.

While Waiting Through the Night

This morning, searching on the laptop, I
Found notes I made upon the night she died.
All through the darkest hours at her bedside
That night I knew she knew her end was nigh.
And in the morning light though she would lie
There still, at peace, in death so dignified,
Between us both a gulf would open wide
When she had gone, while I would wonder why.

And she would still be lying alongside
And I would look at her. She could not see.
And I would speak. She could not answer me.
And I would hope. She could not hear my plea.
And still she lay there, silent and dry-eyed,
And there was I still grieving by her side.

.

.

She Left Her Home

She left her home, career, her life for me.
We heeded not and little cared how deep
The gulf between us yawned. A massive leap
Of faith, how wide a chasm could it be?
She seldom of her nature let me see
When she was tried or found it hard to keep
Her even tenor. Whirlwinds might she reap
Nor make complaint to others or to me.

I mind sometimes I was unkind to her.
Henceforth I shall deserve her loyal care.
Why let her go because she ceased to be,
To leave forever all but memory?
I took her hand in mine and now I know
I wish that I had never let it go.

.

.

Though Nearly Midsummer

Though nearly midsummer it is so why,
Deep in the forest, is there no bird song?
The shadows linger longer here among
The leaves, no gold or copper to defy
The fulsome green dye seen like stained glass high
Above. Where is the goldcrest? Where the throng
Of crossbills? Where the morning haze and long
Bright days ablaze with light and summer sky?

In all this cloying verdure nature’s pledge
Of fruitfulness next year; in every flower
That falls the bud of next year’s growth; in sedge
And pondweed shrivelled at the water’s edge
New life; in every bower the latent power
Of life renews with light, sunshine and shower.

.

.

Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK.


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33 Responses

  1. Paul Freeman

    The first two sonnets are very visceral and very intense. Using the word ‘laptop’ in the first line of While Waiting Through the Night places the first sonnet as contemporary and gives the reader a whole new perspective.

    As for the third sonnet, who isn’t a sucker for a nature poem.

    Thanks for three fine reads, Peter.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Paul – Thank you for your kind comment and your appreciative remarks. It went very much against the grain for me to use the word ”laptop” in a poem at all, as I used the words “mobile ‘phone” in “Reinigeadal” 6th Feb, 2019. (The date is etched on my skull). It isn’t any objection to the 20th, 21st centuries per se, but it seems so much easier to be picturesque when describing the grinding poverty of an earlier age, for example, to remember that their houses had thatched roofs and dirt roads between them where today those same people strive to survive in repulsive inner-city sink estates in faceless glass and concrete flats. And I like poetry to be picturesque. I have succumbed to the laptop, by the way, but not yet the mobile ‘phone!

      Reply
      • Paul Freeman

        I have a diddy Nokia for the workplace, but had to buy a larger, more modern mobile phone for working from home. I really am not a fan of mobiles, though.

  2. Yael

    That’s some mighty fine poetry and I enjoyed reading it, thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Paul -another knock-on effect of COVID-19: your having to buy a bigger mobile. This plague will change the lives of us all permanently and I can see people in the future being unable to get out of their jimjams in the morning or get out of the habit of drinking 40 cups of coffee a day or get used to smoking outside again.

      Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Yael – I’m very glad you enjoyed reading these three little offerings, especially when it looks as though they were expressly designed to make you miserable, well, two of them at any rate. But even the darkness of the forest seems of more note than the renaissance of the year and its maturity in summer.

      Reply
  3. James A. Tweedie

    Peter,

    The Midsummer poem is a good example of what I like to call “self-polishing,” meaning it seems to get better as it goes along until, by the time it arrives at the closing sestet it shines like tumbled agate. So much poetry starts off with a bang and wilts away until it dies with a whimper. Much more satisfying are poems such as this that finish strong.

    Unfortunately the western United States is in the midst of a summer of record high temperatures and severe drought. The phrase, “pondweed shrivelled at the water’s edge” is the way it is in many places, including spite at Oregon where an ongoing fire has already covered an area more than half the area of the state of Rhode Island.

    Hopefully, we will find “In all this cloying verdure nature’s pledge
    Of fruitfulness next year.”

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      James – thank you for your appraisal and your description of my poetry as polishing itself like an agate in a tumbler unlike the dud banger which holds forth much promise and goes out with a whimper. I think that I try to prevent the latter, in sonnets at any rate, by the use of that couplet, at the end of nearly every one that I write, in order to present a summation, at the very least, of the preceding twelve lines or, and I hope, more often, a development of the theme, a climax or a denouement that leaves the reader slightly more enlightened than he was before he read it. Your heat-wave in the States a few days ago made headlines on the television news over here but I don’t think we ever experience the kind of extremes you have to put up with. And we haven’t even got an active volcano.

      Reply
  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Peter, “While Waiting Through the Night” and “She Left Her Home” are two of the most vivid and heart-touching poems on love, death, and grief I have ever read. You have a way of breathing life into words and making raw emotions rise to meet this reader in all their breadth and depth. “I took her hand in mine and now I know/I wish that I had never let it go.” is a beautiful gem of loving hindsight that hits hard and hits home. Thank you.

    “Though Nearly Midsummer” is a linguistic picture of the wonder of nature using all the literary gems I admire. Your poetry is always a privilege to read.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Susan – thank you very much indeed for your generous praise of my writing once again. The kind of subject matter that I use and that I seem to have virtually appropriated as my own, does make my job so much easier. The emotion of sorrow or misery seems to be so much more accessible than joy, at least to somebody who, like me, is a miserable git to start with, and appealing strongly to one emotion or another* of course is one of the attributes of a good poem. But here am I trying to teach the winner of the 2021 poetry competition how to suck eggs. Thank you again, Susan, for your kind though undeserved praises.
      * but not “poetry” that excites our ridicule or contempt perhaps.

      Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Susan – your words, as always, very gratefully received and you must know that in order for my poetry to breathe life into words and make raw emotions rise it does demand considerable input from you as an enlightened reader to be able to extract all this from what I write. Given enough time, typewriters and correction fluid a gibbon may well eventually compile the works of Shakespeare that Bacon hasn’t already written for him but nothing will make an entire snurd of gibbons understand a word of what they’ve typed. The idea that a writer must get a story as clearly as he can from his head to that of his reader is only as difficult as the reader’s is in absorbing it and interpreting it correctly. I trust I have made myself perfectly plain as the duchess said, removing her wig. The fact is that you do an exceptionally good job of extracting all that a good poem is capable of offering and more.

      Reply
  5. Brian Yapko

    Peter, I believe Susan is exactly right about these being the most heart-touching poems on love, death and grief. These are poems which so clearly come from the heart and deep within the soul. I feel like I’ve been on a deeply personal emotional journey with you as you remind us that grief is the price we pay for loving. I’m grateful for the final lines in Though Nearly Midsummer which bring all back to the hopeful theme of renewal and rebirth. These three poems really belong together as an exquisite set on the theme of loss. Thank you for a beautiful read.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Brian – Thank you for this. The three poems do seem to hang loosely together although the one about the cloying fulsomeness of the high summer was never meant to be part of the canon with the rest. Even here though, where I might have been extolling Keats’s nightingale or Shelley’s skylark instead I am describing the fulsomeness (the over-luxuriance) of the scene and the permanent twilight of the forest floor rather than the brightness of a midsummer’s day. It is true that in the middle of a very dense forest there is little sound of bird-life or anything else at any season of the year. Thank you in particular for calling these three poems an “exquisite set” which is praise indeed, and with which I can preen myself in the face of any animadversion I receive from elsewhere.

      Reply
  6. Jeff Eardley

    Peter, as we tour our nation in this “staycation” summer, your anthology has become our constant companion. You have the ability to make me laugh, cry, travel to remote places, appreciate dogs, penguins, birds, art and so much more. You are the most gifted wordsmith. Thank you for these today.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      Jeff – thank you for your repeated kind remarks about my little book. If I can’t sell it through this forum to the likes of you, Susan and James, with all of whom I share, I believe, a kindred spirit, then I don’t know where else I can find anyone to buy it. Poetic feeling and understanding is a rare gift which not many of us are blessed with, and we all need to find each other and stick together. The dreadful heat-waves we have been enduring haven’t anywhere near reached the blistering heat we are getting reports of in the USA (west coast) at the moment and I hope we never do.

