Friday, June 01, 2007

Poetry Friday: "Caedmon"

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Here is a poem by Denise Levertov about one of my favorite saints, Caedmon of Whitby. Had my daughter been a boy, my son's name would have been Caedmon (probably).

Caedmon

All others talked as if
talk were a dance.
Clodhopper I, with clumsy feet
would break the gliding ring.
Early I learned to
hunch myself
close by the door:
then when the talk began
I’d wipe my
mouth and wend
unnoticed back to the barn
to be with the warm beasts,
dumb among body sounds
of the simple ones.
I’d see by a twist
of lit rush the motes
of gold moving
from shadow to shadow
slow in the wake
of deep untroubled sighs.
The cows
munched or stirred or were still. I
was at home and lonely,
both in good measure. Until
the sudden angel affrighted me—light effacing
my feeble beam,
a forest of torches, feathers of flame, sparks upflying:
but the cows as before
were calm, and nothing was burning,
nothing but I, as that hand of fire
touched my lips and scorched my tongue
and pulled my voice
into the ring of the dance.

--from Breathing the Water. Copyright 1987 by Denise Levertov.

7 comments:

Lady K said...

How would one pronounce "Caedmon?" Curiouser and curiouser.

You are SO right in that "we can lose people's creations so easily," whether it's in literature or any other art form.

I LOVE that you bring me back to "the saints," and that you're bringing some of my roots back to life.

Thanks for the kind words on my blog. But BRAVE? I really WAS starting to think I was becoming a little coward. Big hugs. Thanks for the inspiration! xoxoxo!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Lady K-- I'd pronounced it Cade-mon, which is how it would be in the Old English, rather than Cad-man, which is more modern. I'm glad I didn't have a boy for the simple fact that I kept thinking, "The dipthong is going to trip people up for all of his life." Maybe we would have named our boy something else eventually, but Lucia likes to refer to Caedmon as her "boy name."

Yes, you are brave. So there!

Fridaysweb said...

Lady K asked the pronunciation question, first. I'm glad you clarified, for I was about to scour the internet for it.

Alkelda, I think you're pretty brave, too. I know a little about what you've gone through over the last few years and I see that you overcome it all with a smile and lots and lots of extra hugs.

HipWriterMama said...

Thanks Lady K for asking the pronunciation question as I was going to ask the exact same question. I like the Cade-mon pronounciation.

Lone Star Ma said...

Such an amazingly gorgeous poem. Remember when you wrote poetry? The ones you showed me were exquisite for one so young. I could totally see you writing a book of saint poetry! (I know, I know, - you don't want to - I'm just saying I could see it (:)

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

LSM: I do remember when I wrote poetry. I may have been a prodigy, but I don't think it translated so well into my adult life. I wrote lots of poetry in college, but then I went through a long, dry period. On the other end, my poems tend toward the lyrical. A book of poetry about the saints would be lovely, but I don't think I'll be the one to write it. You never know, though. There's a booklet of poetry called The Hare that Hides Within, and it's all about St. Melangell of Wales.

cloudscome said...

That is a really lovely poem. I like how the cows are contrasted with the burning angel - the holy is revealed by their calm munching.

my favorite lines:

"I
was at home and lonely,
both in good measure."

"a forest of torches, feathers of flame, sparks upflying"

I like the name story too. Amazing ,the names we could have had...