The Journey by R. S. Thomas

And if you go up that way, you will meet with a man,

Leading a horse, whose eyes declare:

There is no God. Take no notice.

There will be other roads and other men

With the same creed, whose lips yet utter

Friendlier greeting, men who have learned

To pack a little of the sun’s light

In their cold eyes, whose hands are waiting

For your hand. But do not linger.

A smile is payment; the road runs on

With many turnings towards the tall

Tree to which the believer is nailed.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Poetry for Supper (1958)

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‘I Came Here In Idleness…’ by Anna Akhmatova

I came here in idleness.

It’s all the same where to be bored!

A small mill on a low hilltop.

The years can be silent here.

 

Softly the bee swims

Over dry convolvulus.

At the pond I call the mermaid

But the mermaid is dead.

 

The wide pond has grown shallow

And clogged with a rusty slime.

Over the trembling aspen

A light moon shines.

 

I notice everything freshly.

The poplars smell of wetness.

I am silent. Without words

I am ready to become you again, earth.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

White Night by Anna Akhmatova

I haven’t locked the door,

Nor lit the candles,

You don’t know don’t care,

That tired I haven’t the strength

 

To decide to go to bed.

Seeing the fields fade in

The sunset murk of pine-needles,

And to know all is lost,

 

That life is a cursed hell:

I’ve got drunk

On your voice in the doorway.

I was sure you’d come back.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

Song Of The Last Meeting by Anna Akhmatova

My breast grew cold and numb,

But my feet were light.

On to my right hand I fumbled

The glove to my left hand.

 

It seemed that there were many steps

-I knew there were only three.

An autumn whisper between the maples

Kept urging: ‘Die with me.

 

Change has made me weary,

Fate has cheated me of everything.’

I answered: ‘My dear, my dear!

I’ll die with you. I too am suffering.’

 

It was a song of the last meeting.

Only bedroom-candles burnt

When I looked into the dark house,

And they were yellow and indifferent.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘Memory Of Sun Seeps From The Heart…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Memory of sun seeps from the heart.

Grass grows yellower.

Faintly if at all the early snowflakes

Hover, hover.

 

Water becoming ice is slowing in

The narrow channels.

Nothing at all will happen here again,

Will ever happen.

 

Against the sky the willow spreads a fan

The silk’s torn off.

Maybe it’s better I did not become

Your wife.

 

Memory of sun seeps from the heart.

What is it? – Dark?

Perhaps! Winter will have occupied us

In the night.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Kiev)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

Time by R. S. Thomas

The pessimist says: Time

goes; the optimist: It is coming.

 

What is this thing, time?

Let Augustine be our spokesman.

 

Its competitor knows its neurosis;

the lover the dragging of its chained feet.

 

Now, we say, looking at the moon

that is the sun in Australia.

 

We keep saving it for the future

and arriving there are insolvent.

 

Young, our hobby was assassinating it.

Old we pray for its recuperation.

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Mass for Hard Times (1992)