A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


I know it's not August, and I know it's not yet midnight, and I know I said I'd put Hardy aside for a while ... but ... I've just read this, and it's so utterly delighful that I had to share it.

An August Midnight

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter - winged, horned and spined -
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands ...

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
- My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
'God's humblest, they!' I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.


(A dumbledore is a bumble-bee or a cockchafer.)


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Ha! This is just great. You might recall I said I was going to pick up a copy of Hardy's poetry? Well, the other day I found a volume of "Selected Verse." It was a terrible example of the bookbinder's art—cheaply printed on awful stock, tiny type, and the "selected" part bothered me—selected by whom? I'd rather do my own selecting. So I declined in hopes of finding a nicer copy in hardback somewhere else. (I can order new, but I actually prefer used books to new—God knows why, though a quirk I try and satisfy whenever possible.)

Anyway, one of the poems I read while in the store was "An August Midnight." I liked it, but had no idea what a dumbledore was. I meant to look the word up in my OED when I got home, but forgot. Now, not only have you posted the poem, but you've also answered the dumbledore mystery…and added "cockchafer" to my vocabulary.

How can a blog ever aspire to do more than that with a single entry? Ha!

The Solitary Walker said...

The "dore" bit of "dumbledore", I read, is an Old English word for any insect that flies with a loud, buzzing noise. "Dumbledore" is also used by Hardy as a dialect word for a blundering, accident-prone, slightly dim-witted person (German "dumm", English "dumb"). Though I suppose most people know the word through the J K Rowling books (Professor Dumbledore..! No doubt a joke by Rowling, who is always very careful about the names she chooses for her characters.)

Dominic Rivron said...

Interesting. It strikes me as 19th century in form and 20th in content. Dickinson-like, too.

It also reminds me of that song Christy Moore did - The Flickering Light, I think it's called.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thank you for sharing this Robert - I have never seen it before and it is absolutely lovely. It is the sort of poem it would be good to learn by heart. Love it!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Robert - me again - there is also a dore beetle - I remember seeing a lot of them in the Wood of Cree in Dumfries and Galloway a few years ago - they are a lovely beetle with a purple underside. Don't know how this fits in with the poem but thought it was a bit of useless information you would like to read! Love

The Solitary Walker said...

"19th century in form and 20th century in content" - very typical of Hardy. And, yes, a little Dickinsonian too. I like Christy Moore but I don't think I know that song - will check it out.

There's posh suburb of Sheffield called Dore, as well - though I don't know if this is connected with buzzing insects. Finally - hereabouts there's a local Nottinghamshire word "dumble", which means a shallow valley or depression.

The Solitary Walker said...

Weaver - I'll test you on that poem later!

am said...

Thanks for this, solitary walker!

jay said...

Just exactly the sort of poem I like! It's perfect.

I knew what a dumbledore was - at least, I knew that it was another name for a bumblebee. I have learned now that it can be any insect which flies with a loud noise! Neat!

Bella said...

Off topic but on the topic of walking...I listened to a book review on the radio you may be interested in... "The Lost Art of Walking. The history, science, philosophy and literature of Pedestrianism" by Geoff Nicholson. It sounded interesting and full of probably useless but fascinating information on writers, poets etc that loved to walk...

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for the tip-off about this book, Bella - I'll most certainly be buying it/borrowing it from the library when I get the chance.