"Past crow and oak the sinner sets his shroud
Against the wind and weather of despair
Sees claws and leaves all rooted in the earth
And north by south he knows he'll end up there."
I love this stuff, it's so darned dense!
"Wind and weather of despair", especially following on from a line as good as S2L1 comes off as being a little too familiar. I googled the precise phrase and didn't come up with any hits, but it's simply the usualness of marrying weather (especially winter and wind) to despair that unsettles me. Against that though, it's a line that is so easy on the ear and so smooth, that it seems a shame to tamper.
I loved S2L1. Immediate images of dark skies crows wheeling and a single crow sitting on a dead branch of a single oak on a desolate moorland, from which hangs a noosed rope with it's grisly dangling umbrella of bones and flesh. Along the road trudges the miserable soaked sinner cloaked in the grey cape that grows around us all from birth - to shield him from the rain and the sight next to the road. The words "sets" is great. Connotations of setting a sail/shroud to scurry past quickly, and also of setting a jaw against adversity or, more particularly, the inevitable. Or, with great irony, simply setting the shroud in front of his eyes to blank out the fact of his own fate and despair.
And looking down the traveller sees all material things returning to the earth - both the animal and the arboreal, both the fierce and offensive and the innocuous and mild - all end up in the same place. "Rooted" though suddenly suggests that not only does all life end up back in the earth, but that in fact it has always been there. Our very births are as the trees and grass. We might appear to be physically separated, but in fact our materiality binds us always to the earth from which we grow and as part of which we exist. Given discoveries about the longevity of atoms and the way they are shared between organisms and objects through time, this is probably quite a literal contention.
The "north by south" thing worried me a little as I am probably missing a literary or DT? allusion. Still, it worked for me as a throw back to the idea of setting a sail, and also simply as the suggestion that, whichever way we turn, however far we try to travel, in whatever direction, we cannot escape our fate.
Very nice Craig.