Friday, January 8, 2016

"Caedmon" by Denise Levertov


All others talked as if
talk were a dance.
Clodhopper I, with clumsy feet
would break the gliding ring.
Early I learned to
hunch myself
close by the door:
then when the talk began
I’d wipe my
mouth and wend
unnoticed back to the barn
to be with the warm beasts,
dumb among body sounds
of the simple ones.
I’d see by a twist
of lit rush the motes
of gold moving
from shadow to shadow
slow in the wake
of deep untroubled sighs.
The cows
munched or stirred or were still. I
was at home and lonely,
both in good measure. Until
the sudden angel affrighted me—light effacing
my feeble beam,
a forest of torches, feathers of flame, sparks upflying:   
but the cows as before
were calm, and nothing was burning,
                nothing but I, as that hand of fire   
touched my lips and scorched my tongue   
and pulled my voice
                                 into the ring of the dance.

Source of the text – Denise Levertov, Breathing the Water.  New York: New Directions, 1987.

TJB: Farmboy, interrupted. In short, Anglo-Saxonish half-lines, the poem dramatizes not the hymn itself but the moment of cowherd becoming poet.

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