We picnicked just north of the wall and I sat propped against it with legs outstretched, watching white clouds go by and grass shimmer in the wind, and thinking of those who once patrolled here, Tungrian or Frisian or German auxiliary. In fact I was just feeling myself to be on the edge of some pretty profound insight when small grandson announced that he needed a wee, so I never quite got there. I think it was something about how little time for private reflection those poor blokes must have had in their hard anonymous lives…. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me of new comments via email.
reflecting on my reading and writing by warrick wynne
Some poets who follow W. H. Auden...
The bleak expanse of Hadrian's Wall stretches for 73 rugged miles from coast to coast in the north of England. The poet W H Auden imagines being a Roman soldier there We had driven there through dense swirling fog on a chilly early January day, keeping eagle eyes open for a first glimpse of the ruined wall. We struggled…. Auden seems to have experienced similar thoughts.
aikido budo and japanese culture
My forthcoming book, Under Another Sky , is about the encounter with Roman Britain: the way people have interpreted, fantasised about and projected ideas on to the year period, from the time when its physical remains began to be rediscovered until the present. Roman Britain is, I found, an intensely generative space, which has inspired poems by Housman and Owen, plays by Fletcher and Shakespeare, music by Elgar and Vaughan-Williams — not to mention centuries' worth of extraordinary scholarship. In , Auden's radio play Hadrian's Wall was broadcast from Newcastle, with incidental music by the composer. In common with most live broadcasts at the time, only the transcript survives: it is a delightful, unashamedly pedagogic play about the history of the wall using a family daytrip to the fort of Housesteads as a framing device. Auden used what we would now call found texts in the work, drawing on, for example, a wonderful travelogue by a writer called William Hutton, who walked to the wall in from Birmingham, traversed its length twice, then walked back to the Midlands. He was 78 — and walked an average of 17 miles a day on his day trip. One of the elements of the play was a poem, Roman Wall Blues; a lyrical exploration of the loneliness of the Roman border soldier posted to the edge of the world.
This poor, unnamed Roman soldier; he sure is miserable, on this wet, windy day, left to his own sour thoughts. He knows more than you might think. If you read the couplets aloud, you can feel the his footsteps. A wall soldier would have to stay at his station, but standing still day in and day out would be intolerable. Anybody would pace. Four steps this way, and four steps back, over and over, an endless monotony. And he pretty scornful of Piso, the Christian. What jumped out at me right away is the dampness that runs through this whole piece.