Modern Poetry: Studies in Practical Criticism

By C. B. Cox; A. E. Dyson | Go to book overview
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12
POEM FOR ELSA

by Michael Roberts

THAT day the blue-black rook fell pitifully dead
You wept and stormed, tossing your lovely head,
Hurling commiseration into broken skies
That wept and wept, vainly as any eyes.

You pitifully wept, nor would be comforted
Till a bedraggled robin chirped unfed
Begging for comfort-crumbs, and sought your aid
To mend a world you had not made.

You who compassionately wept, be with me still,
Though the wind lash the dark, the wooded hill;
The hand that let the wild wet creature ache
Moulded the heart that grieves, but shall not break.

This is a 'simple' poem in a double sense; it is easy to understand, and there is no tension of contraries in the mood. The movement is lyrical and tender. Michael Roberts's talent is of that civilised and sensitive kind which has produced much of the very best minor verse in all ages: often 'minor' seems too grudging a word, as it does if applied, without qualification, to the poem before us now. The fact is that Michael Roberts is much less well known to present-day readers than he ought to be, partly through his own modesty when editing The Faber Book Of Modern Verse. He left himself out of it, for reasons one can respect but also regret. Though he is not as good a poet as Auden and MacNeice, and not as good most of the time as Spender, it is very possible to think of him in the same general terms as

-109-

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