Wednesday, 5 February 2014
Sidney Keyes: "Time Turns Back and the Doubtful Season Passes"
Ivan Shishkin (Russian landscape painter), Rain In an Oak Forest, 1891.
It might be too much sadness to post a poem every month this year by Sidney Keyes, who didn't live to see his 21st birthday - it is just enormously sad that he is out of copyright this year, to be followed very soon by the other great World War II poets. Still, a poem every month is very tempting. He deserves it, and so do the readers.
This poem, 'The Doubtful Season', makes very explicit the non-linear nature of time, which is something poetry partakes of more successfully than other art forms, I think. The poem has a curious effect of both unfolding and turning in on itself, line by line, creating a kind of maze. I find that it can be interpreted equally as optimistic or despairing - a sort of reconciling and things turning out right, or an impossible-to-escape repeating treadmill (Groundhog Day?). Tonight I take it as optimism, having (I think) recently come out the other side of a doubtful season of my own.
THE DOUBTFUL SEASON (Sidney Keyes)
The doubtful season of the brain's black weather
Blew through me, but you waited for its end.
My months were all named backwards till you showed me
That even the mind is not deceived for ever.
O in October it would be the blazoned
Leaves of the chestnut on the cobbled pavement:
And we would seek in the corridors of autumn
Denial of faith and of the summer's achievement.
And in the early year it was another
Sign of evasion when the poplars clattered
To sharpened ears above the metal river -
And I would turn to find your eyes were shuttered.
Even that almost parting on the stair
I could not understand, nor why the candles
Sprouted such flowers between our sculptured faces:
Nor why the river glinted in your hair.
O in July it was our love was started
Like any hare among the watchful grasses;
Its running is my song, my only song
How time turns back and the doubtful season passes.