Rover is a name I usually associate with a dog (and I am a dog person) so, maybe Old Rover is a faithful old friend? Old soldier? Wizened traveller?
Stunning imagery, feels like a fleeting memory of a beloved character.
Makes me think of my grandfather and the tales he used to tell – I think it must be some kind of Grandparentel Law to tell stories…
What does it all mean?
A loving memory of an old soldier who breezed into a family’s life, regaling them with tales of his life, before dying in old age (or just moving on)?
He came with the mild-murmuring breeze in play.
Ambling down the sordid silence of May,
He arrived quietly, without fuss, in one May in this family’s memory. ‘Sordid silence’; was this particular May indecently quiet or without entertainment?
‘Ambling’ – wandering slowly on foot or on horseback?
His hand swaddled a scarlet-speckled flute
That stemmed mid-day’s searing gay attitude.
He’s holding on to a glass of red wine, enjoying a happy afternoon.
When his lips parted to caress the wind
That cuddled aloft his grey-bearded chin,
It quivered the flowers; calm and mellow
And echoed the whistlings of the meadow.
Maybe his words are wind. Or maybe this aphorism means I’ve read too much Game of Thrones…
More likely he is telling them his tales and these tales appear to touch everything around them. The stories are memorable and they have remained with them as happy memories, or they are reminded of him when they feel the wind on their skin.
What is our fascination with associating grey with old age?! Grey beard that’s being wafted around by the wind… Is he an old hipster? Grey beard also has connotations with wisdom – growing old, becoming wise.
I like the use of the word ‘cuddling’ as it reinforces that feeling of the subject being an old, genial character, like Santa Claus out of season. And who doesn’t love a cuddle?
Our souls succumbed to the gale of his whirr.
Faint-footed and wonder-wreathed we were.
He ploughed thoughts upon which words cannot ride
And sailed atop our sore-soothed bleak tides.
His words drew them in and they sat quietly, mesmerised and enveloped in the images he conjured for them. I imagine he had that kind of storyteller voice and manner (‘whirr’) that draws you in and makes you lose all sense of time.
He made them think of things they had never even considered, brought wonder to their simple existence, and gave them hope when their lives seemed meaningless. Maybe his words helped them see the wonder in their own lives.
Ample flock-tending shepherds rambled by;
As did brazen nightingales in the sky.
Everyone around him was drawn in to his words. Maybe he was also good with wildlife?
Maulding-maiming melodies that chimed forth
Remained captive to stones of frugal worth.
I can’t find an actual dictionary definition of ‘maulding’ and I wonder if it is a play on words – maul, maudlin? If so, maul, maudlin, maiming – stories from the battlefield? Stories of battles that were in the name of something the soldiers had long forgotten in their daily misery but kept them fighting; a kind of instilled propaganda to keep them moving (‘remained captive to stones of frugal worth’)?
Do the stories seem pointless to the listeners but it is the way he tells them that keeps them interested?
In symphonic notes, he told sombre tales
Of lethal despair and surreal bewails;
Of sullen kingdoms and placid-plagued kings;
And of Summer, Winter, Autumn and Spring.
He speaks lyrically and his tales are typically sad but they are so varied, he doesn’t seem to be lacking for subject matter and he keeps his audience captivated. Bravery in battle despite knowing it will likely kill (‘lethal despair’) and kings or rulers who couldn’t help, for whatever reason, but remain meek and timid (‘placid’) even when their kingdoms and their people were at risk.
E’en the wild-wandering clouds shed tender tears
When he left in benign but senile fears.
When he left – when he died? Left town? They missed his kindness and graciousness?
He had well-meaning but old-fashioned advice for them before he went?
The weather was stormy when he left?
He was so loved by them that it felt the very sky mourned his passing?
Forever and more shall we await him
To musically bring to life, our swoon dreams.
They’ll never forget the way he brought adventure and colour to their lives, and they dream of him and his stories.
Form – the vaguely technical stuff
Division and order
One stanza of 24 lines.
Suggested rhyme scheme
Mixture of end stopped and run on lines.
Most rhymes are end and masculine.
Consonance and alliteration used to create harmonic imagery.
Similes and metaphors
So many metaphors I am having a ‘wood for the trees’ moment.
Author’s relationship with their subject
The author is remembering a kindly old visitor and smiling.
Other points of view (ideas from other sources)
There doesn’t seem to be very much information about the poet on the internet at all, I turned up some lists of work but nothing biographical. I definitely want to read his other work if it is anything like this!
I love this poem. The imagery used is lyrical, precise without being cold. Who hasn’t met someone whose stories opened up their eyes to the wonder of the world through the telling of their own adventures?
This feels to me like an old soldier who has travelled vastly and wandered alone but never been alone; his words are his companions and his tales ensure the continual company of his eager listeners.
I feel like this man appeared in a town, made friends with a group of locals or a family, stayed a while and told them of his life, then wandered off, never to be seen again. His words enriched their lives and made them see the extraordinary in their own ordinary existence. And when they remember him, it is with affection.
List of poems
When I read this I think of the song… Old Man