Listening time: under 5 minutes.

Durrell has long been a favourite writer and poet.  When I first read his Alexandria Quartet in my twenties, I went back to the beginning and started again, something I’ve only ever done for one other book (The Tale of Genji).  I discovered his poems about the same time, and half a dozen were quickly committed to memory. 

This one is a little harder to remember and every few years I have to refresh its unusual lines in my mind. I love its celebration of an ‘unimportant’ morning, a morning among many, ordinary, mostly forgotten, but worth remembering. People waking up, shaking carpets from windows, going about their business. The mornings which add up to a lifetime.

That first verse surfs smoothly in like a wave to the shore. You need to take a deep breath to read or recite it in one exhalation before it rolls in to land on the sand.

The poem also enchants me with its evocation of a specific coastline, one I have yet to visit but have always been in love with.  Durrell paints the Adriatic coast as I have dreamed of it since childhood, prompted by a photo here, a painting there.

A few years ago, we flew over this stretch on our way to and from a holiday in Greece, which in turn led me to read Durrell’s books on the Greek islands, irresistible prose tributes, spare and limpid as the hyacinth-blue Greek sky. 

On one leg of that flight I had a window seat on the Italian side of the plane, and looking out I saw the distant line where the Adriatic met the shore, and I joyously, inwardly, recited this poem. 

Some of the lines aren’t obvious; don’t worry, let them wash over you impressionistically, like the sea’s sussuration, rather than trying to make sense of them.  Just enjoy this bright Adriatic morning and the promise of that boatman waiting like a bird to take you who knows where.

In case you missed earlier selections in the Poems for my Family series, here is John Donne,  Robert Frost, and W.B. Yeats.


Source: ‘Unimportant Morning’ by Lawrence Durrell (1912-90)

Photo credit: FMedic_photography at pixabay

WritingRedux Podcast

Poems for my Family 004 - Durrell - Unimportant Morning


This unimportant morning

Something goes singing where

The capes turn over on their sides

And the warm Adriatic rides

Her blue and sun washing

At the edge of the world and its brilliant cliffs.


Day rings in the higher airs

Pure with cicadas, and slowing

Like a pulse to smoke from farms,

Extinguished in the exhausted earth,

Unclenching like a fist and going.


Trees fume, cool, pour – and overflowing

Unstretch the feathers of birds and shake

Carpets from windows, brush with dew

The up-and-doing; and young lovers now

Their little resurrections make.


And now lightly to kiss all whom sleep

Stitched up – and wake, my darling, wake.

The impatient Boatman has been

Waiting under the house, his long oars folded up

Like wings in waiting on the darkling lake. 

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