No one will be in the house
But twilight. Just the same
Winter day in the gap
The gathered curtains frame.
Only swiftly beating wings
Of white flakes as they fall.
Only roofs and snow, and but
For roofs and snow – no one at all.
And frost again will start too sketch.
And I again will find despairs
Of last year whirling me back
To another winter's affairs.
And they again will sting me
With last year's guilt, the same,
Unexpiated. Lack of wood
Will cramp the window-frame.
Then suddenly the curtain
Will shudder at the door
And you will come in, like the future,
Making no sound on the floor.
And you will stand there wearing
Something white, no lace, no braid,
Something made from the fabric
From which snowflakes are made.
by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France
He strokes my neck like the barrel of a rifle
he might have killed that German with,
his boots by the door, susceptible to the cold.
I glow by the fire in tandem with
the rosewood dresser, impartial to flames,
me with a passion for granite, him
with his head shaved against the night,
shedding his armour plate by plate.
I sleep under his shield, enfolded
in an English flag I think will
become my shroud. While I thrill
among the lilies, placing a chestnut
on the grate like a move in chess,
I see the incentive of lace
defeat artillery hands down.
by Samantha Wynne Rhydderch
Interesting info: Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch, sometimes referred to as S. W. Rhydderch, has published two collections, Rockclimbing in Silk (Seren, 2001), and Not in These Shoes (Picador, 2008), which was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2009.
It is said that he went gaily to that scaffold,
dressed magnificently as a bridegroom,
his lace lying on him like white frost
in the windless morning of his courage.
His red blood was the water of life,
changed to wine at the wedding banquet;
the bride Scotland, the spirit dependent on
such for the consummation of her marrriage.
by R. S. Thomas
from Laboratories of the Spirit (1975)
Fun fact: This poem is about James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, a Scottish nobleman, poet and soldier, who initially joined the Covenanters in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, but subsequently supported King Charles I as the English Civil War developed. From 1644 to 1646, and again in 1650, he fought in the civil war in Scotland on behalf of the King and is generally referred to in Scotland as simply “the Great Montrose”. His spectacular victories, which took his opponents by surprise, are remembered in military history for their tactical brilliance
Until this summer
throught the open roof of the car
their lace was as light as rain
against the burning sun.
On a rose-coloured road
they laid their inks,
knew exactly, in the seed,
where in the sky they would reach
Traffic-jammed under a square
of perfect blue I thirst
for their lake’s fingering
shadow, trunk by trunk arching
a cloister between the parks
and pillars of a civic architecture,
older and taller than all of it.
Heat is a salt encrustation.
Walls square up to the sky
without the company of leaves
or the town life of birds.
At the roadside this enormous
firewood, elmwood, the start
of some terrible undoing.
by Gillian Clarke
from Letters from a Far Country (1982)