Christopher Middleton, 1926–2015


In Memoriam

Christopher Middleton

We’ve received word that the poet Christopher Middleton has passed away at eighty-nine. Guy Davenport called him “an incomparable stylist, a wry ironist, a philosopher of words. The only category in which he fits justly,” he added, “is that of poet.” The Review published Middleton throughout his career, beginning in our Summer–Fall 1960 issue, from which the poem below, “Edward Lear in February,” is taken. 

Edward Lear in February

Since last September I’ve been trying to describe
Two moonstone hills,
And an ochre mountain, by candlelight, behind,
But a lizard has been sick into the ink,
A cat keeps clawing at me, you should see my face,
I’m too intent to dodge.

Out of the corner of my eye,
An old man (he’s putting almonds into a bag)
Stoops in sunlight, closer than the hills.
But all the time these bats flick at me
And plop, like foetuses, all over the blotting paper.
Someone began playing a gong outside, once.
I liked that, it helped; but in a flash
Neighbours were pelting him with their slippers and things,
Bits of coke and old railway timetables.

I have come unstuck in this cellar. Help.
Pacing up and down in my own shadow
Has stopped me liking the weight it falls from.
That lizard looks like being sick again. The owls
Have built a stinking nest on the Eighteenth Century.

So much for two moonstone hills,
Ochre mountain, old man
Cramming all those almonds into a bag.