The poems of Stevie Smith (1902-1971) remind me of those optical tricks like the witch illusion, that shifts as you look at it between hag and young girl. This poem, for example – is it eccentric to the point of daftness, or is it a very original, tender love lyric? I never quite make up my mind, but one way or another it has put a hook into my memory.
It was my bridal night I remember,
An old man of seventy-three
I lay with my young bride in my arms,
A girl with t.b.
It was wartime, and overhead
The Germans were making a particularly heavy raid on Hampstead.
What rendered the confusion worse, perversely
Our bombers had chosen that moment to set out for Germany.
Harry, do they ever collide?
I do not think it has ever happened,
Oh my bride, my bride.
Hi David, this is a favourite poem of mine as well, but there are two lines missing from the version shown above. The two lines, after ‘The Germans were making a particularly heavy raid on Hampstead’, should be ‘What rendered the confusion worse, perversely / Our bombers had chosen that moment to set out for Germany’. The two sets of bombers never colliding, I’m guessing, is a metaphor for their relationship and generational difference. I totally agree that Stevie Smith’s poems put a hook into your memory and you can’t always be sure why. And congratulations on your very impressive list of publications – Chatto & Windus and Peterloo Poets, very distinguished. You may not be David Sutton, the leader of Reading Council or David Sutton the footballer as you say in your introduction, but your achievements are the ones I’m most impressed by.
Ah, thanks for that, have updated the post. Makes a little more sense now! Glad you like the site.