Tag Archives: Candelabrum

Poem: “The Knife of Night”

Dark Woods

“Dark Trees” by MonoStep

The knife of night
Spreads swirls of black and white
Over the slice of here.

The taste is bold:
A pinch of cold,
Spiced with primeval fear.

This little poem was first published in Candelabrum, a British print magazine that ran twice yearly from 1970 for some 40 years. Its editor, Leonard McCarthy, was a lone voice dedicated to keeping traditional poetic sensibilities of metrical and rhymed
verse alive.

The poem itself came from a nighttime ramble in the forests that cut through the residential areas of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Hundreds of acres in town are undevelopable because of steep slopes, creeks and ravines. Where the night woods are unlit except by moon and stars, there are deer, possums, foxes, flying squirrels, owls… copperheads… poison ivy… The night is beautiful, but you can’t help moving through its darkness in a different state of being, compared with daylight.

 

Poem: “Camelot at Dusk”

P1010102

(Photo: Castle by epredator)

From under low clouds spreading from the south
The red sun drops slow to night’s waiting mouth.
Rush lamps are lit; the guards changed on the walls;
Supper will not be served in the Great Halls
With Arthur still away. Each in their room,
The members of the Court leave books or loom
To say their Vespers in the encroaching gloom.

Lancelot, up in his tower,
Sees the sunset storm clouds glower,
Feels his blood’s full tidal power,
Knows he has to go.
In her bower, Gwenivere
Puts a ruby to her ear,
Brushes firelight through her hair,
Feels her heartbeat grow.

Guard, guard, watch well:
For the daylight thickens
And the low cloud blackens
And the hot heart quickens
To rebel.

From his tower, caring not
For consequences, Lancelot
Crosses courts of Camelot,
Pitying his King.
In her bower, Gwenivere
Feels his presence coming near,
Waits for footfalls on the stair,
Lets her will take wing.

Guard, guard, watch well:
If attention slackens
When the deep bond beckons,
Evil knows Pendragon’s
In its spell.

And as the storm clouds, rubbing out the stars,
Deafened the castle and carved lightning scars,
Drenched Arthur rode for flash-lit Camelot
Where he, by Queen and Knight, was all forgot.

“Camelot at Dusk” was originally published by Candelabrum, a now-defunct poetry magazine in the UK which appeared twice-yearly from April 1970 to October 2010. Candelabrum provided what, in the 1970s, was a very rare platform for British poets working in metrical and rhymed verse.

Technically, the poem uses a variety of forms. The opening and closing passages use iambic pentameter with simple sequential rhyme for a level of detachment (and the only times Arthur is mentioned by name). The passages with Lancelot and Gwenivere use shorter trochaic lines with denser rhymes for more intensity. The passages of warnings to the guards… well, they have a shifting but repeating structure all their own.

Because of the bracketing of the more emotional passages by the more detached opening and closing, the piece feels very complete. As a whole, it is a nonce form. Whether I can ever repeat it successfully, I don’t know. I have tried, but not been as satisfied with the result.

“Camelot at Dusk” can also now be found in The Hypertexts, which thereby gives it a very respectable Seal of Approval.