The forest dark

Here’s another wonderful poem by the little known poet, Walter Turner. If you’re interested in genealogy, it’s quite interesting to look up censuses and see details of ‘famous’ people’s lives.

Walter came to England from Melbourne, Australia in 1907 and he appears in the 1911 census. He is living at 43, Hugh Street, near Hanover Square with his mother, now a widow, Alice May Turner. She is only forty years old, so she was eighteen when she gave birth to Walter. Her occupation is ‘musician – pianist’… I wonder if she remarried? Her name is so common, without any other information it’s impossible to find out. As well as Walter, a merchant’s clerk, they have a visitor, a thirty year old  actor named Emile Louis Meyrat from Port Augusta, also in Australia. He’s married, but his wife isn’t with him on the night of the census. Also residing in the house is Caroline Hassett Haase, an Australian actress aged twenty-six; she comes from Melbourne, so maybe she knew the Turners when they still lived there. Another ex-Melbourne resident is a young shipping clerk, William Beaumont H. Morris who is twenty-eight. What fun the young people might have had in Mrs Turner’s home, two actors, a musician and two young clerks… I’m sure they had splendid musical evenings!

The Caves of Auvergne

He carved the red deer and the bull
Upon the smooth cave rock,
Returned from war with belly full,
And scarred with many a knock,
He carved the red deer and the bull
Upon the smooth cave rock.

The stars flew by the cave’s wide door,
The clouds wild trumpets blew,
Trees rose in wild dreams from the floor,
Flowers with dream faces grew
Up to the sky, and softly hung
Golden and white and blue.

The woman ground her heap or corn,
Her heart a guarded fire;
The wind played in his trembling soul
Like a hand upon a lyre,
The wind drew faintly on the stone
Symbols of his desire:

The red deer of the forest dark,
Whose antlers cut the ky,
That vanishes into the mirk
And like a dream flits by,
And by an arrow slain at last
Is but the wind’s dark body.

The bull that stands in marshy lakes
As motionless and still
As a dark rock jutting from a plain
Without a tree or hill;
The bull that is the sign of life
Its sombre, phallic will.

And from the dead, white eyes of them
The wind springs up anew,
It blows upon the trembling heart,
And bull and deer renew
Their flitting life in the dim past
When the dead Hunter drew.

I sit beside him in the night,
And, fingering his red stone,
I chase through endless forests dark
Seeking that thing unknown,
That which is not red deer or bull,
But which by them was shown;

By those stiff shapes in which he drew
His soul’s exalted cry,
When flying down the forest dark
He slew and knew not why,
When he was filled with song, and strength
Flowed to him from the sky.

The wind blows from red deer and bull,
The clouds wild trumpets blare,
Trees rise in wild dreams from the earth,
Flowers with dream faces stare,
O Hunter, your own shadow stands
Within your forest lair!

Walter J. Turner 1884 – 1947

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