Tuesday, April 22, 2008

When the blood creeps (Andrew O'Hagan's "Be Near Me")

A final post on Andrew O'Hagan's Be Near Me. As you can tell the book troubled me - in a good way. O'Hagan chose to use one of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poems as an epigraph, and the first time I read it I had to read through it twice.
Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.
It is taken from the collection "In Memoriam A.H.H."
I think it's both beautiful and haunting, even eerie. Hilary Mantel used the phrase "the heart is sick" from this poem as the title of her review of Be Near Me in the Guardian, whether alluding to Father David or to the villagers who surround him, I am not sure. But the repetition of the phrase "Be near me" in the poem sounds as if the author is also able to imagine and accept consolation in the midst of this heart-sickness.

1 comment:

Ben said...

That is a beautiful poem... I just found your blog Ingie! I look forward to dipping in... :-)

Ben x