When the morning was waking over the war He put on his clothes and stepped out and he died, The locks yawned loose and a blast blew them wide, He dropped where he loved on the burst pavement stone And the funeral grains of the slaughtered floor. Tell his street on its back he stopped a sun And the craters of his eyes grew springshoots and fire When all the keys shot from the locks, and rang. Dig no more for the chains of his grey-haired heart. The heavenly ambulance drawn by a wound Assembling waits for the spade’s ring on the cage. O keep his bones away from the common cart, The morning is flying on the wings of his age And a hundred storks perch on the sun’s right hand.
By Dylan Thomas (July 1941)
Additional information: I have seen online a number of sources have ‘springshots’ instead of ‘springshoots’. The book I reference, and the above clip where you can hear the poet himself reciting the poem, confirms it is ‘springshoot’ . I can only imagine those sources copied each other or there is some alternate ‘American English’ version I am unfamiliar with.
Characteristically, the sonnet refuses to let the natural triumph of the centenarian’s death be obscured by piety, officialese or propaganda. Instead, it records the events with a quiet irony – that such an old man should need to be killed by a bomb. The flat title was an actual headline in a newspaper. With an even crueller irony. Thomas considered, as a title for the second part of ‘Ceremony After a Fire Raid’ known as ‘Among Those Burned to Death was a Child Aged a Few Hours’.
Over the meadows, beyond the mountains, there once lived a painter called Klee, and he sat on his own on a path with various bright-coloured crayons.
He drew rectangles and he drew hooks, an imp in a light-blue shirt, Africa, stars, a child on a platform, wild beasts where Sky meets Earth.
He never intended his sketches to be like passport photos, with people, horses, cities and lakes standing up straight like robots.
He wanted these lines and these spots to converse with one another as clearly as cicadas in summer, but then one morning a feather
materialized as he sketched. A wing, the crown of ahead - the Angel of Death. It was time for Klee to part from his friends
and his Muse. He did.He died. Can anything be more cruel? Though had Paul Klee been any less wise, his angel might have touched us all
and we too, along with the artist, might have left the world behind while that angel shook up our bones, but – what help would that have been?
Me, I'd much rather walk through a gallery than lie in some sad cemetery. I like to loiter with friends by paintings - yellow-blue wildlings, follies most serious.
by Арсений Александрович Тарковский (Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky) (1957) translated by Robert Chandler
Arseny was the father of the famous and highly influential film director Andrei Tarkovsky. His poetry was often quoted in his son’s films.
Paul Klee (18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was a Swiss German artist. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually deeply explored color theory, writing about it extensively; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are held to be as important for modern art as Leonardo da Vinci’s A Treatise on Painting for the Renaissance. He and his colleague, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humor and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.
Here is a reading of the poem in Russian set to music featuring one of Klee’s artworks.
Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem.
Жил да был художник Пауль Клее Где-то за горами, над лугами. Он сидел себе один в аллее С разноцветными карандашами,
Рисовал квадраты и крючочки, Африку, ребенка на перроне, Дьяволенка в голубой сорочке, Звезды и зверей на небосклоне.
Не хотел он, чтоб его рисунки Были честным паспортом природы, Где послушно строятся по струнке Люди, кони, города и воды.
Он хотел, чтоб линии и пятна, Как кузнечики в июльском звоне, Говорили слитно и понятно. И однажды утром на картоне
Проступили крылышко и темя: Ангел смерти стал обозначаться. Понял Клее, что настало время С Музой и знакомыми прощаться.
Попрощался и скончался Клее. Ничего не может быть печальней. Если б Клее был немного злее, Ангел смерти был бы натуральней.
И тогда с художником все вместе Мы бы тоже сгинули со света, Порастряс бы ангел наши кости. Но скажите мне: на что нам это?
На погосте хуже, чем в музее, Где порой слоняются живые, И висят рядком картины Клее - Голубые, желтые, блажные…