The moon is born
and a child is born,
lying among white clothes
as the moon among clouds
They both shine, but
the light from the one
is abroad in the universe
as among broken glass.
by R. S. Thomas
from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)
They are those that life happens to.
They didn’t ask to be born
In those bleak farmsteads, but neither
Did they ask not. Life took the seed
And broadcast it upon the poor,
Rush-stricken soil, an experiment
What is a man’s
Price? For promises of a break
In the clouds; for harvests that are not all
Wasted; for one animal born
Healthy, where seven have died,
He will kneel down and give thanks
In a chapel whose stones are wrenched
From the moorland.
I have watched them bent
For hours over their trade,
Speechless, and have held my tongue
From its question. It was not my part
To show them, like a meddler from the town,
their picture, nor the audiences
That look at them in pity or pride.
by R. S. Thomas
from Pietà (1966)
Each night the sea
tires of its slopping and slapping
and ascends the limestone staircase
of cactus-sharp stone.
It lies down
where sky has been,
waving away the blue
and only hooded clouds
show its occasional restlessness.
Bright fish with mouths
that globe, look down on me
and the breezy whish-whish
of sea-weed is the needled
branches of every pine.
I see the lights
of planes as they are out
trawling for dreams.
The moon spills milk
which I drink in,
before I too lie down
to sleep among shoals of stars.
by Mike Jenkins
from Invisible Times
At daybreak there spread through the heavens
Pale clouds like a turreted town:
The cupolas golden, fantastic,
White roofs and white walls shining down.
This citadel is my white city,
My city familiar and dear,
Above the dark earth as it slumbers,
Upon the pink sky builded clear.
And all that aerial city
Sails northward, sails softly, sails high;
And there on the height, some one beckons,—
But proffers no pinions to fly.
by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)
a.k.a. Шеншин (Shenshin)
translated by ???
Fun fact: A more straight forward English translation of the poem compared to the Scottish version posted previously Воздушный город (The Aerial City) by Afanasy Fet
A little aside from the main road,
becalmed in a last-century greyness,
there is the chapel, ugly, without the appeal
to the tourist to stop his car
and visit it. The traffic goes by,
and the river goes by, and quick shadows
of clouds, too, and the chapel settles
a little deeper into the grass.
But here once on an evening like this,
in the darkness that was about
his hearers, a preacher caught fire
and burned steadily before them
with a strange light, so that they saw
the spendour of the barren mountains
about them and sang their amens
fiercely, narrow but saved
in a way that men are not now.
by R. S. Thomas
from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)
Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed,
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills,
Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud.
Docking mangels, chipping the green skin
From the yellow bones with a half-witted grin
Of satisfaction, or churning the crude earth
To a stiff sea of clouds that glint in the wind—-
So are his days spent, his spittled mirth
Rarer than the sun that cracks the cheeks
Of the gaunt sky perhaps once in a week.
And then at night see him fixed in his chair
Motionless, except when he leans to gob in the fire.
There is something frightening in the vacancy of his mind.
His clothes, sour with years of sweat
And animal contact, shock the refined,
But affected, sense with their stark naturalness.
Yet this is your prototype, who, season by season
Against siege of rain and the wind’s attrition,
Preserves his stock, an impregnable fortress
Not to be stormed even in death’s confusion.
Remember him, then, for he, too, is a winner of wars,
Enduring like a tree under the curious stars.
by R. S. Thomas
from The Stones of the Fields (1946)
He who compared himself to the eye of a horse,
Peers, looks, sees, recognizes,
And instantly puddles shine, ice
Pines away, like a melting of diamonds.
Backyards drowse in lilac haze. Branch-
Line platforms, logs, clouds, leaves…
The engine’s whistle, watermelon’s crunch,
A timid hand in a fragrant kid glove. He’s
Ringing, thundering, grinding, up to his breast
In breakers… and suddenly is quiet… This means
He is tiptoeing over pine needles, feaful lest
He should startle space awake from its light sleep.
It means he counts the grains in the empty ears,
And it means he has come back
From another funeral, back to Darya’s
Gorge, the tombstone, cursed and black.
And burns again, the Moscow tedium,
In the distance death’s sleigh-bell rings…
Who has got lost two steps from home,
Where the snow is waist-deep, an end to everything?
Because he compared smoke with Laocoön,
Made songs out of graveyard thistles,
Because he filled the world with a sound no-one
Has heard before, in a new space of mirrored
Verses, he has been rewarded with a form
Of eternal childhood, with the stars’ vigilant love,
The whole earth has been passed down to him,
And he has shared it with everyone.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
(19 January 1936)
from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas