All Souls’ Night by Gillian Clarke

Wind after rain. The lane
is beaten lead. Nothing

is any colour. Hedges
are scribbles of darkness.

Not a cow or sheep in grey fields.
Rain sings in the culverts,

slides the gate-bars, brambles and grasses,
glints in tyre-ruts and hoof-prints.

Only the springer’s fur flowers white,
will o’ the wisp under a gate

across a field short-sightedly
reading the script of the fox.

A sudden wheel of starlings turns
the hill’s corner, their wings a whish

of air, the darkening sound
of a shadow crossing land.

At a touch my bare ash tree rings,
leafed, shaken,

the stopper of ice dissolved
in each bird-throat,

the frozen ash
become a burning bush.

by Gillian Clarke

Additional information: All Souls’ Day, also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed and the Day of the Dead, is a day of prayer and remembrance for the faithful departed, which is observed by Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations annually on 2 November.

Examples of regional customs include leaving cakes for departed loved ones on the table and keeping the room warm for their comfort in Tirol and the custom in Brittany, where people flock to the cemeteries at nightfall to kneel, bareheaded, at the graves of their loved ones and anoint the hollow of the tombstone with holy water or to pour libations of milk on it. At bedtime, supper is left on the table for the souls.

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Tidal by R. S. Thomas

The waves run up the shore
and fall back. I run
up the approaches of God
and fall back. The breakers return
reaching a little further,
gnawing away at the main land.
They have done this thousands
of years, exposing little by little
the rock under the soil’s face.
I must imitate them only
in my return to the assault,
not in their violence. Dashing
my prayers at him will achieve
little other than the exposure
of the rock under his surface.
My returns must be made
on my knees. Let despair be known
as my ebb-tide; but let prayer
have its springs, too, brimming,
disarming him; discovering somewhere
among his fissures deposits of mercy
where trust may take root and grow.

by R. S. Thomas
from Mass for Hard Times (1992)

Благословляю ежедневный труд… (I bless the daily labour) by Marina Tsvetaeva

I bless the daily labour of my hands,
I bless the sleep that nightly is my own.
The mercy of the Lord, the Lord’s commands,
The law of blessings and the law of stone.

My dusty purple, with its ragged seams…
My dusty staff, where all light’s rays are shed.
And also, Lord, I bless the peace
In others’ houses – others’ ovens’ bread.

by Марина Ивановна Цветаева
(Marina Ivanovna Tsvetaeva)
(21 May 1918)
from Bon-Voyages (1921-22)
translated by David McDuff

The poem recited in Russian by Anna Smirnova

Благословляю ежедневный труд

Благословляю ежедневный труд,
Благословляю еженощный сон.
Господню милость и Господень суд,
Благой закон – и каменный закон.

И пыльный пурпур свой, где столько дыр,
И пыльный посох свой, где все лучи…
– Ещё, Господь, благословляю мир
В чужом дому – и хлеб в чужой печи.

Emerging by R. S. Thomas

Well, as I said, better to wait
for him on some peninsula
of the spirit. Surely for one
with patience he will happen by
once in a while. It was the heart
spoke. The mind, sceptical as always
of the anthropomorphisms
of the fancy, knew he must be put together
like a poem or a composition
in music, that what he conforms to
is art. A promontory is a bare
place; no God leans down
out of the air to take the hand
extended to him. The generations have
watched there
in vain. We are beginning to see
now it is matter is the scaffolding
of spirit; that the poem emerges
from morphemes and phonemes; that
as form in sculpture is the prisoner
of the hard rock, so in everyday life
it is the plain facts and natural happenings
that conceal God and reveal him to us
little by little under the mind’s tooling.

.

By R. S. Thomas
from Frequencies (1978)

At the End by R. S. Thomas

Few possessions: a chair,
a table, a bed,
to say my prayers by,
and, gathered from the shore,
the bone-like, crossed sticks
proving that nature
acknowledges the Crucifixion.
All night I am at
a window not too small
to be frame to the stars
that are no further off
than the city lights
I have rejected. By day
the passers-by who are not
pilgrims, stare through the rain’s
bars, seeing me as prisoner
of the one view, I who
have been made free
by the tide’s pendulum truth
that the heart that is low now
will be at the full tomorrow.

by R. S. Thomas
from No Truce With The Furies (1995)