A remarkable narrative poem from the period of his mid-1970s collection High Island is "Seals at High Island," and in it the poet presents first the copulation of two seals and then the battle of two bulls for dominance, an aspect of "nature red in tooth and claw" that juxtaposes the life force depicted in the poem yielding to the enraged desire to wound and kill: "Swayed by the thrust and backfall
of the tide, / A dappled grey bull and a brindled cow / Copulate in the green water of a cove." Lest the poet assume that anything other than instinct and natural sex drives underpin their actions, he writes, "But I must remember / How far their feelings are from mine marooned.
The Graham backfall
, unlike anything on any other stage, sends the dancer backward to earth in a blind wind-sheer horizontal from knee to neck, down in one sharp count or in dream-time feather-slow motion.
The only real backfall
is the weather, like the heat in the summer.
The water becomes hotter rather than deeper on page 115 at the phrase: "Some like to call the termination that goes above the note an overthrow (superjectio); and the one which goes below the note a backfall
." "Overthrow" is an unfortunate choice, especially to those readers who have an interest in sports, and "backfall
" means something quite different, the word having arrogated the sense of "rising appoggiatura" in seventeenth century English terminology.
When playing on 8 ' flutes alone, a certain amount of action-rattle can be heard, no doubt the result of historically correct unbushed backfalls
. (This minor irritant is the sort of thing that is somehow more apparent on a recording than when hearing the organ in situ.) The organ is well recorded, and speaks with startling clarity.
Caldwell's Preface is much more helpful, but it could be argued that, for those whose familiarity with backfalls
and beats is a little hazy, some further detailed guidance on this important subject would not have been insulting.