We set out early, riding through the dayon the broad summer roads of Logres,yet further out from Camelotthe paths grew narrower, & woodland nearer.Approaching the borders of the other land,one of us - or sometimes more - would start,glimpsing some dream-creature among dim trees,very close now; no more familiar wolf & boar,but faun or centaur would appear for a moment,then flick away into the undergrowth, leaving usuneasily wondering whether to doubtor to speak. It was difficult here to see birds,and they seemed changed, and knowing.We came with falling nightto the place where three ways meet,the Road against Reason,the Road without Mercy,the Road without a Name.
And the third way brought us here,to the Waste City;demons that obeyed the enchanter Virgilius,giants, or worse, must have built the nodding walls,the vaulted palace and huge towerswhose ruin is our silent home;we cannot read its inscriptionsor decipher its mosaics;the images of Emperor & City are distortedas by a witch’s mirror or pack of cards;we find no living soul herebut ourselves, who cannot leave.
Purcell is an unusual poet and it is not easy to choose a single
representative poem by her. She published four main collections of
poetry and prepared the last of them just before her final illness at
the age of 54. This poem, like so many of hers, draws on folklore and
mediaeval sources. Her poems have a dramatic tension, are fluid in
rhythm and diction, and alive with a sense of the numinous. Anvil
published her Collected Poems, edited by Peter Jay and with an introduction by Marina Warner, in 2002.
Purcell was born in Bromsgrove, Worcs in 1944. She studied French and
Provençal at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and continued to live and work
in Oxford (as typist, barmaid, researcher and, above all, writer) until
her death in 1998.
Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.