Thursday, 19 March 2009

Hadrian's Wall Poem W H Auden

Dawn at Housesteads Fort. Early morning in Autumn 2006. Photo: Joan Thirlaway.

As a Hadrian's Wall poet, myself...since Tuesday gone, I'm delighted to be in the company of W H Auden who wrote 'Roman Wall Blues' and like me, mentioned the dodgy weather in bleak Northumberland.

Hadrian's Wall is the description most used all over the World to describe this edifice but I live near it and I can tell you that most folks round here call it the Roman Wall.

When I came across this poem by W H Auden who I thought was American I was surprised with the title...but I now know that Auden was born in York and in his formative years he attended a school in and around the Pennines.

Per Wikipedia "...his visits to the Pennine landscape and its declining lead-mining industry figure in many of his poems..." Rookhope is a former lead and fluorspar mining village in County Durham, in England. It first existed as a group of cattle farms in the 13th Century. It is situated in the Pennines to the north of Weardale and it is here that Auden realised he wanted to be a poet. So that nicely explains why his poem is entitled Roman Wall Blues and not Hadrian's Wall Blues

And speaking of 'Blues', a word he clearly likes, I know of Auden because of his "Funeral Blues" ("Stop all the clocks") which was read aloud in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral(1994). He also wrote Refugees Blues. It is likely that all these were originally written as blues song lyrics rather than poems per se

Anyway, here is the poem

Roman Wall Blues

Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Aulus goes hanging around her place,
I don't like his manners, I don't like his face.

Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;
There'd be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I'm a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

W. H. Auden

This 'Hadrian's Wall Poem W H Auden' blog entry is copyright Jon Bratton 2009.This material is free to use for personal use but may not be lifted in whole or part by website publishers

No comments: