And I standing in the shade
Have seen it a thousand times
Happen: first theft, then murder;
Rape; the rueful acts
Of the blind hand. I have said
New prayers, or said the old
In a new way. Seeking the poem
In the pain, I have learned
Silence is best, praying for it
With my conscience. I am eyes
Merely, witnessing virtue's
Defeat; seeing the young born
Fair, knowing the cancer
Awaits them. One thing I have asked
Of the disposer of the issues
Of life: that truth should defer
To beauty. It was not granted.
by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)
Some gaze into tender faces,
Others drink until morning light,
But all night I hold conversations
With my conscience who is always right.
I say to her: ‘You know how tired I am,
Bearing your heavy burden, many years.’
But for her, there is no such thing as time,
And for her, space also disappears.
And again, a black Shrove Tuesday,
The sinister park, the unhurried ring
Of hooves, and, flying down the heavenly
Slopes, full of happiness and joy, the wind.
And above me, double-horned and calm
Is the witness… O I shall go there,
Along the ancient well-worn track,
To the deathly waters, where the swans are.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1936)
translation by D. M. Thomas