Stopped the car, asked a man the way
To some place; he rested on it
Smiling, an impression of charm
As of ripe fields; talking to us
He held a reflection of sky
In his brushed eyes. We lost interest
In the way, seeing him old
And content, feeling the sun's warmth
In his voice, watching the swallows
Above him – thirty years back
To this summer. Knowing him gone,
We wander the same flower-bordered road,
Seeing the harvest ripped from the land,
Deafened by the planes' orchestra;
Unable to direct the lost travellers
Or convince them this is a good place to be.
by R. S. Thomas
from H'm (1972)
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)
Newly reaped ears of early wheat
lie in level rows;
fingertips tremble, pressed against
fingers fragile as themselves.
by Осип Эмильевич Мандельштам (Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam. His surname is commonly latinised as Mandelstam)
translated by James Greene
Mist climbs from the lake.
Fields bare after harvest.
Beyond blue hills
the sun rolls to its rest.
Splintered, deep in ruts,
the weary road thinks
it cannot be long now
till grey-haired winter.
In the misty, resonant grove
I watched yesterday
as a bay moon, like a foal,
harnessed herself to our sleigh.
by Сергей Александрович Есенин (Sergei Alexandrovich Yesenin) a.k.a. Sergey Yesenin / Esenin
translated by Robert Chandler
My friends and my road-fellows, pity the nation
that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
“Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave…
eats bread it does not harvest…
and drinks a wine that flows not from its own winepress.
“Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as a hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
“Pity the nation that raises not its voice save when it
walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between
the sword and the block.
“Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose
philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of
patching and mimicking.
“Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with
trumpetings, and farewells him with hooting, only to
welcome another with trumpeting again.
“Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment
deeming itself a nation.”
by Kahlil Gibran
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
By John Keats (1795-1821)
First published in 1820
I hear the oriole’s always grieving voice,
And the rich summer’s welcome loss I hear
In the sickle’s serpentine hiss
Cutting the corn’s ear tightly pressed to ear.
And the short skirts on the slim reapers
Fly in the wind like holiday pennants,
The clash of joyful cymbals, and creeping
From under dusty lashes, the long glance.
I don’t expect love’s tender flatteries,
In premonition of some dark event,
But come, come and see this paradise
Where together we were blessed and innocent.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (Summer, 1917)
– from Подорожник (Plantain/Wayside Grass, 1921) translation by D. M. Thomas