I had the greatest lexicographic moment of my life when I looked up the word ‘cromlech’ after reading this poem.

The Cromlech

From trivia of froth and pollen
White tufts in the rabbit warren
And every minute like a thicket
Nicked and dropped, nicked and dropped,
Extracters and abstracters ask
What emerges, what survives,
And once the stopper is unstopped
What was the essence in the flask
and what is Life apart from lives
And where, apart from fact, the value

To which we answer, being naive,
Wearing the world upon our sleeve,
That to dissect a given thing
Unravelling its complexity
Outrages its simplicity
For essence is not merely core
And each event implies the world,
A centre needs periphery.

This being so, at times at least
Granted the sympathetic pulse
And granted the perceiving eye
Each pregnant with a history,
Appearance and appearances—
In spite of the philosophers
With their jejune dichotomies—
Can be at times reality.

So Tom and Tessy holding hands
(Dare an abstraction steal a kiss?)
Cannot be generalized away,
Reduced by bleak analysis
To pointers demonstrating laws
Which drain the colour from the day;
Not mere effects of a crude cause
But of themselves significant,
To run-of-brain recalcitrant,
This that they are and do is This…

Tom is here, Tessy is here
At this point in a given year
With all this hour’s accessories,
A given glory—and to look
That gift-horse in the mouth will prove
Or disprove nothing of their love
Which is as sure intact a fact,
Though young and supple, as what stands
Obtuse and old, in time congealed,
Behind them as they mingle hands—
Self-contained, unexplained,
The cromlech in the clover field.

One response to “Lexicographic”

  1. I think you were dead on with your previous comment about MacNeice’s mastery of sound. His poems just scream to be read aloud. He mixes marvelous rhythm and texture here (“Unravelling its complexity / Outrages its simplicity”), but the poem is not merely sound. He actually says something, and says it rather well. Dare an abstraction steal a kiss? It is the particular we value, not the abstraction, not the ideal. I stumbled to say something along these lines before; I am humbled to find the idea so clearly and artfully expressed. Thanks for posting this.

    [Also, apologies are in order for pushing your post one further down the page. It simply couldn’t be helped. I didn’t sleep a wink last night, and may never sleep again. The waking world is far too wonderful.]

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