The Dark Tower by Louis MacNeice

I have just discovered that Louis MacNeice’s verse drama for the BBC is available on the BBC’s website – here:  The play is inspired by a few lines in Robert Browning’s poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.

Listening to it brings back happy memories of my teenage years and the Arts Centre I belonged to. It reminds me of Garibaldi biscuits and tea drunk out of chipped mugs. It reminds me of  sitting on sagging armchairs in the EOS room arguing about poetry and life. But we didn’t just talk and argue, we also performed. And we performed this play – not as a theatrical production but as a play for voices. It is hard to see how the subject matter could be performed for anything else but the radio. The play is play of the imagination and where better for Roland to journey to the Dark Tower than through the dark shadows of our minds? The actors’ accents may sound a bit dated, but this is an extraordinary poetic play.There certainly was a golden age in postwar British radio, when the BBC embraced experiment and welcomed poets, using composers like Benjamin Britten to provide the music and world-class actors, such as Richard Burton, to do the poets justice. What has become of that patronage? Maybe the internet will come to the rescue. Maybe the future of ebooks will include performance. Let us hope so.

As I have said in a previous post we also performed at the Young Arts Centre verse plays by Dylan Thomas (Under Milk Wood), Lorca (Blood Wedding) and Christopher Fry (Boy with a Cart and The Firstborn), to say nothing of verse plays by Euripides and Shakespeare. What a grounding! Is it any wonder that I have written two verse plays or poems for voices?


Photo Inspiration – Olsina

This is a photo of Lake Olsina in Southern Bohemia. I can walk here from my Czech home. It’s a very special place for me. It is set in a natural bowl formed by the surrounding hills. One of its attractions is that it is undisturbed. Much of the surrounding forests are in a military zone, which means that it is accessible only at weekends and that building is restricted in the locality.

The lake is man-made – a renaissance fishpond, which is still farmed today. Every other Autumn (in October or November) the sluices are opened and the lake drained. The carp are herded into the nets of the waiting fishermen. My friend Hannah had an old cottage next to the lake and I stayed with her one year, waking at 6 to watch the harvest. Crowds gathered to watch and buy fresh fish. When everyone had gone, it was the turn of the water birds to arrive – gulls of course, but also herons and white egrets.

At other times I have watched the mating dance of crested grebes rising and bowing on the still surface of the lake. In the summer Hannah and I would go swimming in the lake’s now warm waters, with the carp blowing bubbles around us or we would wander into the forest to collect wild mushrooms.

On the day of Hannah’s funeral I came to Olsina and launched a little paper boat on the waters in remembrance of her. In the boat’s prow I set a picture she had painted of a man waving. The boat bobbed in the current before disappearing round a small headland. My farewell said, I returned to my car and drove home. Later when I looked closer at the picture I saw that it was titled “Crossing Lethe.”


The Dancing Trees – Photo Inspiration

The dancing trees stand on the road to where I go mushrooming, when I’m in the Czech Republic. Going mushrooming is inspiration enough, but seeing these trees always makes me smile. At first glance you’d think it was one tree, but if you look closely at the photo you will see that there are two trunks embracing each other in an eternal waltz.

I took this photo yesterday on my way to the woods. Autumn has arrived as you can see from the photo and the trees looked wonderful. And how did I get on in my foraging? I came back with a full basket.