Iain James Robb was born in Greenock, his parents passing through toward Glasgow, where he has lived all his life, on the sixteenth day of January 1976, three days within the birthday of EA Poe. At school, he showed precocious skill in art but this was not to be his vocation. Though his parents divorced when he was still young, he lived a very happy childhood. He began writing short stories and the first few chapters of a novel while still in secondary school and completed the novel at college, where he briefly suffered a breakdown and never graduated: and the book was entirely lost when the old computer he was using went faulty. Though he recognised that what he wrote was of not much value, he turned to poetry in time to avoid the loss of any more large scale work. Ironically, much of his best poetry is to modern sensibilities unfashionably long. Due to romantic disappointments and being ignored by big name publishers more concerned with imagined trends than artistic acheivement, Robb retreated into dispomania for a few horrible years in his late twenties, but after a near-death experience managed to get his bouts of drinking under serious control. He lives a relatively happy life sharing house with a friend and has aspirations to be a critic when his poetic inspiration fades away.
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PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
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SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
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ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE
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DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI
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IAIN'S FIVE FAVOURITE THINGS:
Collecting DVDs, especially old exploitation and horror films
Listening omnivorously to all forms of good music
Collecting books on fine art, and twentieth century art in particular
Going out at the weekend in the hope of meeting girls
Finding good books to read I've heard about but not got round to reading
Once frost left your stem:
Depetalled, shall winds make
A coffin of your heart.
It’s time to choose to raise the dead,
And learn to ride the pain that’s bled
It’s strange and wilting course upon
The endpage of an Autumn’s dawn.
We lapse like silken memories, that ring
The changes to an endless chain, of anything
That lies as silenced as the violet skies:
Frail poets we who pass before sighs,
Like death masks in their dearther’s eyes.
They count their clocks, imagine life’s find
In the cultures of the vulture who is blind
as leads the blind.
I am a blind man, tied with no roots,
my stalk too slim
To wander where the wind heeds no
Commission to my last need’s paradigm.
I have my hands, yet they have lost their anchor:
And I feel my past has put out in a boat.
Nothing else remotely can come near me,
With my head in my hands and my tie cut afloat
On the edge of the table, stood with bent knee.
The breath of tea and coffee drifts before me,
In an evening shawl: then dissipates away
Like something that I once held in my fingers,
There, in my hand – and I am lonely,
Here in a darkened closet-space; today
I feel I can sit and watch as the feelings all peel,
Revealing fresh nerve endings: sometimes later on
Resigned to no motion, I can let them fade, contentedly.
Here in the village school, I read my pupils and caress
Their future freedoms, think of when I flew my kite
And lost a pink balloon reclaimed by ever-floating ether.
I can sit and watch it raining outside misty windows,
Let the evaporation of the tide that falls like fingers
Paint a fresh homage to memory: the way I wandered
Through the ruined churchyards, looking through the fog.
My father was a genial man: my father played the banjo.
He spoke three languages: he also carried a cane,
Though hale and healthy, which he bought in a shop,
Somewhere in some second-hand place far away.
I never travelled much, but I’ve been to Spain once,
Never lived the life of a toreador, but I’ve had Spanish wine.
The world moves on and it circles outside of the circuit:
It knows my name. The teacher who sleeps in the cloakroom
At lunch, or who slouches aware of the outside martens,
Or the young hinds in the quite distant forest, knows it too.
He shares my weakness, wanting to run with the does,
There in the emerald forest. Like me he takes his tea hot,
With a little milk and two sugars, and carries a cane.
In time, these words, these words, will no longer be mine.
Who will follow their course when I’m gone, or follow
Like a leaf that flows in the stream of a misty evening,
Where the rain chases itself away in gutters or another
Way to stream itself: to sleep in an August tide?
Shall my senses make themselves the road for newer actions,
Make me act against myself, the train of fresher tendencies?
I’ll wake myself and talk in the hall, with people I don’t know much:
I’ll listen to voices I’ve heard much before, surrender my reactions.
Those writers are dead, they’re not dying: so weakly discussed,
That I trudge to the library walls, to read the same books,
Discussing nothing for myself, the text, that’s the colour of reeds,
Which have dried out like paper, and cinnamon seeds
Evoke their old scent in the falling of young afternoons,
To rest in my leisure, in parks that are trapped in red Junes.
At tea with one of my friends who I allow I’ve not met much,
I said, “I had a pleasant dream last night, or was it before awaking,
Yet I dreamt I was a sailor, and I think it was a pleasant dream.”
He said, “That sounds like you then,” and we laughed.
