Monday, September 28, 2015

Lawrence Durrell: "Lesbos"

Another of Lawrence Durrell's enigmatic poems--I don't know why I read his poetry, but there's something there that fascinates me.  Perhaps it's that attraction of the unsolved puzzle, one whose meaning is just out of reach.


                                     The Pleiades are sinking calm as paint,
                                     And earth's huge camber follows out,
                                     Turning in sleep, the oceanic curve

                                      Defined in concave like a human eye
                                      Or cheek pressed warm in the dark's cheek,
                                       Like dancers to a music they deserve.

                                      This balcony, a moon-annointed shelf
                                      Above a silent garden holds my bed,
                                       I slept.  But the dispiriting autumn moon,

                                       In her slow expurgation of the sky
                                       Needs company:  is brooding on the dead,
                                       And so am I now, so am I.

-- Lawrence Durrell --
from Collected Poems: Lawrence Durrell

All seems well, he is comfortable but then the " dispiriting autumn moon" rises.  For him, autumn is a melancholy time for it reminds him of those who have died, and perhaps of his own mortality.

The second stanza poses a problem for me. especially the second and third lines. 

                                       "Or cheek pressed warm in the dark's cheek,
                                         Like dancers to a music they deserve."

 It seems to be a comforting situation, but I'm not sure about the "music they deserve."

Most interesting line is the first: "The Pleiades are sinking calm as paint."

Is there one that you find most interesting?

The title "Lesbos" refers to a Greek island and seems to have little to do with sexual preference. On the other hand, I may be missing something here, which is entirely possible. 

 Comments are welcomed and encouraged. 


  1. The poem being too enigmatic for my mind today (or ever), I am nevertheless intrigued by the images and the singular tropes. I shall ponder the poem some more before saying more. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. R. T,.

    I think that it may be those "images and the singular tropes" that intrigue me also.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  3. I would say that narratively, there are three things going on - The Pleiades are setting, the poet's bed is on the deck, and as the moon rises, it erases the stars from the sky. It becomes the only light that can be seen, and hence needs company. And since it is autumn and since the moon has 'destroyed' the stars, it leads the poet to brood on death... as one does beneath an autumn moon. I love Durrell, and had the good fortune to study with J. A. Brigham, a noted Durrell scholar. If you haven't read the Alexandria Quartet, might I suggest reading it ASAP.

    Thanks for posting this poem - haven't read it in a long time.

    1. anomiceleven,

      Yes, I can see the flow or the direction of the poem.

      I'm a long-time fan of Durrell, so I'm well-acquainted with LGD, Pursewarden, etc. My favorite character, though, is Scobie.

      Have you read The Avignon Quintet? I think he does some strange things that blur the line between reality and fiction.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  4. Yes - Read Avignon, but always feel like I need to re-read it and spend more time on it. It has some of the most affecting scenes in Durrell's writing. Thanks for your comments!

  5. anomiceleven,

    Yes, I agree. And, it's been some time since I dipped into Durrell, so I may dust off the Quartet and perhaps the Quintet for some quiet winter nights' treading..

  6. enjoy the winter.... might do the quintet as well...
    thanks again

  7. anomiceleven,

    You're quite welcome and thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Winter evenings with the Quartet and maybe the Quintet and a touch of brandy and a napping cat in the lap. What else are winter evenings for?