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       The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson - Volume II, p.1

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The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson - Volume II
The Collected Poems


  Edward M Robertson

  Volume II

  (1928 - 2011)

  The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson

  Author – Edward M Robertson

  Copyright 2017 Edward Robertson

  Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form.

  This second volume of The Collected Poems of Edward M Robertson has been produced so that additional material, discovered while sorting through his papers, can be made available.

  Those who knew Edward will, no doubt, be able to identify with many of the images and emotions he expresses and will hopefully take pleasure in exploring these additional poems.

  For those who did not know Edward personally, we hope that reading this small volume of poetry proves to be a rewarding experience.

  Table of Contents

  On Reading Poetry

  March In The Borders

  First Lapwings




  From Ruberslaw

  Rooks (2)







  Autumn Harvest

  Autumn Robin

  Autumn Rowan

  Autumn Reflections

  Autumn Dusk

  November Gale

  Winter Robin


  Mid Winter

  Winter Winds


  Winter Dawn

  Children Sledging

  The Keills


  The Blessing


  Old Age

  The Force Within


  For Will Ogilvie


  (Reply to Edith Sitwell)

  Suddenly, as I read your poetry,

  the whole world tilts sideways,

  and the pretences, defences and confident senses

  drop from all people

  like plates flying out of the waiter's hand

  as the ship strikes rock

  and lurches up

  and down.

  Suddenly the feeling of all the

  shipwreck of the poised commonsenses

  becomes unbearable ....

  the little people - and I

  one of them -

  breaking in pieces, flying crockery,

  leaving only the hand


  which tried to communicate

  thin, brittle words

  in accepted restaurant rituals -

  the pain unrealised and

  the feeling unadmitted.

  And I, wrecked on your poetry,

  fling myself into the

  swelling waves vast empathy.

  Better drown in pain loved

  than seek safety where there could be

  no poetry.


  The red fields lie

  open to the dry March wind -

  rolled flat and burdened with seed -

  corn, wheat, barley and rye.

  They wait for life, rain-awakened.

  And always they sweep the eye on, up

  to a sea of hills,

  wind-tossed and bare -

  or suck sight down to

  the valleys

  deep-clefted and filled with trees -

  a hundred years old or more -

  where vision follows the circling bird

  down and down into

  the blue depths

  of a Chinese pattern of peace.

  I sit on top of Ruberslaw

  and feel myself like a windhover

  hang in the air,

  but where he sees and clutches with

  his eye only the quivering blade

  and threads the vole's individual,

  all- excluding heart beat

  to him,

  I see all at a rolling endless sweep of the eye.

  And while the kite-kestrel

  tugs at the taught thread of sight

  that draws him down suddenly,

  I am made one with all that I see -

  give myself to the prey of my eye

  to be devoured by it.


  Sliding in on slanting rays

  of March morning sun

  five lapwings came.

  There was no calling.

  Almost like fingers of

  a blind man's hand

  exploring a half-forgotten room

  they moved about the fields

  falling and rising,

  rising and falling.

  Were they a vanguard

  of the returning array of life

  unsure if this were in fact

  the mating-ground where

  once more they would engage

  in love's war of self-giving?

  Thus to their ears that would hear

  the ground moving beneath

  tentative feet,

  the shrilling hail's vituperation

  would be in vain.

  Again their vibrant gliding wings

  gave muted celebration

  to unforeseeable victory

  in the relentless division of cells

  within the stippled shell's

  true, irresistible fragility.


  This April wind rasps rough and thrusting

  jagged as the branches in a flail-torn hedge,

  driving out of their pine-top rookery

  a cawing cataract of raucous crows.

  And yet the frail-born kestrel hovers

  hunting along the roadside edge,

  fluttering like a chestnut ribbon,

  pinned to a pinnacle of tall, still air.

  For all that the wind gathers and grows,

  charging across the quilted strath,

  it is the kestrel's wavering wings

  that flail and scatter the wind's wild rushes

  where it still holds steady and brings

  its eyes to focus down their straight path.


  The wind needs no words to communicate

  the wildness of the hills

  But flings about my head

  by touch and sound

  its message of wild upland places

  Where in the valley I walk with

  open-handed eyes not grasping

  but receiving

  as the wind gives

  more than can be seen

  whether of scattering birds -

  the wind's slight toy -

  or here where faded grasses

  shake, slender spears piercing

  the eye with delicate joy.


