This year’s English Literature students have written a series of poems, inspired by British poet William Blake whose famous poetry and carvings established him as one of the leading figures of the Romantic movement in the 18th and 19th century. He explored many themes such as nature, the detrimental effects of the Industrial Revolution and religion, and his work is often described as bleak and angry, all of which have been effectively depicted in the following poems:
In forest dark where trees droop low,
beneath a slice of half moon’s glow,
Where through the rocks, shadows creep,
To mask a form that seemed asleep.
Lightning flashes, Thunder peals,
A somber sight the light reveals,
a swan, quite dead, in feathered coat,
And scarf of death left on her throat.
His is the strike must make the death,
Whose stroke will taste her hallowed breath,
Who melts the rigour that rocks have bred,
‘Till flint will break upon a feather-bed.
Her soul, in death’s soft fetters bound,
And straight, though softly waked, she found,
With her own cheeks her red adorning,
Risen, to heaven, the brightest morning.
We owe her tears, true she is dead,
Though we shed not, but for ourselves we shed.
And though the pity we owe we lack,
The earth itself will mourn in black.
And none so cold with heart of iron,
Whose ribs of horror all environ,
Strung with wire instead of veins,
Than those who lie in the embrace of chains.
As none we mourn, so too we see
No hint of nature’s hard-held plea,
Nor cotton tree nor mourning yew,
No cedar near her coffin grew.
And all seemed unconcerned to be,
As if the nature there did strive,
To be as pitiless as she
Was to her God - when alive.
Ana P, Year 12
I The Fallen One
I, the Fallen, cast in flame
Made prince of sorrow, sin and pain,
The Old Fool's shame, foulest mistake
The Eldritch King, the damned, the snake
I, the Fallen, bane of man
Who coaxed the truth to woman's hands
Who bade her sup forbidden fruit
And struck mankind first at its roots
I, the Fallen, of cursed fate
Who dwelt behind the Old Fool's gates
And basked in honey, milk and wine
To speak the truth, my foulest crime
I, the Fallen , first to sin
Who dared to strike Him from within
Was driven out with flame and spear
By cherubin and seraphim
I, the Fallen, once loved by all
Who heard the trumpets blast my fall
Was cast to ash and cindered air
To dwell among the sinners there
I, the Fallen, forged in hate
Who tempted the Lamb in Holy Land
Who bade the Roman wash his hands
And seal the 'Savior' to his fate
I, the Fallen, the ram, the goat
Must watch the Old Fool smirk and gloat
As all the sorrow he plagues on man,
Are said to come from mine own hands
I, the Fallen, Lucifer
The sly, the foul, the sinister
In seventh circle remain restrained
With fire and brimstone as my chains.
Pablo L, Year 12
However, to contrast these, are some poems inspired by more contemporary, modern poetry with slightly more broader and abstract themes placed into a completely different context to the Romantic era, such as love, poverty and the inexorable qualities of time.
Youth Staring Back
In a few years we’ll be asking ourselves what we’ve done;
what we’ve done with the greatest years
we’ve been given— everything, and yet what did we give back?
A blank stare—
A glassy gaze—
A roll of the eyes—
Another problem to be dealt with.
Another cause for concern: not unlike that time
you climbed in through the bathroom window at three am
and broke the sink falling. What had you (pl.) been doing?
A blazing glare—
A flutter of eyelashes—
A stray tear swept—
And it transcended to nothing.
And those told they were thriving: like when you
stayed long nights at home with only books and lamplight
to be condemned to mediocrity. Were you (s.) satisfied?
An eyelid drooping—
A sight caffeinated—
A look sleep deprived—
And in the end it led you nowhere.
We’re a youth that’s wasted;
wasted on the young— from the ones who stumbling,
erratic, find comfort in a chaos and a wilderness that’s as
bleak as it is sad— to the ones who live no lives and stay
alone wrapped up in pages, numbers and a schedule which
leaves no time for air— it’s a fallacy! Of toxic behaviour and
offhand (online) comments and
whispered lies and
then it stops.
And starts again
Beatriz J, Year 12
Twenty Years Past
Gambia River, Gambia
In the sky
A golden eye
Which beats the barren, baked and broken earth.
There was water here. A trickling, gurgling stream
Of teeming plenty - its wealth is gone.
The goats will graze on bone-bare soil.
Ashes on the bitter breeze
Belch billowing smoke from ruined trees
Who’ve lost their verdant elegance.
Their naked paleness scorched
A screaming effigy. The fire gorges itself,
And the forests burn.
The pregnant waters of the Thames
Do swollen creep and press
Against the barrage, contracting furious
Against mankind. The river bursts
Unloading its sodden fury on the
The pungent tang of smothering smog
Hangs heavy in the morning air.
The rain releases its acidic anger
On a swarming populace which like termites
Build their concrete nest.
Twenty years past, and here we stand,
And mutely see what we’ve done to our land.
Gadea V & Alvaro R, Year 12
A Timeline of Half-Truths
I miss the half-truths of childhood
Beautiful lies for a beautiful time
Lied to for love, loving the lies
Not just Santa Claus and Rudolph, the bigger ones
‘You’ll go far’ and ‘You’re special’
They say ignorance is bliss but believing is better
And we used to believe in anything
Magical misled children in their private Fairylands
I envy you
You’ll grow up soon and then you’ll get clever
‘Of course magic isn’t real’ ’The tooth fairy’s silly’
But the big ones stay with you
You still believe you’re special
Then you stop growing up and you’re a grownup
No one lies to you so you take up the job
Lying to yourself, burying reality in an avalanche of half-truths
‘It’s not my fault’ and ‘I deserve the promotion’ and ‘I still have time’
But you don’t believe like you used to
It’s near the end now, but you’ve still got one left in you
The biggest of all, the one we all know and love the most
A deathbed comfort, a warm whispering blanket
‘See you on the other side’
Javier R, Year 12
A Cynical Love Song
In your arms;
You walk with nobody in your arms.
They placed stars up in your head
And rose-tinted the iris of your eyes.
An expert on romantic comedies who absorbs
Dramatic formulaic finales as sickly sweet
As the outburst of love letters you nostalgically fold into your diary.
They serve as a crude reminder- enveloped in perfumed tissue paper-
That your worth equated to the number of petals adorning the flowers
Bought by lovers in a cloud of impulsive, meaningless lust.
You can't remember the last time the vase on the window sill was choked by roses.
Where does that leave you now?
Yet you still swoon at strangers who whisper eloquent words of Wilde,
Bat your eyelashes when they boast of Byron,
A hint of Hemingway,
The flutter of Fitzgerald...
A true Romantic, dancing through the worlds of artists
Who fabricated love out of thin air for those
Who knew not how to create it themselves.
So you go out, gulp down the starry night swirling in your wine
As if it is a love potion designed for people like you
Who can't seem to latch onto anyone.
The world taught you loneliness comes only to those
Who have no arms to fall into at night
No lips to linger on at dawn.
But then a glimmer of hope, a fleeting connection.
Shy eye contact, the hint of a smile
And you find yourself falling momentarily once more.
Drunk in so-called love you twist and twirl,
Synchronising with the syncopated pulse of ephemeral passion
God! You don't want it to stop, don't let it be over.
"But what will we do when we're sober?”
Sofia C, Year 12