Week 371: Keats at Teignmouth, by Charles Causley

An early poem by Charles Causley – in fact the first in his ‘Collected Poems’ – but showing already his very distinctive style and his mastery of ballad rhythms. I think you have to be careful when deploying a colourful and idiosyncratic diction like Causley’s – the words in a poem should be there primarily to draw attention to what the poem is about and only secondarily to themselves – but at least you are never going to mistake Causley’s work for anyone else’s.

Keats At Teignmouth – Spring 1818

By the wild sea-wall I wandered
Blinded by the salting sun,
While the sulky Channel thundered
Like an old Trafalgar gun.

And I watched the gaudy river
Under trees of lemon-green,
Coiling like a scarlet bugle
Through the valley of the Teign.

When spring fired her fusilladoes
Salt-spray, sea-spray on the sill,
When the budding scarf of April
Ravelled on the Devon hill.

Then I saw the crystal poet
Leaning on the old sea-rail;
In his breast lay death, the lover,
In his head, the nightingale.

Charles Causley

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