  Here is the last true countryman who

  walks hands-in-pockets

  across the wide fields;

  carries a pick-axe on his face,

  head hammering it hard

  into the firm ground, then,

  with his battered brains,

  staggers awkwardly about the furrows.

  Yet, in a moment, he

  becomes the graceful ballet dancer

  of the skies, as spread-winged

  he flies upwards

  mounting the invisible staircase

  of air, to a height, where,

  with a twist of the wrist of flight<
br />
  suddenly he falls off the edge

  of the wind, tumbling

  down, wing-over-wing,

  sweeps over grasses and swoops

  up to a tangle in the tall trees' hair,

  his nest, a scribble in the topmost

  branches.  And there he sits

  and smoothes the rumpled wind

  with velvet cawing.

  Yet he is never 'rook'

  but always 'rooks' -

  leaves sprouting from one living

  invisible rook-tree,

  a sky-shoal netted with rook calls.

  But on the ground again, in meek

  ploughman fashion, he follows

  the sharp share of his

  air-furrowing beak.


  I sit on top of the triangulation point

  on top of Ruberslaw -

  a skylark on the highest rung of its

  Jacob's ladder of praise.

  My eyes pour out rejoicing -

  every field, fold, wood and hill

  rolling and tumbling about me,

  draws out the endless singing of my gaze.

  The lark threads up together

  the numberless small sounds of Spring

  and ties

  them all in an ecstasy to

  God's blue skies.

  So my eyes

  take all that seems small yet lies

  boundless about me

  and tie it here


  where God's knowing and loving arise.

  ROOKS (2)

  Rooks ride and slide the wind,

  Dolphin its wide waves,

  Wing-wide, half-closed, tight aside;

  Arrow the air monster,

  Puncture the balloon bluster;

  Counter-thrust in low flight

  Fighting grass-high across the field,

  Against the whole force;

  Seeping into the cracks of stillness,

  Take head on the wind waters

  Full flood.


  There, look there!

  The field-flying lapwing

  takes to himself the life dance

  of this Spring,

  each step of aconite,

  the grass vibrating,

  the bat's-wing leaf uncurling,

  and the large leaping hare.

  There, look there!

  He scoops up with deliberate, blunt wing

  the earth's Spring dance

  and flings it wildly up

  into the air.

  There, look there!

  The weak bird,

  gigantic in power of poetry,

  tosses the vast world madly

  about the skies -

  his the still and steady point unturning,

  all else falling and rolling away from him.

  There, look there!

  Joy breaks the sad monotony

  of man heaved mountains of cities.

  Hope flings away

  pain's dulling death-throes.

  Love gathers up

  a crescendo of shrill trivialities

  and, blunt-winged, tumbles them

  down an endless sky.


  How can he ever achieve it?

  Hill-high in mid-air,

  muscle-minded, locked against the gale,

  flickering wings stippled on the sky

  as he strives for poise,

  wind playing his splayed tail.

  How can he, then, hold still,

  eye steady as surgeon's hand,

  infinitely delicate the dissection,

  splitting the vole's whisker

  trembling from grass?

  This power is not his prize

  for he is time's inheritor.

  No human span of practice

  but a skill of millions of years

  makes him achieve this dizzy impossibility.

  He swoops, hesitates, drops and feels them,

  warm and quivering in his talons,

  the ages' miracle,

  united prey and predator.


  Chained to the earth my mind

  flies up with you

  gliding the wind's wide acres,

  leaf-blown across clouds

  lingering lawns

  swept like a branch down

  rivers of air

  along the flat strath of sky

  hemmed in by billowing

  inverted mountains.

  Sharp and fierce your cry

  scythes down the dark distances

  hiding the rabbit's fear,

  a sentry's bayonet

  plunging to seek in straw bales

  the escaping prisoner,

  a Highlandman's dirk rending

  and ripping the plaided air

  to reach the heart thrust.

  Pierce fierce accusing finger of sound

  the rabbit's guilt-goaded leaping,

  dread-drawn to precipitate

  the fatal intersection

  of prey and predator.

