Thursday, 7 July 2011

Not Adlestrop by Dannie Abse

Not Adlestrop, no - besides, the name
hardly matters. Nor did I languish in June heat.
Simply, I stood, too early, on the empty platform,
and the wrong train came in slowly, surprised, stopped.
Directly facing me, from a window,
a very, very pretty girl leaned out.

When I, all instinct,
stared at her, she, all instinct, inclined her head away
as if she'd divined the much married life in me,
or as if she might spot, up platform,
some unlikely familiar.

For my part, under the clock, I continued
my scrutiny with unmitigated pleasure.
And she knew it, she certainly knew it, and would
not glance at me in the silence of not Adlestrop.

Only when the train heaved noisily, only
when it jolted, when it slid away, only then,
daring and secure, she smiled back at my smile,
and I, daring and secure, waved back at her waving.
And so it was, all the way down the hurrying platform
as the train gathered atrocious speed
towards Oxfordshire or Gloucestershire.

from Collected Poems, 1948-1976, Hutchinson, London 1977

1 comment:

  1. As in the poem it is not, this poem records an unexpected instant, unrepeatable, and yet one that almost everyone will recognize. Edward Thomas's extraordinary poem, that seems somehow magically to engage all the senses, celebrates the moment in such a way as to suggest that full living exists only in these brief spots of time (to borrow Wordsworth's version). Dannie Abse takes us out of the rural and places us in the mundane, perhaps a more urban, world. the effect however is the same. Life has been lived, albeit for a brief few seconds.