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Peter, it’s a pity that your book is available on Amazon UK but not in the States.

      • James Tweedie

        James Tweedie, by moderator

        Jeff et al, Peter’s book is available on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co/uk in both hardback and paperback editions. search for “Light in the Darkness Hartley” and it will come up.

      • Mike Bryant

        James, I have no idea why your comment is not showing up. I hope this work around is ok.

  7. Margaret Coats

    Three different lovely poems, Peter. I notice that the first two become a pair by use of the gulf-between-us metaphor. Of course a gulf develops when one of two departs, as Dina in the first poem. That makes it quite surprising that in the second poem you speak of the gulf between living persons, and how the two of you (or perhaps I should say each of you) bridged it by a leap of faith in the other. The gulf of death then proves to be an entirely different gulf, possibly to be bridged through other means by the one still living.

    After that inconclusive idea comes the midsummer forest.
    It is somewhat easier to comprehend, and by experience one observes nature promising a return of life. Intriguing that we usually speak of that phenomenon in an autumn or winter poem, not in a summer one such as you give us here. It’s a thought we can appreciate in this present summer season.

    Reply
    • PeterHartley

      Dear Margaret – I was very aware in writing those two poems that I was linking them with the iteration of the word “gulf” where I might easily have gone for a bit of elegant variation with gap, gorge, cleft or maw. In the first poem by “the gulf before us” I meant that through Dina’s death she and I became thenceforth effectively light-years apart. In the second poem the gulf that “before us yawned” is the gulf between one who, as far as I ever knew (because she would seldom speak of the matter) was agnostic and yet all her life rigorously followed the Christian model, between her, I repeat, and me for whom (though ostensibly Christian) that Christian model has been far more honoured in the breach than in the observance. As I wrote in another poem, “There never could have been the two of us, / To Eden she and Erebus for me.”

      Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      James – thank you for your timely intervention regarding the book (with Jeff).

      Reply
      • James A. Tweedie

        You are welcome. But where did my comment go? It’s a usher. If anyone knows where it went let me know.

      • Mike Bryant

        James, I’ve added your comment back in… I have no idea why it is not showing up on the post.

  8. James A. Tweedie

    Jeff et al, Peter’s book is available on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co/uk in both hardback and paperback editions. search for “Light in the Darkness Hartley” and it will come up.

    Reply
  9. D.G. Rowe

    Hallo, Peter.

    The first couple of poems have a lovely lament of loss that is very much Hardyesque in vein. Well put together with no over-bearing use, it seems to me, of unnecessary, superfluous sentimentalism.

    In the third poem I very much appreciate the deft enjambmant in lines 3, 4, and 5, especially on line 5 when I read aloud the enjambment elides nicely; also in said lines, and I will assume it whether correct or not, the lovely coincidental internal rhyme of defy/dye/high. When reading these lines allowed with a sense of length and quantity, to my ear anyways, I detect a subtle quickening of “green dye seen” with a nice cesura before “like”, it encourages me to read it as a subdued molossus… reminds me of the effect that Swinburne was very deft at creating and coercing in his readers.

    Cheers, pal.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      DGR – thank you for your kind comments and for the suggestion over line 5. Your detection of an understated molossus here in “green dye seen” makes me think I could have placed commas after “seen” and after “glass”. I certainly think it sounds better with all three syllables stressed, incidentally emphasising the secondary internal rhyme of “green” and “seen”. On the other hand I think it can be all too easy to overdo internal rhyme and alliteration.

      Reply
      • D.G. Rowe

        You know, the “green” and “seen” rhyme is not something I felt that was ostentatious. I mean when I read the “green dye seen”, to my ear, the nice subtle quickening of the encouraged molossus dampens any chance of the rhyme in that being over-bearing, so to my ear it does not fatigue the excitement of hearing the internal rhyme of “defy”, “dye” and “high”, it gives those three words an elision of sorts, if I can make that technical assertion.

        Yes I agree, too much internal rhyme and alliteration can be fatiguing for the wrong ear. Though I have to square that statement with my veneration of the Poet whom I consider to be the Poet above all Poets, and that is Algernon Swinburne, though the caveat there is that he was well aware of his artistic flaw.

