‘Blaen Cwrt’ is about the small countryside holding that poet Gillian Clarke bought in the mid-1980s in order to settle with her second husband and children. This traditional stone dwelling located in south Ceredigion of West Wales is the host of familial memories and an inspiration for the poet. In this poem, she takes into account her life in Blaen Cwrt and in rural Welsh, surrounded by plowed lands, neighbors, and mountains.
Explore Blaen Cwrt
‘Blaen Cwrt’ by Gillian Clarke presents a calm and cozy description of the narrator’s stone-made traditional house in the countryside.
The poem is written in the fashion of a reply to a person who has asked the narrator about his life in Blaen Cwrt. The narrator, Clarke herself, narrates how it is to live in the rural countryside of Wales. She firstly depicts the inner environment of the house and how they warm their hands using apple woods. She describes how the smoke throngs the house and seeps through the stone walls making patterns like fern leaves. Furthermore, she talks about the surrounding, such as the brown, plowed lands of her neighbors, the color of rain-washed stones, earth, and the magnanimous mountains sheltered by the moody sky. By the end, she comments on her country’s cultural past and how hard work is important for country folks for their survival.
You can read the full poem here.
You ask how it is. I will tell you.
There is no glass. The air spins in
Into the barn where it curls like fern
On the walls. Holding a thick root
As mentioned earlier, Gillian Clarke’s free-verse lyric ‘Blaen Cwrt’ begins with an address to a friend. The narrator seems to be replying to one of her acquaintances who has asked her about her life in Blaen Cwrt. She begins by depicting what her stone-made traditional dwelling looks like. It has no glass for the windows. The air spins freely in the rectangular windows. When it is cool inside, the members of her family warm their hands by burning apple woods. The smoke caused by the fire rises outside against the brown, plowed field. It delivers a message to her neighbors residing in the four folds of her dwelling that the members are present in the house.
Clarke takes special note of the movement of the smoke inside her house. Such a scene cannot be seen elsewhere. It is especially noticed in a stone-made house. The speaker notes how the smoke seeps through the stone walls of the barn. While making its way through the walls, the smoke forms patterns similar to that of fern leaves.
I press my bucket through the surface
Of the water, lift it brimming and skim
Creeping to dust, chalking the slate
Floor with stories. It has all the first
Clarke starts talking about her other activities from line 10. She describes how she goes to fetch water. Holding a thick root, she presses the bucket into the water. By using tactile imagery, she describes the buoyancy of the water: “through the surface/ Of the water.” Then, she pulls the bucket brimming with water and skims the leaves away.
Apart from that, the speaker describes how they have tea together. While sipping tea, their fingers curl on tea mugs like plowmen hold their working tools. In this way, she establishes a connection between the women of the house and the men who work in the fields.
In the following lines, Clarke depicts how the rain washes the stones and makes them appear more colorful. She admits that life in rural Wales is not easy. It is devoid of bright colors like “brochure blues” or “boiled sweet reds.” Both colors hint at the jolly and bright side of life. Instead, the speaker finds an abundance of ochre, earth, and cloud-green colors on the outside. These colors stand for something happy with a tinge of sadness and seriousness.
There are sour nettles (gustatory imagery) and the smell of moist earth and sheep’s wool (olfactory imagery). The chimney hood that is made of wattle and daub has gradually decayed away, and the dust kept coming down the chimney, forming white patterns on the stone floor. The speaker metaphorically describes these patterns as stories telling of previous events.
Necessities for a high standard
Of civilised living: silence inside
To ponder on, and the basic need
To work hard in order to survive.
In the next lines of ‘Blaen Cwrt,’ Clarke mentions how the countryside has all the necessities for a “high standard of civilised living.” This assurance from the poet’s side helps readers, as well as the addressee of the poem, understand that the place, irrespective of its apparent monotony, supplies the inhabitants with everything needed to live to the fullest. In the following lines, she returns to the homely environment of the stone dwelling. There is a peaceful silence inside her home, enhanced by the sounds of water and fire.
Furthermore, she describes how the mountain range looks in the light coming from a wide, “unpredictable” sky. The term “unpredictable” gives a hint at the frequent rainfall in that region. Returning to her home again, Clarke describes how the members of her family live cozily in the two rooms of the house. They speak two languages (Welsh and English), sharing two centuries of past to ponder on. Besides, they are hard-working people. To survive, they need to work hard. On this note, the poet reminds the readers of the importance of leading an active life in contrast to a lethargic, sedentary lifestyle.
Structure and Form
The poem, ‘Blaen Cwrt,’ begins in an epistolary fashion. It seems as if the poet is writing a letter to her friend who has asked her to tell more about her life in rural Wales. This poem is not written in a set rhyme scheme or meter. The entire text is in free verse. There are a total of 32 lines in the poem that are packed into a single stanza. Clarke uses a combination of short and long lines. For instance, the poem begins with three short sentences. Then, they are followed by a longer sentence. The poem is narrated in first-person, and the speaker is none other than the poet herself.
In ‘Blaen Cwrt,’ Clarke makes use of the following literary devices:
- Enjambment: Occurring in lines two through seven, enjambment is an important device used in the poem. Clarke cuts the lines short, creating a sense of suspense while reading. For instance, the phrase “The air spins in” makes the reader wonder about the location.
- Alliteration: It occurs in a number of instances that create musicality in the poem. For instance, alliteration is used in “We warm,” “Four folds,” “smoke seeps,” “brochure blues or boiled,” etc.
- Simile: Clarke presents an explicit comparison between two things in this line, “Some of the smoke seeps through the stones/ Into the barn where it curls like fern.”
- Imagery: Clarke makes use of local colors in order to add authenticity to the text. For instance, she uses the color imagery of ochre, earth, and cloud-green to depict the surroundings of her dwelling.
- Anaphora: It occurs at the end of the poem. Line 29 and 30 both begin with the word “Two” signifying an interconnectedness of the cultures. The following lines, beginning with “To,” convey the things to be done.
Gillian Clarke’s free-verse poem ‘Blaen Cwrt’ is about her home in rural Ceredigion, West Wales, where she settled in the mid-1980s with her husband and children. In this poem, Clarke describes her life in the countryside in close proximity to nature.
The poem was first published in Gillian Clarke’s second volume of poetry entitled The Sundial in 1978.
The most important theme of ‘Blaen Cwrt’ is the peaceful life in the rural countryside of Wales. It also talks about the themes of nature, daily life, togetherness, and life.
The text comprises a total of 32 lines that are grouped into a single stanza. There is no regular rhyme scheme or meter in the poem. It is composed from the perspective of a first-person speaker, who is none other than the poet Gillian Clarke herself.
Here is a list of some similar poems that tap on the themes present in Clarke’s lyrical piece ‘Blaen Cwrt.’ You can also read more such poems by Gillian Clarke.
- ‘A Welsh Landscape’ by R. S. Thomas — This poem portrays Thomas’ views about Wales and Welsh culture.
- ‘To one who has been long in city pent’ by John Keats — This piece describes one speaker’s short visit to the countryside.
- ‘Skirrid Fawr’ by Owen Sheers — This poem discusses the importance of nature, a source of inspiration in the poet’s life.
- ‘Home and Love’ by Robert Service — This piece is about simplicity, a crucial part of life.
You can also explore these cozy poems about home.