Posted by: nickwardscenarios | December 7, 2011

Where have all the sparrows gone? (for Ted Hughes)

For Ted Hughes

How they hounded him



in his obdurate silence

on the subject of Sylvia’s suicide


Poor Ted!


When fame struck hard

with massive disregard

for his-her female craft

he swamped her as he loved her

a very crushing boatman

waited on domestically

by her out-dated sanity


He slept around

lauded, amplified,

in down-trodden Primrose Hill, late fifties,

plentiful with sparrows’ eyes

that bed-sitting existence with mouths to feed

Where have all the sparrows gone?


No wonder then the pre-poetic raw dawn happened

Camside, old English crooked river,

by Cam when two were one together, however briefly

that kind of love is transatlantic


And, then, years later

these astonishing stanzas emphasising barely bearable grief

beneath the slated silence

Who knew such forces were at warring play in the after-life?

quivering with numbed shafts of pure meaning

etched in a grief-stone, the heart,

with a poet’s mind harder yet

than the granite-weighted memory of Zoo wolves howling

at poor Ted’s, primitive, hidden, remorse.

7th December – in response to the laying of  the Ted Hughes  memorial stone, Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.

these words

could change the axis of our love
the well-spring of desire, however,
is a constant thing of passing

6th December 2011, Cambridge

I liked Seamus Heaney’s observation on Radio Four when he remembered that spending time with Ted Hughes made him feel like himself – and after seeing Hughes he felt ‘even more himself’  than he did when he was spending  time with him.

Lovely way of putting it.

(Seamus Heaney paragraph ammended 8/12/2011 – humanism, my creed, if I have one.)

The other item I particularly enjoyed on yesterday’s Radio Four Today Programme was the invitation for listeners to submit a question for Stephen Hawking to celebrate his 70th birthday in January.

As long-term Nick Ward Scenarios fans might have guessed, my question for Professor Hawking is: What was philosophy before it died?

Professor Hawking: Philosophy is Dead « Nick Ward Scenarios

‘theatre man’ photo by Sylvie : The Corpus Clock, Cambridge – and reflected in the glass the spires of King’s College Chapel which D.H.Lawrence memorably described as resembling ‘an upturned sow’.


Stephen ‘anti-gravity’ Hawking

I am seeking unambiguous retraction on behalf of furtherance of the Univesity-level study of Philosophy and the humanities ref. ‘Philosophy is dead’.

‘transformational kisser 2010′ painting by Nick Ward

August 4th 2010:

‘Chomsky’s Grief’, painting by Nick Ward (2010)

2 more questions for Professor Hawking.

Do thoughts move faster than the speed of light (telepathically)? (ie as instantaneously as gravitational force – ie magnetically(?))

Do the great cosmolgists visualize in colour?

How does this look?  ‘.’ = .  ref ‘The God Particle’, Professor Hawking? simulaneity (:=~) Post Einstein (October 1-3)(added here 14-15th December)

Note to ‘Where have all the sparrows gone?’

The evening before the early-morning writing of ‘Where have all the sparrows gone?’ I was speed-reading Simeon Potter’s Our Language (1950, Penguin Books) in which he writes on pages 18 and 19: ‘Latin did not displace Celtic in Britain as it had displaced Celtic across the sea in Gaul. To the English intruders the Celts offered neither friendship nor culture, and little by little the latter were driven westward. The English victory at Deorham (577) separated Wales from Cornwall and that at Chester (613) separated Wales from Cumbria or Cumberland. Many of the Cornish Celts found new homes in Britanny, where Breton or Armorican is still a living language, whereas Cornish died out in the eighteenth century. Welsh, Manx, Erse, and Gaelic are living tongues, though most Welshmen are all Celtic-speaking, Manxmen are bilingual. Many English river-names are Celtic: Aire, Avon, Dee, Derwent (Darent, Dart), Don, Esk (Axe, Exe), Ouse, Severn, Stour, Tees, Thames, Trent, and Wye. Several of these, like Avon, Esk, and Stour, mean just ‘water’, but some, like Cald(er) ‘violent’, Cam ‘crooked’, Dee ‘holy’, and Dove ‘black’, are descriptive. Some names of cities and towns are Celtic: London, Dover, Crewe, York, Leeds, Catterick, Penrith, and Carlisle. To a Celtic name Latin-derived -chester or -cester may have been added: Dorchester, Gloucester, Leicester, Manchester, Rochester, and Winchester. Upon the Old English spoken language, however, Celtic left few marks.’

