Thursday, 9 April 2015

Keith Douglas: 'Caravan'

In a rather tired state, but still wanting to post something tonight, I thought I would share this poem written by Keith Douglas at the age of fifteen. It made an impression on me surpassed only by his much later work.

'Caravan' reminds me of the following: the song 'Secret Journey' by The Police, the poem 'The Disappearing Island' by Seamus Heaney, and some of the more allegorical work of Ursula Le Guin. 

CARAVAN (Keith Douglas)

Going beyond the gate they found these men
Sitting in the last light and regarding the great sun
With understanding. And one spoke to them presently,
Saying he had discovered the soul of music
At one time. And another said, that when 
The birds flow southwards, heading across the continent,

Then the wild sea, under the always rhythmic
Shutter of wingtips, only suggests to spent
Eyes slanting, the slope of green and mountainous moving
Country; familiar, only no priests in the cities
Handling the cold bronze, counting. The stones in panic
Chilled, the bright dust reflecting the heavens' faces.

Thus he revealed the perfect sources, the lost
Wisdom, seeing only the loved existent;
The clouds flying, Earth stretching in silence
Chameleon, the colours limited, dyes all lost.
All this he told them, speaking the tongue of the swallows.

But they not knowing the words, nor in his hands
Seeing the meaning, went thence over the sands.