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Whipperginny

Whipperginny
Category: English poetry
Title: Whipperginny
Release Date: 2019-01-07
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 81
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WHIPPERGINNY

WHIPPERGINNY

BY
ROBERT GRAVES



NEW YORK
ALFRED A. KNOPF : MCMXXIII
{iv}

TO
EDWARD MARSH

Printed in Great Britain
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AUTHOR’S NOTE

The poems in this volume cover a period of three years, beginning at theNew Year of 1920, except for the rhymes “Henry and Mary,” “What did Idream?” and “Mirror, Mirror!” with parts of “An English Wood,” “The BedPost” and of “Unicorn and the White Doe,” which are bankrupt stock of1918, the year in which I was writing Country Sentiment. The PierGlass, a volume which followed Country Sentiment, similarly containsa few pieces continuing the mood of this year, the desire to escape froma painful war neurosis into an Arcadia of amatory fancy, but theprevailing mood of The Pier Glass is aggressive and disciplinary,under the stress of the same neurosis, rather than escapist.Whipperginny for a while continues so, but in most of the later pieceswill be found evidences of greater detachment in the poet and theappearance of a new series of problems in religion, psychology andphilosophy, no less exacting than their predecessors, but, it may besaid, of less emotional intensity. The “Interlude” in the middle of thebook was written before the appearance of these less lyrical pieces, butmust be read as an apology for the book being now even less homogeneousthan before. To those who demand unceasing emotional stress in poetry atwhatever cost to the poet—I was one of these myself until recently—Ihave no apology to offer; but only this proverb from the Chinese, thatthe petulant{vi} protests of all the lords and ladies of the ImperialCourt will weigh little with the whale when, recovering from his painfulexcretory condition, he need no longer supply the Guild of HonourablePerfumers with their accustomed weight of ambergris.

ROBERT GRAVES.

The World’s End,
Islip.

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CONTENTS

 PAGE
Whipperginny1
The Bedpost2
A Lover since Childhood4
Song of Contrariety5
The Ridge-Top6
Song in Winter7
Unicorn and the White Doe8
Sullen Moods11
A False Report13
Children of Darkness14
Richard Roe and John Doe15
The Dialecticians16
The Lands of Whipperginny17
“The General Elliott”18
A Fight to the Death20
Old Wives’ Tales21
Christmas Eve23
The Snake and the Bull24
The Red Ribbon Dream27
In Procession29
Henry and Mary34
An English Wood35
Mirror, Mirror!36
What did I dream?37
Interlude: On Preserving a Poetical Formula38
A History of Peace39
The Rock Below40
An Idyll of Old Age42
The Lord Chamberlain tells of a Famous Meeting44
The Sewing Basket48
Against Clock and Compasses51
The Avengers52
On the Poet’s Birth53
The Technique of Perfection54
The Sibyl56
A Crusader57
A New Portrait of Judith of Bethulia58
A Reversal59
The Martyred Decadents: a Sympathetic Satire60
Epigrams
      On Christopher Marlowe 62
      A Village Conflict62
      Dedicatory62
      To R. Graves, Senior63
      “A Vehicle, to wit, a Bicycle”63
      Motto to a Book of Emblems63
The Bowl and Rim64
A Forced Music66
The Turn of a Page67
The Manifestation in the Temple68
To Any Saint70
A Dewdrop71
A Valentine72

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WHIPPERGINNY
(“A card game, obsolete.”—Standard Dictionary.)

To cards we have recourse
When Time with cruelty runs,
To courtly Bridge for stress of love,
To Nap for noise of guns.
On fairy earth we tread,
No present problems vex
Where man’s four humours fade to suits,
With red and black for sex.
Where phantom gains accrue
By tricks instead of cash,
Where pasteboard federacies of Powers
In battles-royal clash.
Then read the antique word
That hangs above this page
As type of mirth-abstracted joy,
Calm terror, noiseless rage,
A realm of ideal thought,
Obscured by veils of Time,
Cipher remote enough to stand
As namesake for my rhyme,
A game to play apart
When all but crushed with care;
Let right and left, your jealous hands,
The lists of love prepare.
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THE BEDPOST

