From the vaults of time
Arthur Nelson does his best to recall a lost classic
For my formal debut as Poetry Editor, I have decided to go back in history to what – in my humble opinion – has now become a ‘lost classic’, due entirely to my inability to remember its full extent.
History is littered with strange originations of verse and poetry, none perhaps more strange or famous that that of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan.
One day, in an opium-induced haze whilst staying somewhere upon Exmoor in the south-west, he had reading an account of the land of Xanadu. Falling asleep, he awoke three hours later, seemingly with an entire scheme of over two hundred lines’ worth of poetry burning a hole in his brain. He immediately sat down to write it all out. After some time, having at that point ‘captured’ 54 lines, he was ‘called out by a person on business from Porlock’ for about an hour and – upon his return to his room – to his intense frustration, could remember little but tiny fragments of the remainder of the poem he had ‘dreamed’.
The background to the incomplete classic that I wish to present today runs thus.
Nearly five decades ago, I edited an unofficial school magazine devoted to humour and, in particular, humorous poetry. Said organ achieved a modicum of success and notoriety, to the extent that one of my pals – hitherto not a contributor – felt moved to announce that he was going to compose and submit a poem for publication. About a fortnight later, and after much teasing by his fellow pupils (including me), one morning he came to provide me with the fruits of his labours.
I now include it below – or, at least, the second verse of it, which is all I can remember after the long passage of time since its first publication:
Clouds rushed past my melting eyelids
I could feel the room sinking
Sinking slowly down;
I shook my head while thinking
“My God, there’s a hell of a lot of clouds in here …”
Forty-five years on, it still brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.