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Ford Madox Ford



P o e m s

Ezra Pound on Ford's poetry (in his obituary of Ford):

Apart from narrative sense and the main constructive, there is this to be said of Homer, that never can you read half a page without finding melodic invention, still fresh, and that you can hear the actual voices, as of the old men speaking in the course of the phrases.

It is for this latter quality that Ford's poetry is of high importance, both in itself and for its effect on all the best subsequent work of his time. Let no young snob forget this.

I propose to bury him in the order of merits as I think he himself understood them, first for an actual example in the writing of poetry; secondly, for those same merits more fully shown in his prose, and thirdly, for the critical acumen which was implicit in his finding these merits.

The Song of the Women.
A Wealden Trio

1st Voice

When ye 've got a child 'ats whist for want of food,
And a grate as grey's y'r 'air for want of wood,
And y'r man and you ain't nowise not much good;


Oh -
It's hard work a-Christmassing,
Singing songs about the 'Babe what's born.'

2nd Voice

When ye've 'eered the bailiff's 'and upon the latch,
And ye've feeled the rain a-trickling through the thatch,
An' y'r man can't git no stones to break ner yit no sheep to watch -


Oh -
We've got to come a-Christmassing,
Singin' of the 'Shepherds on that morn.'

3rd Voice, more cheerfully

'E was a man's poor as us, very near,
An' 'E 'ad 'is trials and danger,
An' I think 'E'll think of us when 'E sees us singing' 'ere;
For 'is mother was poor, like us, poor dear,
An' she borc Him in a manger.


Oh -
It's warm in the heavens, but it's cold upon the earth;
An we ain't no food at table nor no fire upon the hearth;
And it's bitter hard a-Christimassing,
Singin' songs about our Saviour's birth;
Singin' songs about the Babe what's born;
Singin' of the shepherds on that morn.

[Set to music by Benjamin Britten]

"There Shall Be More Joy..."

The little angels of Heaven
Each wear a long white dress,
And in the tall arcadings
Play ball and play at chess;

With never a soil on their garments,
Not a sigh the whole day long,
Not a bitter note in their pleasure,
Not a bitter note in their song.

But they shall know keener pleasure,
And they shall know joy more rare -
Keener, keener pleasure
When you, my dear, come there.
  ·  ·  ·  ·  ·
The little angels of Heaven
Each wear a long white gown,
And they lean over the ramparts
Waiting and looking down.

Finchley Road

As we come up at Baker Street
Where tubes and trains and 'buses meet
There's a touch of fog and a touch of sleet;
And we go on up Hampstead way
Towards the closing in of day . . .

You should be a queen or a duchess rather,
Reigning in place of a warlike father
In peaceful times o'er a tiny town
Where all the roads wind up and down
From your little palace - a small, old place
Where every soul should know your face
And bless your coming. That's what I mean,
A small grand-duchess, no distant queen,
Lost in a great land, sitting alone
In a marble palace upon a throne.

And you'd say to your shipmen: 'Now take your ease,
Tomorrow is time enough for the seas.'
And you'd set your bondmen a milder rule
And let the children loose from the school.
No wrongs to right and no sores to fester,
In your small, great hall 'neath a firelit dais,
You'd sit with me at your feet, your jester,
Stroking your shoes where the seed pearls glisten
And talking my fancies. And you as your way is,
Would sometimes heed and at times not listen,
But sit at your sewing and look at the brands
And sometimes reach me one of your hands,
Or bid me write you a little ode,
Part quaint, part sad, part serious . . .

But here we are in the Finchley Road
With a drizzling rain and a skidding 'bus
And the twilight settling down on us.

Clair de Lune


I should like to imagine
A moonlight in which there would be no machine-guns!

For, it is possible
To come out of a trench or a hut or a tent or a church all in ruins:
To see the black perspective of long avenues
All silent.
The white strips of sky
At the sides, cut by the poplar trunks:
The white strips of sky
Above, diminishing -
The silence and blackness of the avenue
Enclosed by immensities of space
Spreading away
Over No Man's Land. . . .

For a minute...
For ten. . .
There will be no star shells
But the untroubled stars,
There will be no Very light
But the light of the quiet moon
Like a swan.
And silence. . . .

Then, far away to the right thro' the moonbeams
"Wukka Wukka" will go the machine-guns,
And, far away to the left
Wukka Wukka.
And sharply,
Wuk . . . Wuk . . . and then silence
For a space in the clear of the moon.


I should like to imagine
A moonlight in which the machine-guns of trouble
Will be silent. . . .

Do you remember, my dear,
Long ago, on the cliffs, in the moonlight,
Looking over to Flatholme
We sat . . . Long ago! . . .
And the things that you told me. . .
Little things in the clear of the moon,
The little, sad things of a life. . . .

