17 January 2022

Drowning

Stevie Smith (1902-1971)

Not Waving But Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man, 
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

                                                                by Stevie Smith

20 comments:

  1. *I was much too far out all my life.*

    We're all out of our depth, every time we watch the News.
    Stevie Smith gave us this picture of a man going down, dragged by the current, drugged by the coldness of the ocean, which he underestimated.

    Stevie Smith (1902-1971) wrote a funny eccentric story, *Novel on Yellow Paper* (1936) which catches the flavour of the long Thirties as much Auden, MacNeice, Waugh, Greene, Orwell, Rosamond Lehmann, Huxley, Isherwood, Patrick Hamilton.
    Many saw the war coming. Left-wingers saw Marxism as the way to fight Fascism.
    The Popular Front was penetrated by Stalin's agents. It's all in Stevie's poem.

    Stevie Smith was Florence Margaret Smith.
    Glenda Jackson played her in a film, *Stevie* scripted by Hugh Whitemore.

    Wander around Palmers Green, London, with her Selected Poems in your pocket and you might just catch her friendly ghost.
    She liked libraries, parks and churches.

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    Replies
    1. She cut a rather tragic figure I think. I am glad that this poem endures and that a part of her has sailed into what was her future but is our present. I would like to see that film. Glenda Jackson has been an outstanding actress for decades.

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  2. YouTube.
    Glenda Jackson Reads Stevie Smith Part 1/2 and Part 2/2.

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  3. Rather cryptic.

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    Replies
    1. It is her most admired poem and one that endures. A lot has been written about it. You could search for analyses if you were so inclined Andrew.

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  4. From 'ull. Once saw the original ms on display in 'ull university library.

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    Replies
    1. You mean you saw her handwritten version with amendments? So cool.

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  5. I often feel like that. Thanks for sharing this poem.

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad that it resonated with you Nurse Lily.

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  6. Hmmmm...
    I think many of us are not waving, but drowning.

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  7. I read it fast first time. I read it slower the second time. I was able to take a bite of each word the third time. How sad some people seem to think their lives are. How truly sad and unforgiving some lives really, truly are. I didn't expect this from you on a beautiful Monday morning, my friend. But, I am glad that I explored the meaning (at least to me) of this short poem.

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    Replies
    1. You make your own meaning. This is a deliberately ambiguous poem I think.

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  8. I suppose one could be waving AND drowning...?

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    Replies
    1. One could also be simply exercising.

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  9. If I was drowning and waving, it would be because I was trying to attract attention in the hope of being rescued from my inevitable fate.
    No, not something for a Monday morning YP, it makes a rather depressing start to the week. The lack of comments says it all.

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    Replies
    1. Sometimes it is good to just put a poem out there for others to consider. If I had affixed my own reflections they would have affected the natural responses of other readers.

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  10. Oddly, YP, I blogged about that poem in 2009 here.

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    Replies
    1. There's something about it that I find quite haunting. I guess it is the ambiguity that gets me.

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