Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sepia Saturday: Face of a Poet

Robert Graves 1895-1985
When a memorial was placed in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner on November 11, 1985, poet, translator, novelist, and critic Robert Graves was the only survivor of such World War I greats a Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. After a long and distinguished literary career, he died the following month. In her brief notes on him, Natalie Merchant introduced me to the young Robert Graves. My first experience with his writing was his book Greek Myths, and of course I, Claudius from Masterpiece Theatre. I have read his biography of T. E. Lawrence and translations of works I have taught, but I missed his children' s poetry. I must say, some of it is not exactly light hearted, but then not all of childhood is.


Lady, lovely lady,
Careless and gay!
Once when a beggar called
She gave her child away.

The beggar took the baby,
Wrapped it in a shawl,
"Bring her back," the lady said,
"Next time you call."

Hard by lived a vain man,
So vain and so proud,
He walked on stilts
To be seen by the crowd.

Up above the chimney pots,
Tall as a mast,
And all the people ran about
Shouting till he passed.

"A splendid match surely,
"Neighbours saw it plain,
"Although she is so careless,
Although he is so vain."

But the lady played bobcherry, *
Did not see or care,
As the vain man went by her
Aloft in the air.

This gentle-born couple
Lived and died apart.
Water will not mix with oil,
Nor vain with careless heart.
*A play among children, in which a cherry,
hung so as to bob against the mouth,
is to be caught with the teeth.
Graves was wounded so badly at the Battle of the Somme, he almost died. He and Sassoon were young officers in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (RWF). Wikipedia's biography is useful and informative! To hear Natalie Merchant's music set to this poem click here! From this official website, you may also select videos of several other pieces from her new CD. (See my post for June 7.)
For more Sepia Saturday posts click here.


Nana Jo said...

What an extraordinarily beautiful man he was! Thank you for this interesting story about his life. I have read both his and Wilfred Sassoon's poetry, but never before any childhood poems. I am a huge fan of Natalie Merchant, also.

I love the name of your blog, by the way! I'm glad to have connected with you today. Welcome to Sepia Saturday.

Poetikat said...

Love Natalie Merchant and to this day, "I Claudius" remains one of my favourite programs of all time. Who can forget John Hurt's Caligula?

willow said...

Who knew the young Robert Graves was so luscious and dewy? A most delicious Sepia Saturday treat!

Betsy said...

I love that picture of Robert Graves!
Your header is gorgeous...we have wisteria growing on our pergola. :)

alaine@éclectique said...

Thankfully he survived the Somme! Thank you for the links.

Derrick said...

Hi FireLight,

What a bright new look! And thanks for the chance to listen to Ms Merchant's music again and her use of the Graves' poem.

Natasha said...

What a handsome man and what a great poem and story about him.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

Very interesting post about someone I do not recall; thanks for introducing him, though I do recall I Claudius...a different children's poem and historic too

FireLight said...

Nana Jo, welcome to my little place in the blogosphere! I am so glad you came by. My post for Sepia Saturday two weeks ago, was the first one I have had in over a month...and it was a day late! Argghhh! I am not as faithful to this as many are, but it is a great project! Be sure to visit
my June 7th post on Natalie Merchant.
Poetikat, yes John Hurt was super...that production is such a classic! Good to see you! Thanks for stopping here!
Willow, you will find that bio interesting. He was a prolific writer. I am interested in the letters between him and Spike Miligan.
Betsy, I wish I could say that is my jasmine, but the photo was actually taken during Auburn's annual garden tour last month (more photos to appear here soon.) I especially asked my husband to take photos of all the jasmine he could find. I have a tiny starter vine that is just blooming as much as it can! I love the scent!
Alaine, the bio stated that he was so badly wound, his lung was punctured, that he had actually been reported killed! Good to see you here!
Derrick, I am so glad you are enjoying her music! And just when I thought I liked my new summer decorating...we have a new range of templates! I am so fickle when it comes to a "new look"! {{{{smiles}}}
Natasha, I am so glad you came by...a warm welcome and thank you!
Pat, thank YOU for coming here! I really enjoyed your post for this week.

Tom Atkins said...

Face of the poet indeed. I don't think I had ever seen his face, and as always when I finally see the picture of a writer, I am surprised. I wonder why they never look as I imagine them?

Christine H. said...

I'm so glad to read more about Graves. And thanks for reminding me that I need to put on that Natalie Merchant CD right now.

Nancy said...

I don't know this author. I'll have to look him up. Thanks for the introduction.

tony said...

I like both Natalie Merchant + Robert Graves but never knew of a connection.thank You for helping me join some dots!

L. D. Burgus said...

A great blog to honor and share about Mr. Graves.

cassandra said...

Mrs.Leonard I do not have your e-mail you can e-mail me at

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Recreational scholar, former high school and junior college English teacher. Animal lover (especially horses, dogs, and people), live in the South, sometimes poet and essayist... "Ireland, Scotland, Britain, and Wales...I can hear those ancient voices calling..." Van Morrison from Celtic Heartbeat