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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Chidiock Tichborne Factor

One of the reasons I liked Paul Keegan’s 2000 Penguin Book of English Verse so much was that it was organised by poem rather than by poet. This left it ideally placed to cater for the Chidiock Tichborne factor, by which I mean writers (his name is so great I have to say it again: like Chidiock Tichborne) who do not acquire out-sized reputations, or leave great bodies of work, or become academic industries, but who nevertheless deserve to be remembered.

If this seems to suggest ‘obscure’, I’d also like to point out I mean writers who don’t have the instant Sillimanesque come-back that that’s the point, or that their non-school of quietude credo requires them not to appear, ever, in the wrong kind of anthology or be read by the wrong kind of person.


I mean the merely obscure rather than famously, self-exculpatingly, or self-congratulatingly obscure.

Andrew Waterhouse died in 2001, a suicide I’m sorry to say. He had just published his first book, In. A posthumous volume called 2nd has also appeared. I don’t see him appearing in too many anthologies, though I hope I’m wrong about this, and I can’t imagine Helen Vendler rushing to write about him any time soon. But he deserves to be remembered and read.

Here is a poem of his I like a lot called ‘The Man Who Gave Up Everything’:

As a protest against the situation
in the city, he severed a finger
and used it to point at the soldiers.
When the firewood ran out
he flayed himself and wrapped
small children and pets in his skin.
A memory of his birth was auctioned
for the benefit of the Christian Brothers.
The smell of his hair became a fragrance
sold in countries without forest.
I saw him smile for an artist
and stole his lips for my wife.
I heard him say love once
and took the word for myself.

In the self-conducted interview to be found in his second collection, the following exchange occurs:

AW: Do you want to ask me anything?
AW: No.

You can read more and buy his books here.

Just in case you’re wondering Chidiock Tichborne was a conspirator against Elizabeth I who wrote the following ‘Elegy’ before his execution in 1586:

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale was heard and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent and yet I am not old,
I saw the world and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I looked for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

1 comment:

Mark Granier said...

Thanks for that, I have ordered Waterhouse's book. Great poem on that website about the comet.