Saturday, December 05, 2009

The trenchéd waters run from sky to sky

The latest New York Review has arrived and it includes a critical article on Jane Campion's film Bright Star by Christopher Ricks.  The problem with the film for Ricks is that it tries to illustrate Keats's poems - he sees this as ridiculous and as unnecessary as adding perfume or sound effects.  Keats's imagination and his words alone are able to create the most vivid imagery.  To assist his argument Ricks quotes some lines about Tennyson which I thought worth recording here (from William Allingham's diary):

"As to visualising," he said, "I often see the most magnificent landscapes."
"In dreams?"
"Yes, and on closing my eyes. To-day when I lay down I saw a line of huge wonderful cliffs rising out of a great sweep of forest — finer than anything in nature."
Other gifts he has, but T. is especially and pre-eminently a landscape-painter in words, a colourist, rich, full and subtle.

I'll end this post with some poetry by Tennyson; the lines below are praised in the final chapter of Francis Turner Palgrave's Landscape in Poetry from Homer to Tennyson: With Many Illustrative Examples (1897). Palgrave says of "the trenchéd waters run from sky to sky" that it illustrates Tennyson's ability to fix a scene, "characteristic of the Lincolnshire Marshland, in a few perfect words." So there's clearly no need here for any accompanying footage to help us visualise the landscape...
Whether the high field on the bushless pike,
Or even a sand-built ridge
Of heapéd hills that mound the sea,
Overblown with murmurs harsh,
Or even a lowly cottage whence we see
Stretch'd wide and wild the waste enormous marsh,
Where from the frequent bridge,
Like emblems of infinity,
The trenchéd waters run from sky to sky...

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