I haven’t read Eliot for a while, but yesterday while reading Four Quartets, I realised how much of Eliot Joanna Newsom must have read before writing her tone-poems. The ‘Garlic and sapphires in the mud’ clotting the ‘axle-tree’ of ‘Burnt Norton’ (1935) uncles the music of ‘Emily’ (Ys, 2006).
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?
Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent…
Say, say, say, in the lee of the bay
don’t be bothered.
Leave your troubles here,
where the tugboats shear the water from the water
(flanked by furrows, curling back, like a match held up to a newspaper).
Let us go! Though we know it’s a hopeless endeavor.
The ties that bind, they are barbed and spined, and hold us close forever.
Newsom is drunken where Eliot is desiccated, but they both have pronounced habits of consonance, internal rhymes, pleasing echoes running across the lines. Their images are Saxon, but there is seductive curl at the corners. Both can be read aloud or sung with pleasure.