A Day’s Riding
The long afternoons still heavy with heat,
the forests begin their turning: multi-coloured
through shades of gold and brown. In the warm breeze
the labouring crows ascend, calling to
each other, their voices remote. Empty plains
a-shimmer with somnolent mirage, the men drowse
on horseback, horses half asleep. Nothing
for miles on miles but hill and plain. The mind
dreams; the senses merge; desire smooths
the starker images in semblances
where memory wanders unopposed and dappled.
They seem to hear the movement of the sea,
slow long rollers advancing up the shore
as day wears on. Before they know it, they pace
in silver moonlight, faces and thighs quite white,
ghost riders of myth, into the night.
Published on February 18, 2011, at author’s YouTube channel brychar66.
This poem was literally plucked out of the air. I was reading one of Conn Iggulden’s wonderful ‘Emperor’ series and he was describing Roman cavalry riding over a great distance and I immediately saw them and felt what they were feeling, as if I were one of them. I just grabbed the nearest piece of paper and wrote out this poem, as it is, no rewriting, no honing, no intensive labour. To be honest, most of my poetry is written in this manner. Later Latin critics used to complain of poetry that, as they put it, ‘smelled of the lamp’ – that had been intricately and exhaustively mulled over in the early hours for the very best effect – and a great deal of the poetry written in my time (although not by me I hope!) has this effect. The classical Chinese poets always did their best to avoid this laboured impression. I knocked off a poem when I was young which said:
I have heard that Li Po
writes poems just to throw
them where the waters flow.
What a wonderful plan!
They drift away and man
can’t see them. Burn my fan!
(Referring to the fact that poems were occasionally inscribed on fans.)
4 June 2021