Monday, 12 November 2012

'St Martin's Summer'

As swallows turning backward
When half-way o'er the sea,
At one word's trumpet summons
They came again to me -
The hopes I had forgotten
Came back again to me.

I know not which to credit,
O lady of my heart!
Your eyes that bade me linger,
Your words that bade us part -
I know not which to credit,
My reason or my heart.

But be my hopes rewarded,
Or be they but in vain,
I have dreamed a golden vision,
I have gathered in the grain -
I have dreamed a golden vision,
I have not lived in vain.

St Martin's Summer is the term for 'a period of unseasonably warm, fine weather occurring around Martinmas (11 November)'.  Metaphorically speaking, it's the meteorological equivalent of 'Lammas flush' - an unlooked-for return of happiness, a fulfilment of hope when all seems lost.  This is such a sweet poem, and reading it was one of the first things which made me realise what a wonderful, underrated poet Robert Louis Stevenson is - but it's since been balanced out in my mind by this poem, also by him, which has a more downbeat, realistic take on the 'birds returning from sea' imagery.  I can't find out from the internet which of them he wrote first, but it would be very interesting to know.


John Simlett said...

I know very little of RLS as a poet, perhaps I should take some time to read him as such.

Thank you for sharing.

Clerk of Oxford said...

I do recommend him! I've posted a fair number of his poems here over the past few years - I discovered his poetry by chance and since then have found lots of other people who aren't familiar with it...

Anonymous said...

Dear Clerk,
I should have probably written some comment a long time ago as I have been reading what you write fairly often for at least several months, but I have not written as I do not normally comment on blogs. The reason I write at the moment is to tell you how greatly I have appreciated your writing and your taking the time to put photographs writings and other details of your visits to various places and of your life and interests. I work and have interests in a similar field of studies although not precisely the same. Still I have learned a great amount and have been very delighted from reading about your work, seeing your traveling photographs and writings and reading the poetry. What you write is always appreciated and inspiring. At the moment I do not have a proper account or reference page so I am just leaving this anonymously. JML

Anonymous said...

What lovely songs on the blog entry that follows this one. Thank you for posting them. I know that they were written for a lover, but I see my younger sister's face when I hear them. She and her husband died 18 months ago. I have found your blog in the time since, and I am sorry that I can't share it with her and her husband, who was a student of ancient history at the University of Wales. I look forward to meeting you when the door will only let people in and not out...


Clerk of Oxford said...

JML - thank you. I'm not much of a commenter on blogs myself so I always appreciate it when people take the time to comment. I hope you continue to read and enjoy!

Heather - that idea of the door that 'opening, letting in, lets out no more' is very moving, isn't it? It speaks to all kinds of loss. I'm so sorry about your sister and her husband - I hope we will indeed meet in some future world.