        I am though a proponent of skilful use of alliteration as the English language is naturally perfect for it, and is the original mark of Poetic device in English language poetry ( or perhaps I should be more broad and say Germanic language poetry). Though it must be understood correctly, and used efficiently. I find it always better when alliteration is used in verse that is exempt from rhyme scheme, or uses very little at least so that it reduces the potential for ones excitement becoming fatigued; also one must understand that you don’t have to alliterate just the first stressed syllable, and one can also alliterate vowel sounds to great effect.

        Cheers.

  10. Peter Hartley

    DGR – No, the “green” and “seen” rhymes don’t sound ostentatious, especially with “dye” shoved in between them. Alliteration, does, I think, necessarily involve the repetition of the sounds of initial letters or syllables. By alliterating vowel sounds do you mean as in “obnoxious oddities”, in other words, rhyming the initial vowel sounds, as distinct from assonance which is just rhyming vowel sounds anywhere? I knew of Swinburne fairly through his connection with the Pre-Raphaelites but didn’t know he was also well known for his alliteration. Thank you, I do now

    Reply
    • D.G. Rowe

      Hallo Peter. Apologies for the time getting back in response.

      In my opinion Alliteration can be used in the first and second syllable, but if beyond that the effect is vastly diminished, if at all relevant to being called alliteration. Though the most common seem to be the first stressed syllable alliteration, more common in our words.

      For example “My brother imbibed the drink” using the second syllable of “imbibed” for alliterative purpose, very useful for alliterating anapaests. Swinburne will show you that….

      In-so-far as alliterating vowels I get this idea from old Germanic poetry. Alliteration was THE device, but it wasn’t just stressed syllables, it was also done with vowels, but only at the beginning of words.

      Yes, I think “obnoxious oddities” is fair game to be used this way, but it doesn’t have to be the same vowel sound, exactly. But yes you are essentially looking to marry the Alliteration with a vowel sound, but the vowel doesn’t need to be stressed to work.

      I will say to you that this is a new technique I’m experimenting with after reading old Germanic poetry translations and the scholarship attached to it, the Poetic Edda especially.

      Let me try an example off the cuff…. here:

      “In the end I always argue over nothing”, or perhaps “the emptiness outside along the open road”

      I mean, I could be just pissing in the wind here, as our Germanic language has changed so much in the last thousand years, but I think when one consciously approaches vowel sounds like this for a desired effect in their verse, it can be done with-out nonsense use of syntax or diction. The Latin words we use are full of lovely first syllable vowel sounds.

      And, Peter, if you haven’t read Swinburne in any great or small measure… I insist that you should, pronto. He will not disappoint.
      Mr Salemi wrote a good essay regarding the work of Swinburne on the Expansive Poetry On-line website.

      Cheers.

      Reply
      • Peter Hartley

        DGR – Thank you for your lengthy comment regarding alliteration. One of the best examples of alliteration that I know of shows that although it is very easy to overdo alliteration with repetition of the same consonant sounds ad nauseam, by alternating different sounds you can really go on and on. G M Hopkins in “God’s Grandeur” writes “… the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! Bright wings.” That alternation between alliterating b and w is sheer genius. With apologies for obtruding myself in such illustriouscompany I was quite proud of the following lines in a poem: “scant reason stayed his happy infancy / while wisdom merely makes me worldly wise”

  11. David Watt

    Peter, you have excelled yourself with these three poems. The first two are highly moving. Especially the lines “I took her hand in mine and now I know
    I wish that I had never let it go.”
    The midsummer forest scene in your third piece comes alive thanks to its lyrical quality, achieved through the considered selection of complementary sounds and words.

    Reply
    • Peter Hartley

      David, I am sorry that I have only just found your comment on my last submission, but very glad that at last I did. I’m also very pleased that you found the first two highly moving. I only wish I could do happiness as well as I seem to be able to manage pathos! The third poem is, I think the first time I have attempted to write about nothing in particular, though it is true that the middle of a forest is usually devoid of all bird life, even the sort of bird, like the crossbill and the goldcrest, that we associate with coniferous forest.

      Reply

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