Saturday, 23 February 2013

West Bay Cliffs

The sea is wild this evening.
The moon is swept with cloud.
Below our feet, the life of forgotten ages
gloats at our transient nature, frozen in its stony night.
And the waves crash down to the stubborn jetty.

Come walk the cliffs with me, in the twilight loud!
Only, from the long line of spray
where the sea frets at the resisting land,
listen! you hear the grating roar
of pebbles which the waves draw back, and grind
them, stirring the certainties of form and order,
crash, stir up, throw, make mock of human structures
and settle down, with note of doom,
to eat away at England.

Hardy long ago
heard it on these shores, and it brought
against his hope of Progress
the knowledge of futility
of science bringing false hopes
of human divinity.

The Western World
was once, too, at the full, and above and below the sky
tamed nature - placed men on the moon.
But now I only hear
its startled, sharp, withdrawing roar,
retreating, as the shadows return
the certainties fall, the skies darken like the snow-cloud
hanging over these perilous cliffs.

Ah, love, let us be strong
for one another! for the world, which seems
to lie before us like a land of nightmare,
so uncertain, so frightening, so broken,
has really neither form, nor sense, nor reason,
nor science, nor hope, nor light for our sight.
And we stand on this crumbling cliff,
losing our footing as we feel the earth slide,
and we crash towards that merciless tide.


  1. The west is fading, just as faith was fading in Arnold's poem? Could be - how ironic. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!
    You're very interesting, I could talk to you for hours and hours.

    1. I believe OMD's album "The Pacific Age" got it about right. They probably assumed Japan, wrongly, of course.

      "It's spreading west / Like a speeding train / As the wheels slow down and we lose the game"

  2. My wife's school did an exchange with a school from Shanghai, and the Chinese kids who visited had exactly the same haircuts as their UK counterparts. They all went to Guildford on their last day and bought shoes. The young Chinese teacher who stayed with us was very sweet, she was fascinated by my wife's morning make-up routine. She said pizza restaurants were very hip in Shanghai and they ate them with knives and forks, just like we wrestle with chopsticks in Chinese restaurants - I didn't have the heart to tell her we just stuff pizza in our faces with our bare hands. She got very tense and defensive when I asked her about communism though, which was a bit weird. I felt I had to at least mention it.



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