Sunday Poetry – Sylvia Townsend Warner

Searching for a new poetry anthology after the last few weeks of Remembrance reading, I find I’m still drawn to women writers. I’ve been reading the VMC edition of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s short stories so I was inspired to pick up her Selected Poetry from the tbr shelves. I love this edition, isn’t it elegant? Carcanet do produce some lovely books. I’ve also been thinking about STW lately because I’ve discovered a new blog written by another kindred spirit, Furrowed Middlebrow. Scott lives in San Francisco & his blog is full of reviews of authors like Lucilla Andrews, Dorothy Whipple, Richmal Crompton and Sylvia Townsend Warner. He’s also addicted to buying books when he has nowhere to shelve them which makes him even more of a kindred spirit! Reading Scott’s review of Lolly Willowes made me want to reread it again but, as I’m reading several other books at the moment, I settled for some poetry instead.

This poem, A Woman out of a Dream, reminded me of Thomas Hardy with a touch of Keats’s La Belle Dame sans Merci. The collection has been edited by STW’s biographer, Claire Harman, & is in thematic rather than chronological order. So, I don’t know when it was written but it feels 1930s to me.

Why have you followed me so closely
Up hill and down dale,
And why in this onset of evening have you grow
So pale and so pale?

Why at the water’s edge do you linger
With imploring look,
And what are those words which you write with a straying finger
In the weltering brook?

Many and many are the clear streams
At which there is no slaking
One’s thirst, and many the passionate espousals of dreams
Broken in the waking.

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