Basil Bunting was one of the most important British poets of the 20th century. Acknowledged since the s as a major figure in Modernist poetry, first by Pound. Briggflatts by Basil Bunting is one of the great poems of the twentieth century, though it has not always occupied a central place in discussions. Basil Bunting’s poem “Briggflatts” has been hailed as the successor to Ezra Pound’s “Cantos” and T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.” Bunting himself.

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Whatever a line stanza should be called, Bunting works it marvellously, entwining staccato and legato elements into one harmonious whole, like a flowing hillside studded by rocks. In the following four parts the stanzas vary in length from couplets to quatrains to stanzas of more than 20 lines.


It is a complex work, drawing on many elements of his life, experience and knowledge, and features the saint Cuthbert and the warrior king Eric Bloodaxe as two opposing aspects of the Northumbrian — and his — character.

Deeper history also comes to the surface with the first, brief appearance of the Viking warrior and sometime ruler of Northumbria Eric Bloodaxe, killed in battle on Stainmore around AD. Briggflatts is a long poem by Basil Bunting published in So the poem begins with an incantation, evoking youthful sexual energy and copiousness. This video features four short extracts of Basil Bunting reading from his long poem Briggflatts not in orderfrom Peter Bell’s film portrait of Bunting, included on a DVD issued with the new Bloodaxe edition of Briggflatts which also has a CD of an audio recording Bunting made of the whole of Briggflatts in The young lovers touch and kiss in stanza five, a masterpiece of tactile finesse and density of texture.

Thanks for sharing this information with us. However, there is still the nagging sense of tragedy that has persisted throughout Briggflatts. Virtuoso of the verb and grand-master of the preposition, he rarely wastes time on an adverb, but is more liberal with exact and sensuous adjectives.

More personally, the litany of death and decay segues eventually into a recollection of the lost love affair with Peggy.

A skilled musician can imagine the sound, more or less, and a skilled reader can try to hear, mentally, what his eyes see in print: Show 25 25 50 All.


Paralleling this episode, Bunting nods in the final lines of the section at the Ancient Greek myth of Pasiphae, who gave birth to the Minotaur after an encounter with a bull sent by the sea-god Poseidon note the subject rhyme with the bull at the start of the poem.

Meanwhile, the labour of the mason goes on, a two-stanza ostinato-bass of tapping and sanding and getting the memorial-work done. However, that is not quite the whole story; there is also a definite realist narrative here. Rub bbunting stone with sand, wet sandstone rending roughness away.

Another factor, the poem’s supposed difficulty, requires some qualification. All his poetry is available buntinh Complete Poems Bloodaxe Books, The rhythm and mood change dramatically in the first line of the next stanza: The first part has a regular structure of 12 stanzas each containing 13 lines.

His syntax is so rigorously constructed that not a word, a breath, a letter, even, seems wasted. Bunting visited Brigflatts as a schoolboy when the family of one of his schoolfriends lived there, and it was at this time that he developed a strong attachment to his friend’s sister, Peggy Greenbank, to whom the poem is dedicated.

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Ridiculous and lovely chase hurdling shadows morning into noon. It begins with allusions to the sixth-century poet Aneirin the correct spellingwhose most famous work Y Gododdin describes the Battle of Catterick and its aftermath in North Yorkshire around AD.

Basil Bunting reading from Briggflatts This video features four short extracts of Basil Bunting reading from his long poem Briggflatts not in orderfrom Peter Bell’s film portrait of Bunting, included on a DVD issued with the new Bloodaxe edition of Briggflatts which also has a CD of an audio recording Bunting made of the whole of Briggflatts in If part 4 was mostly tragic notes with a brief major-key interlude, part 5 is the opposite.

Under sacks on the stone two children lie, hear the horse stale, the mason whistle, harness mutter to shaft, felloe to axle squeak, rut thud the rim, crushed grit. North Northumberland, Farne Islands.

An introduction to the work of a poet was made by Northeast Films and first shown on Channel Four in No one here bolts the door, love is so sore. Bunting immediately takes us into the soundscape in their heads, and makes us hear all the small, complex interactions of horses and cartwheels. But now that he is an old man the perspective is different. Fingers ache on the rubbing stone. The bull will re-appear later, when Bunting recalls the legend of Pasiphae.


In Shahnameh, Alexander journeys with his troops to the mountains of Gog and Magog at the edge of the world.

He cites the poem to show that free verse can include a rhyme scheme without following other ubnting of traditional English poetry.

Rawthey is a river; Garsdale, Hawes and Stainmore are nearby locations; the stonemason and miners are local characters.

Poem of the week: from Briggflatts by Basil Bunting

basi, Part 1 is the most immediate and tightly structured in the poem. Copper-wire moustache, sea-reflecting eyes and Baltic plainsong speech declare: In line with the moral of BriggflattsCuthbert was a quiet hero bazil on the margins of society who loved nature without seeking to control it. Rocks happen by chance. The moon sits on the fell but it will rain. Views Read Edit View history.

North Yorkshire; Lindisfarne; Tynedale. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Many thanks are due to Newcastle University for their assistance with this project under the KTP scheme. His delivery reminds us that language is built of muscle and saliva, air and bone. Order by newest oldest recommendations. In between these biographical fragments, more indirect passages and mythical subjects jostle in typical high-modernist fashion. The section is based on an episode from the medieval Persian epic poem Shahnameh, which includes a portrayal of the Greek leader Alexander the Great BC.

The Bloodaxe narrative is treated more fully: Stone smooth as skin, cold as the dead they load on a low lorry by night. The verse here is emphatically musical, foregrounding alliteration, assonance and internal rhyme, with a stark rhyming couplet at the end of each stanza to draw it to a close. But I think the really essential facts about the poem can be summarised in a relatively tight space.