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

4 thoughts on “Week 371: Keats at Teignmouth, by Charles Causley

  1. I love this poem by Charles Causley.It’s just so evocative and perenial in the way it conjures beautiful images of water, green and blue landscapes in my mind’s eye.

  2. Hi David, do you know why it says “crystal poet”? Simply because the speaker can look (or thinks he can look) into his body? Or is it a reference to one of Keats’ poems?

    • Hi Chris, I’ve always taken it simply as paying tribute to Keats’s poems as being lucid, durable, well-formed and, in the good sense, precious. I may be wrong, but I don’t think X-ray vision comes into it and I’m not aware of a connection with any particular poem.

  3. Hi David, thank you. Yes “precious” = “highly esteemed or cherished” certainly makes sense. And his style does have some of the qualities of crystal. Eg it sparkles?

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