A CORNERED FREEDOM
Poems by Christopher Hampton
Christopher Hampton was born in London in 1929. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music, and worked for a time as pianist and conductor (studying under Walter Goehr) before giving up music for writing. He was a Member of The Group (1958-61, poems in A Group Anthology, OUP 1963), and spent four years (1962-66) living and working in Italy. He also taught English at the Polytechnic of Central London and the City Literary Institute.
His poems have appeared regularly in magazines and on BBC radio since 1960, and he has published seven books, including two for children, The Etruscans (Gollancz 1969, Doubleday 1970), An Exiles Italy (poems 1972), and (as editor) Poems for Shakespeare (Globe Playhouse Trust, 1972 and 1978). He has also written three critical books: Rome: The Authoritarian City (1972); Awareness and Apathy (1974); and Socialism in a Crippled World (1979). At the time of this volume he was also working on a novel set in the England of 1918-26.
I stood above the square
Creating contexts for myself from air;
Stood looking down upon the tree-tops
Like a man invested with superior
Powers, although I had none, shut behind
The ninth-floor window-pane, my mind
Upon impossibilities beyond confinement.
Down below, foreshortened figures walked their lives -
The businessmen, the students, working wives,
Like animated models I could pick up;
And the cars were mine to play with,
Start and stop – except I let them go,
Run free upon my city’s dynamo.
Yes, dominant, aloof, I stood, as if
All this were mine to shape at will
Or choose, by turning, to obliterate -
A god, a masterer of space and fate.
Such scope I had, it seemed, that miles
Were inches, with the distant Barbican
An arm’s-reach off, and Cripplegate a step:
Absurd of course. A moment later,
Catching sight of hand and face
Reflected substanceless in glass
Against the weight and mass below,
I’d turned my back upon it all -
Across the room, along the corridor,
And down through silence in an empty lift -
To find myself, two minutes later,
Out among my puppets on the street,
Anonymous and toyshop as the rest.
A CORNERED FREEDOM
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Cover illustration: Paul Klee, ‘Stadt mit Wachttürmen’, 1929. (Paul Klee Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts, Berne). © 1980, COSMOPRESS, Geneve and ADAGP, Paris.
Publication: AUTUMN 1980 (64 pages laminated paperback)