Following his post on Andrew Young, Stephen introduces another overlooked poet…
James Reeves (1909-1978) devoted his life to poetry — as a poet, an editor, an anthologist, a teacher, and a critic. But his devotion was a quiet one. Hence, his poetry does not receive the attention that it deserves. I urge you to seek it out, for I believe that you will find it rewarding. The poems below may all be found in his Collected Poems: 1929-1974 (Heinemann 1974).
Things to Come
The shadow of a fat man in the moonlight
Precedes me on the road down which I go;
And should I turn and run, he would pursue me:
This is the man whom I must get to know.
To put the following poem in context, it may be helpful to know that it was written by Reeves after the death of his wife Mary (1910-1966). He dedicated his Collected Poems to her.
To Not Love
One looked at life in the prince style, shunning pain.
Now one has seen too much not to fear more.
Apprehensive, it seems, for all one loves,
One asks only to not love, to not love.
Happy the quick-eyed lizard that pursues
Its creviced zigzag race
Amid the epic ruins of a temple
Leaving no trace.
Happy the weasel in the moonlit churchyard
Twisting a vibrant thread
Of narrow life between the mounds that hide
The important dead.
Close to the complex fabric of their world
The small beasts live who shun
The spaces where the huge ones bellow, fight,
And snore in the sun.
How admirable the modest and the frugal,
The small, the neat, the furtive.
How troublesome the mammoths of the world,
Gross and assertive.
Happy should we live in the interstices
Of a declining age,
Even while the impudent masters of decision
Trample and rage.
Dwell in some decent corner of your being,
Where plates are orderly set and talk is quiet,
Not in its devious crooked corridors
Nor in its halls of riot.