It seems twenty years back, and such a long lifetime
I woke up in deserted hotels, once visiting Europe
With a traveller’s pass, and a pocket filled up with tobacco:
It’s grown somewhere in America’s most-Southern climes.
I would go to Tunisia, carrying peat-kilned malt whisky,
Sell it for sixty pounds, to some connoisseur of loose customs,
Or go back to the whitewashed church by the water, where I
Saw Marie, her skin blue-veined as though all the ‘sparklets’
That crinkle on rocks by the shore, were within her
(If you forgive a late note on what must be a nonce word):
As if her white flesh were a marble, transparently showing
The rivers which course to her core, beneath agate daylight.
My Meditteranean queen, where have you let me linger,
Somewhere in a present languish, looking at a passing fire:
“D’esirer jusque dans la mort, ne pas mourir de mon d’esir!”
Your hair shone sixty shimmerings, the prisons I will live in:
I have lived out fifty cycles of your fifths, and I am restless
For that one which buys my freedom, from the song you peel
From the mass that you make with your pendant, the bronze ode
Which the sun makes with skin, in the lilt of your Lydian mode.
I said I was a sailor, that I dreamt it, so therefore I was:
He said, “Oh, who believes it?” I admit that unbecoming fact,
Though who said I was lying when my acts fell short of actual arms
To hold them in? He said, “Oh sophist, sue me”, then we laughed.
The world moves on: it travels outside of the circuit.
It is not mine. I wish, that standing in its silent shores
I may guide myself on, with clearer footsteps, not
To seek for something greater than those flights above,
Where two forms seek each nearness, in a dual court:
The gliding forms of turtle-doves I gleaned of many, over me:
Orfano dalla nascita, bevono e, aspettando la morte, blue are
Two larks that fuse between the sky and the sea,
Which make one wheel of indigo that mills out
where the clouds cry,
Where their blue line stands reminding me
of days late in July.
Since I have stood here wondering and arms do not consider
How to capture image pictured here forever where my arms
Fold back, since heavens’ substance I shall not deliver,
Standing with no foresight and no roots:
Since I am stranded here and arms shall
Shall not, since arms shall not consider
How to catch in my hands
One triumph of lust in the rose of my blood’s urge,
One forgotten garland that I had deciphered that sigh
Where the spill of her moment had mated with moon’s surge:
Or one moment of my wilted youth,
One fluent pulse of its urge where Marie rests,
Floating her pearls on the undying water:
I should hope more in vain that my yearnings reach her,
Or that noon’s ship shall teach to be neutral,
Where vision along with resurgency ships not,
For I am a dying man…
My dreams are as the debris that slips out from shoreward:
So stay those flights to me, that catch no phantom’s flight,
Whose image comes with breeze though I am lain to leeward;
There lies a sunset world unruled by morning’s light,
Where fleets of dreams are as the tears that fleet from seaward,
Gone blind before the presence of the sun’s steep might,
When gales that pass her face away will greet the seabird,
Chasing thoughts of her, beyond the vacant eyes of night.
Where shall we find the time to find what’s lost and wanders?
The life that once we loved has passed beyond all gain:
There's a place that Time has left wherein the sun still lingers,
Though leaves may brown and fall below a season’s reign.
Think not of me for my sake, sweet: the wind’s still fingers
Remind me of what was, what wasn’t, what stayed vain:
And now my ear seeks no sound of the cliffward singers,
Gone seaward with the eastern breeze that waves the rain.
Her skin was as the colour of the windswept roses,
Touched flush with sleeping sun, or as a bloom half white -
Peeled petal by swift petal, as the whole uncloses
Once borne by the pale breeze that sweeps with no man’s might -
But fragile as an orphan dies by dusk’s last chorus,
As the double flush that touched her cheeks has turned from sight;
She’s left the lanes of daylight with all light life loses,
Kept just by all the crystals of the eyeless night.
Now something that seemed nothing then bears fruit for hours,
Remembering what had passage or has passed through pain,
I sing of her, through meadow-beds of terraced bowers,
Past copses now made vacant, though her loves remain
For paramours she lay with, through her lanes of flowers
That cupped her hair long faded with the gold month’s grain.
Now gulls that seemed to love her once have left their towers,
That watched her ship sail west, where cloud unwraps the rain.
I sing for her, whose tongue is left with summer’s posies,
Its trace kept where the ear forgets, what’s left from sight;
We won't see what a star sees, where its north beam freezes,
Outlasting her and others through its world of white.
Her passage past the world was as a wind that closes
Before the stems and boughs that pass the realms of light -
That shall not know or tell the mysteries of roses,
That pale their pink ‘neath sapphires of the lilac night.
