Monday, November 23, 2015



Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him 
his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

~ Stevie Smith (1902-1971)

8 comments:

  1. Two swimmers wrestled on the spar – 

    Until the morning sun – 

    When One – turned smiling to the land – 

    Oh God! the Other One!



    The stray ships – passing – 

    Spied a face – 

    Upon the waters borne – 

    With eyes in death – still begging raised – 

    And hands – beseeching – thrown!


    ~ Emily Dickinson (18301886)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Drowning is not so pitiful
    As the attempt to rise.
    Three times 'tis said
    A drowning man
    Comes up to face the skies ––
    And then declines forever
    To that abhorred abode ––
    Where Hope and he part company ––
    For he is grasped of God.

    The Maker's cordial visage,
    However good to see
    Is shunned –– we must admit it ––
    Like an Adversity.


    ~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Replies
    1. Yes you are, dear, but what did you think of the poem?

      Delete
    2. Is Stevie Smith's poem really about "drowning," or does it reach beyond by using drowning as a symbol, or metaphor for something of larger significance?

      Naturally, I think the latter. I think it's about how isolated we are from one another, and how our attempts to reach out in the hope of forming life-enriching, life-saving connections are too often dismissed, ignored, or misinterpreted.

      An honest attempt to find explanations for our inability or unwillingness to do what's necessary to save each other from "drowning" may be serious, but it's anything but "dreary."

      Delete
  4. Do Not!
    BY STEVIE SMITH
    Do not despair of man, and do not scold him,
    Who are you that you should so lightly hold him?
    Are you not also a man, and in your heart
    Are there not warlike thoughts and fear and smart?
    Are you not also afraid and in fear cruel,
    Do you not think of yourself as usual,
    Faint for ambition, desire to be loved,
    Prick at a virtuous thought by beauty moved?
    You love your wife, you hold your children dear,
    Then say not that Man is vile, but say they are.
    But they are not. So is your judgement shown
    Presumptuous, false, quite vain, merely your own
    Sadness for failed ambition set outside,
    Made a philosophy of, prinked, beautified
    In noble dress and into the world sent out
    To run with the ill it most pretends to rout.
    Oh know your own heart, that heart's not wholly evil,
    And from the particular judge the general,
    If judge you must, but with compassion see life,
    Or else, of yourself despairing, flee strife.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Ducky. In 1976, while visiting London, I saw Glenda Jackson and Mona Washbourne at a theatre in the West End play Stevie Smith and the "lion aunt" she lived with in Palmers Green. The poem Not Waving but Drowning was heavily featured in the play –– a probing, deeply affective character study and theatrical tour de force –– certainly an unforgettable experience.

      We do not see enough of Stevie Smith's poetry. Thanks again for your contribution.

      Delete

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