Whilst studying for my teaching certificate at C.F.Mott College nr Liverpool, U.K. I became transfixed by the doleful poetry of Crabbe. His themes and writing seemed to speak to my emotional state at the time. He was a natural choice for the ‘C’ section of my romp through an alphabet of poets.
Thus by himself compelled to live each day,
To wait for certain hours the tide’s delay;
At the same times the same dull views to see,
The bounding marshbank and the blighted tree;
The water only, when the tides were high,
When low, the mud half-covered and half-dry;
The sunburnt tar that blisters on the planks,
And bankside stakes in their uneven ranks;
Heaps of entangled weeds that slowly float,
As the tide rolls by th’ impeded boat.
When tides were neap, and, in the sultry day,
Through the tall bounding mudbanks made their way,
Which on each side rose swelling, and below
The dark warm flood ran silently and slow;
There anchoring, Peter chose from man to hide,
There hang his head, and view the lazy tide
In its hot slimy channel slowly glide;
Where the small eels that left the deeper way
For the warm shore, within the shallows play;
Where gaping mussels, left upon the mud,
Slope their slow passage to the fallen flood;
Here dull and hopeless he’d lie down and trace
How sidelong crabs had scrawled their crooked race;
Or sadly listen to the tuneless cry
Of fishing gull or clanging goldeneye;
What time the sea birds to the marsh would come,
And the loud bittern, from the bulrush home,
Gave from the salt-ditch side the bellowing boom.
He nursed the feelings these dull scenes produce,
And loved to stop beside the opening sluice,
Where the small stream, confined in narrow bound,
Ran with a dull, unvaried, saddening sound;
Where all presented to the eye or ear
Oppressed the soul with misery, grief, and fear.
This section is taken from Peter Grimes, part of a longer group of verses: The Borough.
Now, Peter Grimes, is most often linked with Britten’s opera of the same name. Whilst the opera is based on this poem, Britten used ‘poetic licence’ to change characters and plot emphasis to suit his music, which personally I find too strident for the tone/language of the poem and settings.
For what it’s worth here follows my rendition of this passage: