Half Way to Sleep

Song Cycle by Peter Charles Arthur Wishart (1921 - 1984)

?. She tells her love [sung text not yet checked]

She tells her love while half asleep
 [ ... ]


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?. New legends 

Content in you
 . . . . . . . . . .

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  • by Robert Graves (1895 - 1985), "New legends", from Collected Poems, first published 1938, copyright ©

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?. Henry and Mary 

Henry was a young king
 . . . . . . . . . .

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?. The bedpost [sung text not yet checked]

Sleepy Betsy from her pillow
  Sees the post and ball
Of her sister's wooden bedstead
  Shadowed on the wall.

Now this grave young warrior standing
  With uncovered head
Tells her stories of old battle
  As she lies in bed:

How the Emperor and the Farmer
  Fighting knee to knee,
Broke their swords but whirled their scabbards
  Till they gained the sea.

How the ruler of that shore
  Foully broke his oath,
Gave them beds in his sea cave,
  Then stabbed them both.

How the daughters of the Emperor,
  Diving boldly through,
Caught and killed their father's murderer,
  Old Cro-bar-cru.

How the Farmer's sturdy sons
  Fought the Giant Gog,
Threw him into Stony Cataract
  In the land of Og.

Will and Abel were their names,
  Though they went by others:
He could tell ten thousand stories
  Of these lusty brothers.

How the Emperor's elder daughter
  Fell in love with Will
And went with him to the Court of Venus
  Over Hoo Hill;

How Gog's wife encountered Abel
  Whom she hated most,
Stole away his arms and helmet,
  Turned him to a post.

As a post he shall stay rooted
  For yet many years,
Until a maiden shall release him
  With pitying tears.

But Betsy likes the bloodier stories,
  Clang and clash of fight,
And Abel wanes with the spent candle --
  "Sweetheart, good-night!"


First published in London Mercury, September 1921

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

?. In procession [sung text not yet checked]

 This piece was written a few weeks after the 
remainder of the book: I had no cold-blooded
intention of summarizing the paradox of 
poetic Arrogance contained in the last section, but 
so it happened, and I print it here. 

Donne (for example's sake) 
Keats, Marlowe, Spenser, Blake, 
Shelley and Milton, 
Shakespeare and Chaucer, Skelton 
I love them as I know them, 
But who could dare outgo them 
At their several arts 
At their particular parts 
Of wisdom, power and knowledge? 
In the Poet's College 
Are no degrees nor stations, 
Comparisons, rivals, 
Stern examinations, 
Class declarations, 
Senior survivals; 
No creeds, religions, nations 
Combatant together 
With mutual damnations. 
Or tell me whether 
Shelley's hand could take 
The laurel wreath from Blake? 
Could Shakespeare make the less 
Chaucer's goodliness? 

The poets of old 
Each with his pen of gold 
Gloriously writing 
Found no need for fighting, 
In common being so rich; 
None need take the ditch, 
Unless this Chaucer beats 
That Chaucer, or this Keats 
With other Keats is flyting: 
See Donne deny Donne's feats, 
Shelley take Shelley down, 
Blake snatch at his own crown. 
Without comparison aiming high, 
Watching with no jealous eye, 
A neighbour's renown, 
Each in his time contended 
But with a mood late ended, 
Some manner now put by, 
Or force expended, 
Sinking a new well when the old ran dry. 
So, like my masters, I 
Voice my ambition loud, 
In prospect proud, 
Treading the poet's road, 
In retrospect most humble 
For I stumble and tumble,
I spill my load.

But often half-way to sleep, 
On a mountain shagged and steep, 
The sudden moment on me comes 
With terrible roll of dream drums, 
Reverberations, cymbals, horns replying, 
When with standards flying, 
A cloud of horsemen behind, 
The coloured pomps unwind 
The Carnival wagons 
With their saints and their dragons 
On the screen of my teeming mind, 
The Creation and Flood 
With our Saviour's Blood 
And fat Silenus' flagons, 
With every rare beast 
From the South and East, 
Both greatest and least, 
On and on, 
In endless variable procession. 
I stand on the top rungs 
Of a ladder reared in the air 
And I speak with strange tongues 
So the crowds murmur and stare, 
Then volleys again the blare 
Of horns, and Summer flowers 
Fly scattering in showers, 
Ami Ae Sun rolls in the sky, 
While the drums thumping by 
Proclaim me, . . . 

Oh then, when I wake 
Could I recovering take 
And propose on this page 
The words of my rage 
And my blandishing speech 
Steadfast and sage, 
Could I stretch and reach 
The flowers and the ripe fruit 
Laid out at the ladder's foot, 
Could I rip a silken shred 
From the banner tossed ahead, 
Could I call a double flam 
From the drums, could the Goat 
Horned with gold, could the Ram 
With a flank like a barn-door 
The dwarf and blackamoor, 
Could Jonah and the Whale
And the Holy Grail
With the "Sacking of Rome"
And "Lot at his home"
The Ape with his platter, 
Going clitter-clatter, 
The Nymphs and the Satyr, 
And every other such matter 
Come before me here 
Standing and speaking clear 
With a "how do ye do?" 
And "who are ye, who?" 
Could I show them to you 
That you saw them with me, 
Oh then, then I could be 
The Prince of all Poetry 
With never a peer, 
Seeing my way so clear 
To unveil mystery. 
Telling you of land and sea 
Of Heaven blithe and free, 
How I know there to be 
Such and such Castles built in Spain, 
Telling also of Cockaigne 
Of that glorious kingdom, Cand 
Of the Delectable Land, 
The Land of Crooked Stiles, 
The Fortunate Isles, 
Of the more than three score miles 
That to Babylon lead, 
A pretty city indeed 
Built on a foursquare plan, 
Of the land of the Gold Man 
Whose eager horses whinney 
In their cribs of gold, 
Of the lands of Whipperginny 
Of the land where none grow old. 
Especially I could tell 
Of the Town of Hell, 
A huddle of dirty woes 
And houses in endless rows 
Straggling across all space; 
Hell has no market place, 
Nor point where four ways meet, 
Nor principal street, 
Nor barracks, nor Town Hall, 
Nor shops at all, 
Nor rest for weary feet ? 
Nor theatre, square or park, 
Nor lights after dark 
Nor churches nor inns, 
Nor convenience for sins, 
Hell nowhere begins, 
Hell nowhere ends, 
But over the world extends 
Rambling, dreamy, limitless, hated well: 
The suburbs of itself, I say, is Hell 
But back to the sweets 
Of Spenser and Keats 
And the calm joy that greets 
The chosen of Apollo! 
Here let me mope, quirk, holloa 
With a gesture that meets 
The needs that I follow 
In my own fierce way, 
Let me be grave-gay 
Or merry-sad, 
Who rhyming here have had 
Marvellous hope of achievement 
And deeds of ample scope, 
Then deceiving and bereavement 
Of this same hope. 


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
Total word count: 1079