When I first set up this site I searched for a header image and found the one I am still using. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it (see more here). I loved Vicky Hampton’s response to this (see it here). When I read her wonderful piece part of it rang bells.
Some time ago I e-mailed her and in the course of our exchange she mentioned one of the influences: Robert Graves’ poem “The Welsh Incident”. She also drew my attention to the superb rendition of this by Richard Burton (see here). Suddenly I was reminded of O level English and the “the Albermarle book of modern verse for schools”, volume 1! Well I have it on my bookshelves so off I go to look up the poem in my copy, the one I stole from school all those years ago … oops.
It is of course a delight and it was great to reread it nearly ½ Century later. BUT joy upon joy I discover another poem by Robert Graves above it on the page: “The Devil’s Advice to Storytellers”!!!!!! How glorious the ways of serendipity:-
Lest men suspect your tale to be untrue,
Keep probability–some say–in view.
But my advice to story-tellers is:
Weigh out no gross of probabilities,
Nor yet make diligent transcriptions of
Known instances of virtue, crime or love.
To forge a picture that will pass for true,
Do conscientiously what liars do–
Born liars, not the lesser sort that raid
The mouths of others for their stock-in-trade:
Assemble, first, all casual bits and scraps
That may shake down into a world perhaps;
People this world, by chance created so,
With random persons whom you do not know–
The teashop sort, or travellers in a train
Seen once, guessed idly at, not seen again;
Let the erratic course they steer surprise
Their own and your own and your readers’ eyes;
Sigh then, or frown, but leave (as in despair)
Motive and end and moral in the air;
Nice contradiction between fact and fact
Will make the whole read human and exact.
NOTE: I’ve slightly edited the published text to match Grave’ own performance which you can revel in here:-