If Agincourt has a poet laureate, it may be A. S. J. Tessimond [1902-1962], who one writer describes as “perhaps not the most well-known British poets of the 20th Century and suffered for most of his life from bipolar disorder.” With credentials like that, how can we have gone wrong.
Tessimond’s collected works don’t constitute a thick volume. But his poems are liquid, luminous, and entirely appropriate for a sufferer with bipolar tendencies. I offer you just these three:
Polyphony in a Cathedral
In the stone shells
Of the arches, and rings
Their stone bells.
Each cold groove
Of parabolas’ laced
Warp and woof,
And lingers round nodes
Of the ribbed roof
Their flowers among
The stone flowers; blossom;
One Almost Might
Wouldn’t you say,
Wouldn’t you say: one day,
With a little more time or a little more patience, one might
Disentangle for separate, deliberate, slow delight
One of the moment’s hundred strands, unfray
Beginnings from endings, this from that, survey
Say a square inch of the ground one stands on, touch
Part of oneself or a leaf or a sound (not clutch
Or cuff or bruise but touch with finger-tip, ear-
Tip, eyetip, creeping near yet not too near);
Might take up life and lay it on one’s palm
And, encircling it in closeness, warmth and calm,
Let it lie still, then stir smooth-softly, and
Tendril by tendril unfold, there on one’s hand …
One might examine eternity’s cross-section
For a second, with slightly more patience, more time for reflection?
This shape without space,
This pattern without stuff,
This stream without dimension
Surrounds us, flows through us,
But leaves no mark.
This message without meaning,
These tears without eyes
This laughter without lips
Speaks to us but does not
Disclose its clue.
These waves without sea
Surge over us, smooth us.
These hands without fingers
Close-hold us, caress us.
These wings without birds
Strong-lift us, would carry us
If only the one thread broke.