Monday 10 May 2010

This Is Charing Cross

"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 book-stall 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 fosse, 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." This is the fifth part of the poem Antwerp by Ford Madox Hueffer (Ford), which The Wraiths have set to music as This Is Charing Cross. It is a haunting poem about (Ford's) WW1 experiences which T.S. Eliot famously described as “the only good poem I have met with on the subject of the war.” Pretty daft quote that actually. The Valleys by Electrelane which uses words from Siegfried Sassoon's A Letter Home disproves that for starters. The Wraiths specialise in setting poetry to music, exceptionally beautiful music for which the words chamber folk seem ridiculously inadequate, and I am eternally grateful (yet again) to Daniel for suggesting this number be included, thus triggering a love of The Wraiths' work. Serves me right for not taking notice of him earlier. Interestingly Daniel has geographical links to both The Wraiths (Bristol) and Ford Madox Ford (Merton). The Wraiths have a fantastic new (second) collection out, Welcome, Stranger, To This Place, which continues the challenge of combining poems and music in a way that is exquisite and very moving. Coincidentally Ford Madox Ford's The Soul of London, which some argue is the best book about the Capital and I wouldn't necessarily diagree, is now available as a print-on-demand paperback. I'm not sure I like what that says about publishing today no matter how much I love the book ...

1 comment:

  1. I've also passed through Charing Cross a fair few times (obviously not as regularly as you though).