Sleepy Betsy from her pillow
Sees the post and ball
Of her sister’s wooden bedstead
Shadowed on the wall.
Now this grave young warrior standing
With uncovered head
Tells her stories of old battle,
As she lies in bed.
How the Emperor and the Farmer,
Fighting knee to knee,
Broke their swords but whirled their scabbards
Till they gained the sea.
How the ruler of that shore
Foully broke his oath,
Gave them beds in his sea cavern,
Then stabbed them both.
How the daughters of the Emperor,
Diving boldly through,
Caught and killed their father’s murderer,
Old Cro-bar-cru.
How the Farmer’s sturdy sons
Fought the giant Gog,
Threw him into Stony Cataract
In the land of Og.
Will and Abel were their names,
Though they went by others;
He could tell ten thousand stories
Of these lusty brothers.{3}
How the Emperor’s elder daughter
Fell in love with Will,
And went with him to the Court of Venus
Over Hoo Hill;
How Gog’s wife encountered Abel
Whom she hated most,
Stole away his arms and helmet,
Turned him to a post.
As a post he shall be rooted
For yet many years,
Until a maiden shall release him
With a fall of tears.
But Betsy likes the bloodier stories,
Clang and clash of fight,
And Abel wanes with the spent candle,
“Sweetheart, good-night!”
{4}

A LOVER SINCE CHILDHOOD

Tangled in thought am I,
Stumble in speech do I?
Do I blunder and blush for the reason why?
Wander aloof do I,
Lean over gates and sigh,
Making friends with the bee and the butterfly?
If thus and thus I do,
Dazed by the thought of you,
Walking my sorrowful way in the early dew,
My heart cut through and through
In this despair for you,
Starved for a word or a look will my hope renew;
Give then a thought for me
Walking so miserably,
Wanting relief in the friendship of flower or tree;
Do but remember, we
Once could in love agree,
Swallow your pride, let us be as we used to be.
{5}

SONG OF CONTRARIETY

Far away is close at hand,
Close joined is far away,
Love might come at your command
Yet will not stay.
At summons of your dream-despair
She could not disobey,
But slid close down beside you there
And complaisant lay.
Yet now her flesh and blood consent
In waking hours of day,
Joy and passion both are spent,
Fading clean away.
Is the presence empty air,
Is the spectre clay,
That Love, lent substance by despair,
Wanes, and leaves you lonely there
On the bridal day?
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THE RIDGE-TOP

Below the ridge a raven flew
And we heard the lost curlew
Mourning out of sight below;
Mountain tops were touched with snow;
Even the long dividing plain
Showed no wealth of sheep or grain,
But fields of boulders lay like corn
And raven’s croak was shepherd’s horn
To slow cloud shadow strayed across
A pasture of thin heath and moss.
The North Wind rose; I saw him press
With lusty force against your dress,
Moulding your body’s inward grace,
And streaming off from your set face;
So now no longer flesh and blood,
But poised in marble thought you stood,
O wingless Victory, loved of men,
Who could withstand your triumph then?
{7}

SONG IN WINTER

The broken spray left hanging
Can hold his dead leaf longer
Into your glum November
Than this live twig tossed shivering
By your East Wind anger.
Unrepentant, hoping Spring,
Flowery hoods of glory hoping,
Carelessly I sing,
With envy none for the broken spray
When the Spring comes, fallen away.
{8}

UNICORN AND THE WHITE DOE

“Alone
Through forests evergreen,
By legend known,
By no eye seen,
Unmated,
Unbaited,
Untrembling between
The shifting shadows,
The sudden echoes,
Deathless I go
Unheard, unseen,”
Says the White Doe.
Unicorn with bursting heart
Breath of love hath drawn
On his desolate crags apart
At rumour of dawn;
Has volleyed forth his pride
Twenty thousand years mute,
Tossed his horn from side to side,
Lunged with his foot.
“Like a storm of sand I run
Breaking the desert’s boundaries,
I go in hiding from the sun
In thick shade of trees.
Straight was the track I took
Across the plains, but here with briar
And mire the tangled alleys crook,
Baulking desire.{9}
And there, what glinted white?
(A bough still shakes.)
What was it darted from my sight
Through the forest brakes?
Where are you fled from me?
I pursue, you fade;
I run, you hide from me
In the dark glade.
Towering straight the trees grow,
The grass grows thick.
Where you are I do not know,
You fly so quick.”
“Seek me not here
Lodged among mortal deer,”
Says the White Doe;
“Keeping one place
Held by the ties of Space,”
Says the White Doe.
“I
Equally
In air
Above your bare
Hill crest, your basalt lair,
Mirage-reflected drink
At the clear pool’s brink;
With tigers at play
In the glare of day
Blithely I stray;
Under shadow of myrtle
With Phœnix and his Turtle
For all time true;
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