Mervyn Peake, the Official Site


The prevailing mood of Mervyn Peake's poetry is one of romanticism with some bleak wartime poems, a number of poems of self-analysis, and large number of what one might call headhunting poems where he makes verbal portraits similar to the pencil sketches which he habitually made in his London haunts.

Four collections of poems were published during his lifetime; Shapes & Sounds 1941, The Glassblowers 1950, Poems & Drawings 1965, and, A Reverie of Bone 1967. After his death in 1968, there were two other publications; Selected Poems - Mervyn Peake 1972, and the following year, 1973, The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb.

Complete Book of Poetry Carcarnet Press, one of the country's leading publisher's of poetry, will be adding to the success; achieved with their best-selling, Collected Poems of Mervyn Peake with The Complete Nonsense, to be published in 2011. Bringing together in one volume, will be a range of poems many of which have not previously be seen

and will display several drawings and other visual delights, some of which will also be new to readers.

Shapes and Sounds 1941

Selected Poems

The Glassblowers
Nonsense Poems
A Book of Nonsense.
To be reissued in 2011


To live at all is miracle enough.
The doom of nations is another thing.
Here in my hammering blood-pulse is my proof.

Let every painter paint and poet sing
And all the sons of music ply their trade;
Machines are weaker than a beetle’s wing.

Swung out of sunlight into cosmic shade,
Come what come may the imagination’s heart
Is constellation high and can’t be weighed.

Nor greed nor fear can tear our faith apart
When every heart-beat hammers out the proof
That life itself is miracle enough.


Dying girl at Belsen , 1945, in charcoal.
If seeing her an hour before her last
Weak cough into all blackness I could yet
Be held by chalk-white walls, and by the great
Ash coloured bed,
And the pillows hardly creased
By the tapping of her little cough-jerked head–
If such can be a painter’s ecstasy,
(Her limbs like pipes, her head a china skull)
Then where is mercy?


Dead, the Dutch Icarus who plundered France
And left her fields the richer for our eyes.
Where writhes the cypress under burning skies,
Or where proud cornfields broke at his advance,
Now burns a beauty fiercer than the dance
Of primal blood that stamps at throat and thighs.
Pirate of sunlight! and the laden prize
Of coloured earth and fruit in summer trance
Where is your fever now? and your desire?
Withered beneath a sunflower’s mockery,
A suicide you sleep with all forgotten.
And yet your voice has more than words for me
And shall cry on when I am dead and rotten
From quenchless canvases of twisted fire.


Arabia is in your eye
That stares defiance;
And in your brandished mane, and in
Your arrogant stance.

You arch your throat; all Barbary
Is there; your raised
Forefoot descends like lightning and
England is bruised.


Out of the chaos of my doubt
And the chaos of my art
I turn to you inevitably
As the needle to the pole
Turns . . . as the cold brain to the soul
Turns in its uncertainty;

So I turn and long for you;
So I long for you, and turn
To the love that through my chaos
Burns a truth,
And lights my path.


If trees gushed blood
When they were felled
By meddling man,
And crimson welled

From every gash
His axe can give,
Would he forbear,
And let them live?


The vastest things are those we may not learn.
We are not taught to die, nor to be born,
Nor how to burn
With love.
How pitiful is our enforced return
To those small things we are the masters of.


She stared at him as hard as she
Could stare, but not a single blush
Suffused his face like dawn at sea
Or roses in a bush -

For crocodiles are very slow
At taking hints because their hide's
So thick it never feels de trop,
And tender like a bride's.


When Aunty Flo
Became a Crow
She had a bed put in a tree;
And there she lay
And read all day
Of ornithology.


Of pygmies, palms and pirates,
Of islands and lagoons,
Of blood-bespotted frigates,
Of crags and octoroons,
Of whales and broken bottles,
Of quicksands cold and grey,
Of ullages and dottles,
I have no more to say.

Of barley, corn and furrows,
Of farms and turf that heaves
Above such ghostly burrows
As twitch on summer eves
Of fallow-land and pasture,
Of skies both pink and grey,
I made my statement last year
And have no more to say.


The trouble with geraniums
is that they’re much too red!
The trouble with my toast is that
it’s far too full of bread.

The trouble with a diamond
is that it’s much too bright.
The same applies to fish and stars
and the electric light.

The troubles with the stars I see
lies in the way they fly.
The trouble with myself is all
self-centred in the eye.

The trouble with my looking-glass
is that it shows me, me;
there’s trouble in all sorts of things
where it should never be.


I have my price - it's rather high
(about the level of your eye)
but if you're nice to me I'll try
to lower it for you -
To lower it!

To lower it!
Upon the rope they knit
from yellow grass in Paraguay
where knitting is taboo.

Some knit them purl, some knit them plain
some knit their brows of pearl in vain.
Some are so plain, they try again
to tease the wool of love!
O felony in Paraguay
there's not a soul in Paraguay who's worth the dreamingof.
They say,
who's worth the dreaming of.


I cannot give the reasons,
I only sing the tunes:
the sadness of the seasons
the madness of the moons.

I cannot be didactic
or lucid, but I can
be quite obscure and practic-
ally marzipan

In gorgery and gushness
and all that's squishified.
My voice has all the lushness
of what I can't abide

And yet it has a beauty
most proud and terrible
denied to those whose duty
is to be cerebral.

Among the antlered mountains
I make my viscous way
and watch the sepia mountains
throw up their lime-green spray.