He Might Be Heathcliff

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Mike Daniels
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He Might Be Heathcliff

Postby Mike Daniels » Sun Nov 19, 2006 9:15 pm

He Might Be Heathcliff

He calls to bitter landscapes -
to peat bog moors that stretch
from mountain-top to dismal thought,
deep as limestone caverns.
He treads the tussocky path
that slides down into the valley,
reaches down, the outstretched digit
forgoing the fist, to point
sharp into that smoky gloom.
His eyes prickle on the smog
of melancholy he inhabits.
He finds no rest on the slopes.

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Re: He Might Be Heathcliff

Postby Louis P. Burns aka Lugh » Mon Nov 20, 2006 12:46 am

danimik wrote:He Might Be Heathcliff

He calls to bitter landscapes -
to peat bog moors that stretch
from mountain-top to dismal thought,
deep as limestone caverns.
He treads the tussocky path
that slides down into the valley,
reaches down, the outstretched digit
forgoing the fist, to point
sharp into that smoky gloom.
His eyes prickle on the smog
of melancholy he inhabits.
He finds no rest on the slopes.

Excellent piece Mike. I liked the sensations of wilderness I got from this poem upon first reading. The opening line alone;

"He calls to bitter landscapes"

speaks of deep-rooted solitude to me. I'm well aware however that this is most probably down to where my mind has been of late.

I also like the way you have woven the external with the internal in lines like;

"to peat bog moors that stretch
from mountain-top to dismal thought,
deep as limestone caverns
."

From macro to microcosmic in a few well structured and positioned words. The detachment of the character, pointing into a sadness ("smog of melancholy") where he resides is delivered very effectively too. It has an ethereal quality to it.

This poem reads the way a painting reveals. I can almost hear wind lowly growling all around the character and see fast moving clouds running heavy overhead, perhaps lit up with flashes of sheet-lightening.

Thanks for sharing Mike :) ...
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Catherine Edmunds
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Postby Catherine Edmunds » Thu Nov 23, 2006 11:15 am

The 'Heathcliff' archetype is an interesting one. Everyone thinks they know who he is. Trouble is, that 'everyone' tends to be people who saw the Olivier film of Wuthering Heights years ago and vaguely remembers it, and also sort of remembers Kate Bush on TOTP. In other words, they see Heathcliff as a lonely, romantic soul, deeply loving, deeply wronged. Then there are those of us who've actually read the book, and realise that the lonely romantic soul there was also a vicious ungrateful bastard; a violent and abusive man.

So who is the 'real' Heathcliff? Or rather, where is he? He's in that bitter landscape, striding across the peat bog moors. He's in the violence of the wind and the rain, but also in the beauty of the peaks and the stark rocks. He's moody, depressive, romantic, bleak, longing, potentially violent, etc etc. He is the landscape.

That's how I read this poem. I've been there, I know what it's like. By the time the Pennines reach Durham, they've changed in character, and are more colourful somehow, but down in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, they still have the quality that Emily Bronte knew so well and wrote into the character of Heathcliff.

How does that psalm go? "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help"? Something like that. Can't be bothered to look it up. But that's the feeling I get from this poem; the poet seeks relief in the hills, but it's not there; the fresh air he seeks is tainted by the smog of his melancholy. No doubt Cathy and Heathcliff felt that if they could have stayed up on Penistone Crag (or wherever it was) for ever, all would have been well, but they couldn't. There is 'no rest on the slopes'.

Love this poem, Mike. One of your best.

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Mike Daniels
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Postby Mike Daniels » Thu Nov 23, 2006 12:16 pm

Thank you both for your readings and support.

Its a strange thing about the power of books versus film. In many ways, film is easier for people - its more immediate in impact. And I have a deep and long lasting affection for film.

Books on the other hand allow for a greater depth, deeper insight, the power to change lives, affect core values more easily than film. And I love them.

As Delph rightly points out, the romantic figure of Heathcliff is a filmic illusion. The Bookish character considers murder as a realistic option for solving problems, is greedy for power and influence, a general all round bad guy - and the traditional hero for me would be either Cathy's husband, Linton (though a failed hero), or the moor against which everything is set, that dark, brooding presence that in some respects seems to mirror Heathcliff.

Yet at another level, the moor is universal, unbiased, impartial in the blows that it deals, whereas for me Heathcliff is emotionally unbalanced, violent, jealous, prejudiced and vile.

The book thus becomes something other than the film, which is merely a romantic story of unrequited love par excellence.

The book is a study in the attraction of power, the attraction of opposites - though there is a repressed violence of sorts for me in Cathy also.

I admit, I like the way this one turned out.

Mike

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Postby spacecadet » Thu Nov 23, 2006 1:12 pm

danimik wrote:The book is a study in the attraction of power


It must be 25 years since I read the book but all I can remember is that it summed up my life. No matter how kind, truthful and sensitive I tried to be, the women I wanted always ended up in the sack with a total b*stard.


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