I’m re-reading (or at least skimming through) CW’s early volumes of poetry in preparation for my keynote speech at the Taylor Colloquium in about a month. I’m struck anew by how powerful some of these early poems are, once the good ones are weeded out from among the mediocre, archaic, overblown ones. Here’s a magnificent one in which the narrator’s sweetheart gets lots in a multiverse–or at least, his thinks she could have been–fore-echoes of Pullman or Doctor Who, perhaps?
There must be many Theobald’s Roads in the universe;
Images of images; almost, not quite, identical;
A little above, a little below, slanting across, here but not quite here;
Visible, tangible–but to me invisible, intangible.
I look for her hat: I wait, she has not come.
It is hardly time indeed, and it’s pleasant to wait;
But a little laughter sounds in my mind–a stranger
Laughing there: ‘You fool, she’s waiting already.
‘Time has many turnings, and Time and Space
Multiply infinitely between them this crowded world.
By mere chance she, coming out of the house to-day,
Just where two were co-incident, entered the other.
‘You can wait as long as you like, you will never meet her.
She is gone for ever, as you from that other world
Where she now is waiting have vanished,–unless hereafter
Some shock may hurl you across into that world’s reckoning.
‘There–twenty years hence or thirty, who knows how long?–
Again you shall meet, unhappy, desolate, old;
You, knowingly translated, shall see a face
Where something moves that moved long since in your mind.
‘It shall be there the only familiar thing
After those years’ long absence: if she shall know you
What will she say or do? . . . But as for the doctors,
They may call it loss of memory, they may call it madness.’