A cento is a poetic form where a new poem is made up using lines from other poems.
Using a mix of other people’s words, this poem was composed as part of my Residency at Port Eliot Literary Festival.
It draws on lines from poetical works by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Philip Larkin, John Donne, John Keats, Vladimir Nabokov, Lord Byron, Dante Alighieri, Rudyard Kipling, William Blake, Edgar Allen Poe, Andrew Marvell, Walt Whitman and, of course, George Eliot…
The guests are met, the feast is set.
Speak, memory –
For the straightforward path has been lost
Beneath a trellis or a trilby hat.
And though it is the deep, dark night you feel that the light is done;
New worlds to inherit.
Is that a star? Or the lamp that gleams.
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
He thought he saw an elephant
Over the rock,
Where the spirit drinks till the brain is wild,
Like sleeping and like waking all at once!
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
And as we climbed the hill,
Fair river! In thy bright, clear flow
What wondrous life is this I lead?
The Port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting:
Memory and desire, stirring
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
Give me excess of it!