Identify this poem about a train ride?
April 11, 2012 11:15 PM   Subscribe

Help me identify a poem? It was about a train ride, I think it described the view through the train window, and I think it was written in dactyls. (It had a rhythm to it that felt like a train ride.)
posted by Bufo_periglenes to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Auden's Night Mail (famous for its film version)?
posted by Abiezer at 11:37 PM on April 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

Larkin's Whitsun weddings came to mind. I'm not sure it's a dactyl, but you get the train rhythm.
posted by pymsical at 11:50 PM on April 11, 2012

Sherman Alexie's "On the Amtrak..." might fit

Francis Cornford's "To a Fat Lady Seen From a Train." is really famous too.

GK Chesterton gives the fat woman a voice here.
posted by spunweb at 12:51 AM on April 12, 2012

My first thought was From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson.
posted by featherboa at 3:04 AM on April 12, 2012

From a Railway Carriage was what came to mind for me, as well. Loved that poem as a kid.
posted by divisjm at 3:18 AM on April 12, 2012

Riding Backwards on a Train?
posted by cali59 at 4:58 AM on April 12, 2012

Roethke's Night Journey?
posted by colfax at 5:00 AM on April 12, 2012

It is probably not Rupert Brooke's Dawn, but that's worth a read nonetheless.
posted by dilettanti at 9:42 AM on April 12, 2012

One of my all time favorite poems Things I Didn't Know I Loved is written from the perspective of a man on a train.

it's 1962 March 28th
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn't know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it
I've never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I've loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can't wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me

I didn't know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn't know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
"the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high"
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea
formerly "Goktepé ili" in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn't have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I've written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather's hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there's a lantern in the servant's hand
and I can't contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn't know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I'm floored watching them from below
or whether I'm flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don't
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn't know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren't about to paint it that way
I didn't know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn't know I loved clouds
whether I'm under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn't know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I'm half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn't know I loved sparks
I didn't know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

19 April 1962

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)
Nazim Hikmet
posted by triggerfinger at 5:57 PM on April 12, 2012

Aha! It was "From a Railway Carriage" by Stevenson. Thanks, featherboa!
(I'd mark your answer as best, but Metafilter isn't playing nice with my browser right now.)

And thanks also to everyone else who responded. There are some really nice poems here; I would not have guessed there were so many on this theme.
posted by Bufo_periglenes at 3:50 AM on May 6, 2012

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