Week 146: Canoe, by Keith Douglas

This was the first Keith Douglas poem I came across, and I was struck by its air of almost throwaway accomplishment masking a deep emotional lyricism.


Well, I am thinking this may be my last
summer, but cannot lose even a part
of pleasure in the old-fashioned art
of idleness. I cannot stand aghast

at whatever doom hovers in the background
while grass and buildings and the somnolent river
who know they are allowed to last for ever
exchange between them the whole subdued sound

of this hot time. What sudden fearful fate
can deter my shade wandering next year
from a return? Whistle, and I will hear
and come another evening when this boat

travels with you alone towards Iffley:
as you lie looking up for thunder again,
this cool touch does not betoken rain;
it is my spirit that kisses your mouth lightly.

Keith Douglas


7 thoughts on “Week 146: Canoe, by Keith Douglas

  1. Another great discovery of an excellent and moving piece of poetry. Thank you so much for your treasure trove.of remarkable lyrical voices.
    Michael K. Locher

  2. I have just read this after listening to the late Clive James. I know Iffley well for very poignant reasons. What a beautiful poem. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Stephanie. Yes, a beautiful poem, and certainly helped for me too by being tied to a particular location that I know well.

  3. I like “the whole subdued sound / of this hot time”. It uses some obvious words for describing a hot summer day but puts them together in a surprising way (well, it made me stop and stare for a second)?

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