Hence line 21 of the poem ‘ Camside, old English crooked river’ is at once literally true, the Cam on the Granchester Meadow side of Cambridge, upstream that is, where Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes loved to walk and talk, etc, is indeed a ‘crooked’ old English river – however the line also employs some poetic license as the Celtic word (according to Potter) ‘cam’ for ‘crooked’ pre-dates ‘old English’ – or does it? Who knows?  I am wondering now, on December 9th, if I would have written the poem at all without having first read, at ‘reformed-dyslexic’ speed, Simion Potter’s fascinatingly dated book. The paragraph on Celtic-named rivers certainly made me pause and I was delighted to learn the original meaning of Cam and to ponder the wider significance of our beautifully rugged, noun-unengendered, language to last – and how the poets have made it a fast language too – when needs be.
Regarding Simion Potter’s line,  ‘Upon the Old English spoken language, however, Celtic left few marks’… Wrong! Very, very, wrong: ‘upon the Old English written language, however, Celtic left few marks’ would be misleading too.

Prefatory quote to this much-visited ‘future blog 2009’ from Peter Ackroyd’s, highly recommended, Thames Sacred River (Chatto & Windus, 2007), Chapter 4, p 23), added here 14 Decemeber 2011:

‘Thames is an old name. With the exception of Kent it is perhaps the most ancient name recorded in England. It is assumed to be of the same origin as that of the rivers Tamar, Teme and Taff; they may all be derived from Celtic ‘tam’, meaning smooth or wide-spreading. ‘Isa’ or ‘esa’ are both versions of a Celtic root word meaning running water, as in the present Ouse and Exe (Oxford is a corruption of Ousenford or Osenford). So we may construct a provisional translation for the Thames as running ooze. But this is merely informed supposition. The word may have another origin altogether. There is a river Tamese in Italy, and the principal town of the Brutii in southern Italy was called Temesa.

There is also a tributary of the Ganges, known in Sanskrt as Tamasa. It derives from Sanskrit ‘tamasa’, or ‘dark’. In the second book of the Hindu text, ‘Ramayana’, there is a chapter on The Tamasa. So the name could be pre-Celtic. It may spring from the primordial tribes of the mesolithic or neolithic periods, who during their wanderings over the earth, shared a common language. The syllable ‘teme’ may indeed indicate darkness, in the sense of holy or sacred fearfulness. It may be very ancient indeed, going back to the first naming of the world. It is a matter of interest, then, that in the nineteenth centuries the Thames was often described as the ‘dark river’ in unwitting echo of its first description.’

Ours is an oral tradition – hence, ‘Where have all the sparrows gone?’ is a poem designed to be read aloud (as I will be performing it this evening 11/12/2011 at the Portland Folk Club, Portland Arms, Cambridge). What I do admire about Potter’s Our English is the way it shows that the Romans cleared the way for Christianity. If you’re looking for ley-line confluence, look first beneath the churches.

The pre-Christian Crypt of St Ethedreda’s Church, Ely Place, London

I am adding to this blog the morning after Melvyn Bragg’s brilliantly responsive Radio 4 documentary feature on Ted Hughes. I was transfixed – and two things struck me with great force, self-identiying force, that is: that Hughes honed his supernatural powers of single-pointed concentration watching a fishing float as a boy (as I did and blog about here: Me, I love the river « Nick Ward Scenarios) and that he named Beethoven as the artist who most inspired him. I can identify with that too and remember the wonderful day when Michael Tanner, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge – my chief philosophical-dramaturgical mentor from my undergraduate days made me cassette copies of the Busch Quartet (and the Quartetto Italiano) playing the late Beethoven string quartets – music which, for some years, became my chief ‘distraction’ as I wrote for the theatre: Apart from George (1987) and The Strangeness of Others (1988). So much so that, at that time (1981-1988) I would hardly listen to anything else, at least as I was writing. Years later I played Opus 131 to my next great mentor (digeridoo master and a lover of Country Music), the telepathic King of the Gooniyandi people, North West Australia, and he simply listened, greatly absorbed, and having listened said, simply, of Beethoven: ‘from the heart’.