  You do not hang like a kestrel's

  feathered kite

  strung by its sight to a vole's trembling.

  Free over fathoms of air you sweep

  surfing up to the wind's foaming crest,

  then down to a death-thrust

  where the earth cannot chain you.


  Bodkin-beaked brawling birds

  In a crowd crashing the bird-table party;

  the percussion of the aerial orchestra,

  with cymbals clashing and castanet’s that clatter,

  more eager it seems to fight than feed,

  to scatter food than eat it,

  in all your manic melee of

  grab and stab,

  hustle and stuff,

  shovel and shove.

  Yet, roosting in the tall tree,

  you fill the afternoon

  with ceaseless chatter,

  if not musical, then at least,

  in friendly harmony.


  You get the feeling

  these seagulls positively

  enjoy the wind and rain;

  not battling against

  but playing through them -

  surfing the air-waves

  (tuned in to them too!)

  and twisting into the rain-surf.

  But do they perhaps

  miss the bite of brine

  on their tongues,

  drinking a wet saltless air?


  Killiecrankie has swallowed the sun an hour ago.

  And yet the sky, a vast upturned porcelain bowl

  of egg-shell blue, is wet with a thin film of light,

  Dripping slowly down;

  Splashing in infinitely slow motion clusters

  Of faded grass across the field,

  Spilling down the dry pale dusty track,

  As sounds from the curved curlew's beak

  Curl gracefully down like golden leaves

  from an Autumn tree.

  Slowly the light soaks away into

  the trees, the dykes, the ditches.

  A toad, little fat fellow, leaps frantically

  Out of my way and struggles deep into

  A gigantic jungle of grass and rosebay willow-herb.

  Overhead a heron sets sail for some

  secret pool and a bat

  Flickers erratically in and out of sight.

  Here is a moment to savour,

  As dusk draws out the living night

  And Killiecrankie thirstily drinks down the very last

  Lingering drops of liquid light.


  Crisp, prickly stubble fields swing up

  into the Autumn evening sky,

  sharp giant cat's paws stretching out

  to scratch the moon's cyclopic eye.

  Along the field's edge
r />   hedge and tree, black breakers

  of a flowing sea of darkness,

  toss and swirl up to the hill,

  an island

  where the light lies still.


  The robin sketches a self portrait

  on the day's blank page.

  He likes it, for a moment, then

  rubs it out and tries again

  more delicately, 'till he hears

  an echoing call, throws down

  his crumpled drawing in a rage,

  sharpens his pencils to a point

  and throws them violently at

  the challenge from the hedge, then hurls

  himself, a fiery dart, burning

  war to the death to wage.

  The hedge is emptied by discretion.

  He shakes his feathers out,

  lightly lets anger fall from him.

  Then on his favourite perch resumes

  self-portraiture, his Autumn whim.


  The rowan stands like a gun

  blazing death in the evening,

  flames of frail, frayed leaves

  spurt and flash,

  increasing continuously

  in fury and force of self-purgation.

  The tree spits death,

  cleansing itself of dying pitilessly,

  withdrawing behind the impregnable bark,

  thrusts out victims,

  sacrificed to the unrelenting, life-hating frost.

  Twisted and tortured the expendable

  defenceless victims turn,

  gnarl, contort and crumble.

  This harsh purging of death

  should be an ugly, loathsome sight,

  but it is not.

  It is a glowing glory of victory,

  the helpless martyr's soul

  burning more brightly than the flames,

  the political prisoner in  the labour camp

  higher soaring in freedom,

  than his trapped guards

  and the enmeshed manipulators of power.

  Dying, decaying has its own glory of passion,

  more startling and depth-knowing

  than life's blind green lust.


  And now, suddenly, I look up

  and see a torn and tangled

  set of branches.

  The shoals of fish leaves have escaped

  and only the tides of wind

  wash through them.

  As suddenly too a sound reaches down to me

  into the box classroom,

  out of the toss of bitter wind

  in clear searing sky

  the call of geese overhead,

  snaking ropes

  spliced and braided together,

  in movement of muscle and cry.

  Death crawls across the hill

  slowly strangling the starved ground;

  grows down out of the frosted air

  through tips of bracken and marsh grass,

  driving the sap back down

  into the shoot, the stem,

  down into the root, the ground,

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