Week 290: To Norman Cameron 1905 – 1953, by James Reeves

Elegies tend to be sad by definition, but this one by James Reeves seems sadder than most in that it interweaves a lament for a dead poet friend with a lament for the drying up of his own poetic gift. The other figure in the poem, referred to in the fourth stanza, I would guess to be Robert Graves, who was friend to both Reeves and Cameron but had by this time long left England for Majorca.

To Norman Cameron 1905 – 1953

I asked the river-god a song
Wherewith to mourn your fallen head.
No answer: but a low wind crept
About the stones of his dry bed.

The fingers of insomnia
Turning the pages of self-hate
Are like the incurious wind that stirred
The papery reeds on that estate.

In other days I knew the god
Who flashed and chuckled in the sun.
Where has he taken now his moods
Of shadow and his sense of fun?

The requiem I might have had
From him you would have understood
Just as you also understood
How hard a thing it is, though good,

To hold your peace and wait your time
When there is nothing to be said.
I know it now: I knew you both,
But he is gone, and you are dead.

Even the wind has stopped; no sound
In this dull air is born to live;
So I my desperate silences
To you my friend and poet give.

James Reeves


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