a very big issue for me to publish these indistinct rephotos of my only photo of a wonderful aborginal artist and lawman

…Janangoo Butcher Cherel

Butcher Cherel Janangoo c 1920-2009. Skin Group. Jangkarti. Country. Jalnganjoowa. Language. Gooniyandi / Kija. photo from
So it was that Beethoven found his way into ‘Ingamal Godingi’, a non-linear sound sculpture commissioned by the Perth International Festival (1997) – and, incidentally, my deep love of Country Music (roots, blues and folk) was re-ignited by an Australian tribal boss… and Banjo Nick was born. Great show, Melvyn: got me to thinking – and that’s never a bad thing – even if direct perception of emptiness is ultimate goal. (Ammended 13 December 2011) (living philosophy, Professor Hawking, living philosophy)
Jan 4th 2012: I’ve been thinking about the Beethoven comment – and, yes, it’s true that the late quartets became an obsession for me – and I did, sometimes, write plays as I was listening to them, however, I also wrote plays watching snooker on TV or sitting on the top deck of a London bus on the way to the National Theatre Studio from Islington (38 0r 19) — and sometimes I wrote to music other than Beethoven’s late quartets – I remember Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris Texas was playing when I wrote key scenes to The Strangeness of Others (1987/88) for instance… so I did listen to Beethoven but not as much as this blog seems to be suggesting. Typical me – overstatement followed by retraction. Memory is a strange, strange, business. That is true!
busking – don’t look back!Untitled 1 ( 7/2/2011) 12xA4 card (acrylic, water-colour, Morrocan ground pigment: yellow and red, chicken Oxo cube, urine) eternal thought for the day from an earlier blog and sparked by search-term appearing on the Nick Ward Scenarios dash-board this morning: ‘dingri khenchen’

Drom Tonpa: Do those who have realised the truth become Buddhas simply by meditating on the view of emptiness?

Jowo Atisha: Of all that we perceive as forms and sounds there is nothing that does not arise in the mind. To realise that the mind is awareness indivisible from emptiness is the view. Keeping this realisation in mind at all times, and never being distracted from it, is meditation. To practice the two accumulations (mind-emptiness) as a magical illusion (from within that state is action). If you make a living experience of this practice, it will continue in your dreams. If it comes in the dream state, it will come at the moment of death. And if it comes at the moment of death it will come in the intermediate state. If it comes in the intermediate state you may be certain of attaining the supreme accomplishment.

The great Dzogchen adept, the Hidden Yogi Dingri Khenchen. Rinpoche’s main Dzogchen guru. He died in 2006 at the age of nearly 100 years. He was a student of Khenpo Kunpal of Dzogchen Monastery (who was himself a student of Patrul Rinpoche) and of Bodtul Rinpoche. Many signs occured at the time of his death, including ringsel and script on the skull.

Roughly 500 years before Hamlet raised very similar questions within the crucifying restrictions of the already shrivelling distortions of the Christian view. The Christian view stripped of theories of re-birth which provide the only credible (logical) exchange between Old and New Testiments, ie Elias-Elija become Jesus-John. Heresy? Roughly 900 years before Nietzsche’s Zarathustra’s outcry: ‘God is dead’. Nietzsche reckoned Buddhism to be a thousand times more complex (interesting) than the Judeo-Christian frameworks of his day in his book The Anti-Christ – beyond good and evil? Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). I’ll come back to the tantric usefullness of Christianity in the particle-wave time domain.

‘I know what you want’ 2011 (detail 2) painting by Nick Ward – 2xA4 card – watercolour, acrylic, printing ink, pastel, glitter.


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