We shall do it again
Full surely,
Sitting still, looking over at Flatholme.

Then, far away to the right
Shall sound the Machine Guns of trouble
And, far away to the left, under Flatholme,
Wukka-wuk!. . .

I wonder, my dear, can you stick it?
As we should say: "Stick it, the Welch!"
In the dark of the moon,
Going over. . . .



An October like November;
August a hundred thousand hours,
And all September,
A hundred thousand, dragging sunlit days,
And half October like a thousand years . . .
And doom!
That then was Antwerp . . .
In the name of God,
How could they do it?
Those souls that usually dived
Into the dirty caverns of mines;
Who usually hived
In whitened hovels; under ragged poplars;
Who dragged muddy shovels, over the grassy mud,
Lumbering to work over the greasy sods . . .
Those men there, with the appearances of clods
Were the bravest men that a usually listless priest of God
Ever shrived . . .
And it is not for us to make them an anthem.
If we found words there would come no wind that would fan them
To a tune that the trumpets might blow it,
Shrill through the heaven that's ours or yet Allah's
Or the wide halls of any Valhallas.
We can make no such anthem. So that all that is ours
For inditing in sonnets, pantoums, elegiacs, or lays
Is this:
'In the name of God, how could they do it?'


For there is no new thing under the sun,
Only this uncomely man with a smoking gun
In the gloom . . .
What the devil will he gain by it?
Digging a hole in the mud and standing all day in the rain by it
Waiting his doom,
The sharp blow, the swift outpouring of the blood,
Till the trench of grey mud
Is turned to a brown purple drain by it.
Well, there have been scars
Won in many wars . . .
Lacedaemonian, wars of Napoleon, wars for faith, wars for honour, for love, for possession,
But this Belgian man in his ugly tunic,
His ugly round cap, shooting on, in a sort of obsession,
Overspreading his miserable land,
Standing with his wet gun in his hand . . .
He finds that in a sudden scrimmage,
And lies, an unsightly lump on the sodden grass . . .
An image that shall take long to pass!


For the white-limbed heroes of Hellas ride by upon their horses
For ever through our brains.
The heroes of Cressy ride by upon their stallions;
And battalions and battalions and battalions -
The Old Guard, the Young Guard, the men of Minden and of Waterloo,
Pass, for ever staunch,
Stand for ever true;
And the small man with the large paunch,
And the grey coat, and the large hat, and the hands behind the back,
Watches them pass
In our minds for ever . . .
But that clutter of sodden corses
On the sodden Belgian grass -
That is a strange new beauty.


With no especial legends of marchings or triumphs or duty,
Assuredly that is the way of it,
The way of beauty . . .
And that is the highest word you can find to say of it.
For you cannot praise it with words
Compounded of lyres and swords,
But the thought of the gloom and the rain
And the ugly coated figure, standing beside a drain,
Shall eat itself into your brain.
And that shall be an honourable word;
'Belgian' shall be an honourable word,
As honourable as the fame of the sword,
As honourable as the mention of the many-chorded lyre,
And his old coat shall seem as beautiful as the fabrics woven in Tyre.


And what in the world did they bear it for?
I don't know.
And what in the world did they dare it for?
Perhaps that is not for the likes of me to understand.
They could very well have watched a hundred legions go
Over their fields and between their cities
Down into more southerly regions.
They could very well have let the legions pass through their woods,
And have kept their lives and their wives and their children and cattle and goods.
I don't understand.
Was it just love of their land?
Oh poor dears!
Can any man so love his land?
Give them a thousand thousand pities
And rivers and rivers of tears
To wash off the blood from the cities of Flanders.


This is Charing Cross;
It is midnight;
There is a great crowd
And no light.
A great crowd, all black that hardly whispers aloud.
Surely, that is a dead woman - a dead mother!
She has a dead face;
She is dressed all in black;
She wanders to the bookstall and back,
At the back of the crowd;
And back again and again back,
She sways and wanders.

This is Charing Cross;
It is one o'clock.
There is still a great cloud, and very little light;
Immense shafts of shadows over the black crowd
That hardly whispers aloud . . .
And now! . . . That is another dead mother,
And there is another and another and another . . .
And little children, all in black,
All with dead faces, waiting in all the waiting-places,
Wandering from the doors of the waiting-room
In the dim gloom.
These are the women of Flanders.
They await the lost.
They await the lost that shall never leave the dock;
They await the lost that shall never again come by the train
To the embraces of all these women with dead faces;
They await the lost who lie dead in trench and barrier and foss,
In the dark of the night.
This is Charing Cross; it is past one of the clock;
There is very little light.

There is so much pain.


And it was for this that they endured this gloom;
This October like November,
That August like a hundred thousand hours,
And that September,
A hundred thousand dragging sunlit days,
And half October like a thousand years . . .
Oh poor dears!
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