent, articulate and accessible.ReplyDelete
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