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Brief Encounter

November 14, 2016

Meeting Point by Louis MacNeice

brief-encounter

Written in the early 1930s, this poem has reminded every reader since 1945, of Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard’s Brief Encounter. David Lean’s film of their unrequited love story turned Carnforth station waiting room into a place of pilgrimage. The poem captures the moment when, for lovers, time stands still. My favourite line, apart from the final couplet, is the intentionally childish, And they were neither up nor down, from the Grand Old Duke of York nursery rhyme. Private passion, all over the place – in public.

Meeting point

Time was away and somewhere else,
There were two glasses and two chairs
And two people with the one pulse
(Somebody stopped the moving stairs)
Time was away and somewhere else.

And they were neither up nor down;
The stream’s music did not stop
Flowing through heather, limpid brown,
Although they sat in a coffee shop
And they were neither up nor down.

The bell was silent in the air
Holding its inverted poise –
Between the clang and clang a flower,
A brazen calyx of no noise:
The bell was silent in the air.

The camels crossed the miles of sand
That stretched around the cups and plates;
The desert was their own, they planned
To portion out the stars and dates:
The camels crossed the miles of sand.

Time was away and somewhere else.
The waiter did not come, the clock
Forgot them and the radio waltz
Came out like water from a rock:
Time was away and somewhere else.

Her fingers flicked away the ash
That bloomed again in tropic trees:
Not caring if the markets crash
When they had forests such as these,
Her fingers flicked away the ash.

God or whatever means the Good
Be praised that time can stop like this,
That what the heart has understood
Can verify in the body’s peace
God or whatever means the Good.

Time was away and she was here
And life no longer what it was,
The bell was silent in the air
And all the room one glow because
Time was away and she was here.

By Louis MacNeice

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