A Living Armoury?

A Living Armoury?

Crab by Albrecht Dürer, 1495, gouache and watercolor on paper, via Wikimedia Commons

The Dead Crab

by Andrew Young

A rosy shield upon its back,
That not the hardest storm could crack,
From whose sharp edge projected out
Black pin-point eyes staring about;
Beneath, the well-knit cote-armure
That gave to its weak belly power;
The clustered legs with plated joints
That ended in stiletto points;
The claws like mouths it held outside:
I cannot think this creature died
By storm or fish or sea-fowl harmed
Walking the sea so heavily armed;
Or does it make for death to be
Oneself a living armoury?

I love the detailed description of the crab, the poet’s eye as discerning as the naturalist’s, and then that turn in the last couplet. . . .

I found this gem in one of my favorite poetry anthologies, The Rattle Bag, edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, a book I know I’ve mentioned before. It’s a delightful collection of both poets’ favorite poems. The poems are arranged alphabetically, which leads to very fun browsing. You really never know what you will find on the next page. I love to flip it open and discover a new treasure.

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  • I think I have a book of stuff by Seamus here somewhere. I am currently going through “500 Best Poems” anthology right now. I have such trouble with writing poetry… mostly when it comes to meter. This poem was a fun one to practice figuring out stressed and unstressed. I am now trying to do that with all the poems I read. I feel like I am in 4th grade again … sigh.

    • I’ve always been terrible at meter. In college when I took a lyric poetry class and we were required to scan poems as part of our analysis, I got my friend Stephanie to scan my poems for me. And when I write poetry, if there is any meter, it’s instinctive rather than deliberate. I have no idea why I find it so difficult.