Sunday 5 April 2020

Black Jack and Black Tom

I posted a couple of weeks ago that I had downloaded 'All Eyes on the Rio Grande', a novel about the US Punitive Expedition into Mexico in 1916, and was expecting it to be an entertaining read. In fact it was terrible: no plot, no sense of place or time, no humour, no nothing really. I sincerely hope that no one else was tempted by me mentioning it.

Black Andy

On a higher literary level is the work of Andrew Marvell.  David in Suffolk (and you should check out his newish blog if you haven't already found it for yourselves) asked following this recent post here if Marvell wrote a poem comparing an army to a garden. I don't know much about Marvell's poetry and it's not the sort of thing that I would read for pleasure. To understand it properly you would need to know more about the political and religious schisms of the seventeenth century than I do, not to mention have a grounding in the works of the classical Roman poets of the type not often featuring in the modern education system. There is a good reason that his work is mainly known through quotations like the one that I used. However, I do have a suggestion as to which might be the poem he's thinking of, namely 'Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax'. The only reason I know the piece at all is because I used to work somewhere mentioned in it, although as I've had several dozen jobs that could apply to lots of poems. Anyway, verse 10 (or verse x as they called it in Marvell's day) starts with the lines:

Him Bishops-Hill, or Denton may,
Or Bilbrough, better hold than they:

Denton - which is a few kilometres up the valley from where I am currently locked down; across on the other side of the river - was the Fairfax family's estate and was the birthplace of the Lord Fairfax to whom the poem is dedicated, and who was of course the commander-in-chief of the Parliamentary forces during the Civil War. The current building on the site is from the late eighteenth century and is now the headquarters of a large engineering company of which I was once Group CFO. Indeed it was while working there that I first became aware that Ilkley was such a hotbed of wargaming and thus made contact with the Ilkley Lads; the rest is history.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for suggesting the poem, and thank you also for mentioning my blog - I had better get the next post up!

    On the poetry, back in the 80s I did an evening class English 'A' Level , and the poetry module was on the metaphysicals - as a complete poetry novice I think it wasn't my strong point. But it did introduce me to Donne, Marvell etc, and I was already interested in the 17th Century thanks to wargaming, which may have helped. I think some of the poets navigated a tricky political course at the time?
    Then some years later I'm sure I heard excerpts from this one on the radio, most likely on 'Poetry Please' on Radio 4 - it was at the start of a long end-of-holiday drive (remember those? Holidays! Driving?! ), and somehow stuck in my mind. But this was pre-google, so there it stayed until you jogged my memory.
    So, many thanks again, I have now found the text online, and noted that it has 97 stanzas (!) - perhaps a lockdown is the appropriate time attempt it..