Not for the City, Charlotte Mew

In Lockdown II, I published a poem a day on my blog and really enjoyed the experience. I thought I would then go on to put up a poem a week, but then well December, birthdays, Christmas etc. So now its a new year and a new lockdown which seems like a good time to realise my intention of posting a poem a week. Given that there is no end date in sight for Lockdown III, I do not think it will be realistic to commit to a poem a day. I hope to post these on Fridays in the future.

My mum gave me a book of poetry for Christmas, The Fire of Joy compiled by Clive James, which I haven’t looked at yet and today that felt a good place to start. I have chosen ‘Not for the City’ by Charlotte Mew from this collection. I don’t know much about her, James says she deserves more attention than she received and recounts her trouble history. Certainly from this poem it seems a shame that she is not better known. The image of the city here for some reasons reminds me of Citigazze in Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife.

Not for the City

Not for that city of the level sun,
Its golden streets and glittering gates ablaze –
The shadeless, sleepless city of white days,
White nights, or nights and days that are as one –
We weary, when all is said, all thought, all done.
We strain our eyes beyond this dusk to see
What, from the threshold of eternity
We shall step into. No, I think we shun
The splendour of that everlasting glare,
The clamour of that never-ending song.
And if for anything we greatly long,
It is for some remote and quiet stair
Which winds to silence and a space for sleep
Too sound for waking and for dreams too deep.

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