Week 8: Through Nightmare, by Robert Graves

Through Nightmare

Never be disenchanted of
That place you sometimes dream yourself into,
Lying at large remove beyond all dream,
Or those you find there, though but seldom
In their company seated –

The untameable, the live, the gentle.
Have you not known them? Whom? They carry
Time looped so river-wise about their house
There’s no way in by history’s road
To name or number them.

In your sleepy eyes I read the journey
Of which disjointedly you tell; which stirs
My loving admiration, that you should travel
Through nightmare to a lost and moated land
Who are timorous by nature.

Robert Graves

Back in nineteen sixty-nine I met Robert Graves in London, and we were leafing through his newly published ‘Poems About Love’ together. I remember lighting on ‘Through Nightmare’, long a favourite of mine for the haunting otherworldly quality of that second stanza, and saying, with the cheerful patronage of the young, ‘This is very good, you know’. He smiled a pleased but slightly ironic smile; coming to think of it, he probably did know…


3 thoughts on “Week 8: Through Nightmare, by Robert Graves

  1. Those late poems of his – how did he do that??? They’re neither ‘free verse’, nor ‘blank verse’, nor formal verse in any formulaic sense. They seem perfectly formed yet utterly at ease, casual, conversational. Talk about art concealing art…..it reminds me of an anecdote about Bohuslav Martinu, after the premiere of his ‘Fantaisies Symphonique’ in 1956. He is reported to have said: “there’s something holding it all together, but I don’t know what it is!”

    • Thanks for your comments. Yes, in ‘The Crowning Privilege’ Graves talks about a ‘poetic state of grace’, when the poet is concerned only with the truth of what is being said and wants nothing beyond that; I wouldn’t think myself in terms of a Muse but I would say that sometimes one seems to get help from something beyond oneself, as he certainly believed.

      The ‘Birkett’s Eagle’ poem is indeed stunning, and seems to be a one-off as far as I can discover.

      I will add ‘Cool Medium’ to my featured poems if you esteem it!

  2. Greetings! I’ve been reading your website for some time
    now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from
    Huffman Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the good job!

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