I wandered in the sneaking snow

Charles Causley has been described as unfashionable poet, and yet many of his poems appear in anthologies.  For those of us who love him it seems inexplicable hat some people don’t; maybe he is considered old-fashioned or old school, maybe because many people first come across his poems in school anthologies he is associated with children’s verse.

Causley  was born in 1917 in Launceston, Cornwall, and this was where he lived for most of his life until he died on 4th November 2003 – it will be the anniversary of his death in two days time. He was brought up by his mother as his father died from injuries he received in the first world war. Causley himself served in the second world war in the navy and after the war became a teacher.

This is the first poem I knew that was by him, although there are many others I’ve read and loved since:

I saw a shot down angel

I saw a shot down angel in the park
His marble blood sluicing the dyke of death,
A sailing tree fired its brown sea-mark
Where he now wintered for his wounded breath.

I heard the bird-noise of his splintered wings
Sawing the steep sierra of the sky,
On his fixed brow the jewel of the Kings
Reeked the red morning with a staring eye.

I stretched my hand to hold him from the heat,
I fetched a cloth to bind him where he bled,
I brought a bowl to wash his golden feet,
I shone my shield to save him from the dead.

My angel spat my solace in my face
And fired my fingers with his burning shawl,
Crawling in blood and silver to a place
Where he could turn his torture to the wall.

Alone I wandered in the sneaking snow
The signature of murder on my day,
And from the gallows-tree, a careful crow
Hitched its appalling wings and flew away.

Charles Causley


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