Though the world stays hers no longer than those ghosts of hours
That lock her in men’s thoughts, where dreams of dusks remain
They'd shared with her, with echoes turned from banished bowers,
She’s also passed these arbours with the last leaves’ train;
Though her eyes shed purple now below the season’s showers
They may pale, since kept by no-one, and recall no strain,
When she goes below to join all the other flowers,
That fade before they’re taken, by the fadeless rain.
Because what I’d felt for you should leave you something,
Because you won’t remember when I’ve walked my way,
Because my face will vanish with your thought to nothing,
Because it leaves with yours when you shall fail to stay,
Because my face to you would stay a thing forgotten,
Because my words have limits and fall from their cause,
Because one thing remembered lies lost, misbegotten,
Because I know too many ways to say, “Because”:
Since love is slave to fate and we were never lovers,
Since made fate’s slave my voice hums by anon unheard,
Since your lip’s warm dews made seconds run to hours,
Since my ear’s stilled strain leans to a different bird:
Since the straying ways, that to the different tímes go,
Since both our fickle whims lead us astray from hence,
Since my crushed cupid left his self, in times past also,
Since his arrows missed you and have vanished since:
I know we’re both the same, in being both as strangers,
I know I’ll soon forget you when this page is done,
I know of life’s hid obstacles and straitened dangers,
I know sight might forget them, once life’s race is run;
I know we were not destined to share breath forever,
I know height’s higher angels left ours lone below,
I know I’ll find a face I’ll keep and claim once never,
I know I’ve learned ‘farewell’ among the words I know.
At the week’s end, memories may come to you
Of weekends same as those just gone before,
That fade away from seeing as a tide’s grey flue,
That vanishes once travelled to a shifting shore:
Still, hope you’ll know a girl for an hour anew,
One who fades away with yet her secret’s store.
Of weekends same as those just gone before,
At the week’s end, memories may come to you.
When last light’s faded for the gold dusk’s hue,
With a friend go off to walk the concrete shore.
Six hours till midnight, think of things you’ll do
Once you’ve gone some place you’ve gone before:
And surrounding streetlights in the darker blue
Spill pale washed amber on their tarmac floor.
With a friend go off to walk the concrete shore,
When last light’s faded for the gold dusk’s hue.
When the late hours leave your confidence
To talk to strangers at the start of day,
As your speech will stumble, still a sense
Of those blonde girls gone óut to play.
Go off on your own and lose your friend,
Before the next track on the last one end;
They bring out swift their twos and tens,
And smile until they scorn your say:
They are this bright night’s denizens,
Still stay near you through early day.
Watch the cold night waking by the city lights,
By the long brown arm of the windless river;
Three hours till midnight, go and see the sights
Of the steep lane sheltered in its floodlit bower.
Will you go back alone before the moon alights,
Having pledged your lust upon a plastic flower?
By the long brown arm of the windless river,
Watch the cold night waking by the city lights.
When a long night’s ended with the other nights,
Will join all the other times no words remember,
Ónce the farthest star has fallen from her heights,
As the street-lamps dwindle to a vanished ember,
You’ll forget the name of her your loss requites,
For you never spoke, beyond one trackless hour
Will join all the other times no words remember,
When a long night’s ended with the other nights.
For the brief space of an hour you’ll know
A woman who will forget you knew her:
Down in the dregs of the rounds gone slow,
To trace “that magic first which drew her.”
Know success as one more self-taught lie,
Though before it failure quite a gulf will lie;
Bored with this, toward their usual déns, go
Those forgetting you as you have felt move far
Their interest that, into its shedding tíme, so
Moves thémselves óff from your footsteps far.
When forethought of a folly is the end you use,
To try and sow excitement if the languor hardens-
(With no clue of a pale and wet tomorrow’s news,
The bleeding body óf the evening paper soddens:)
Guiding lonely friends with just a thirsty muse,
Go away with strangers to the town’s dry gardens,
To try and sow excitement if the languor hardens,
When forethought of a folly is the end you use.
The silent arcs of amber cast too stark a blues,
Reflected in the gutters as the cold rain hardens,
All the women destined by themselves to choose
Another point of venture if a new mood fastens,
To choose of by the separate fancies of their use,
And don’t require your escort to the usual taverns.
Reflected in the gutters as the cold rain hardens,
The silent arcs of amber cast too stark a blues.
Think to face your new morn twice as you
Wake six hours later with a sense more sore.
Think instead of things else you might do,
And dull, dead Saturdays have gone before:
Till the next one comes, too short the time,
Two hours past midnight, yet a sip of wine.
Your week’s ends shift towards a bleaker blue,
Of colder dáys you gáve your plastic flower:
Consciousness not kindled, as you always knew,
Yet you’ll repeat forever this remembered hour.