It appears before us,
wringing its dry hands,
quoting from Nietzsche’s book,
Sing us, we say,
more sunlit occassions;
the child by the still pool
It remains unconsoled
in its dust-storm of tears,
remembering the Crusades,
the tortures, the purges.
But time passes by;
it commits adultery
with it to father the cause
of its continued weeping.
by R. S. Thomas
from Later Poems (1983)
Take heart, Prytherch.
Over you the planets stand,
And have seen more ills than yours.
This canker was in the bone
Before man bent to his image
In the pool’s glass. Violence has been
And will be again. Between better
And worse is no bad place
For a labourer, whose lot is to seem
Stationary in traffic so fast.
Turn aside, I said; do not turn back.
There is no forward and no back
In the fields, only the year’s two
Solstices, and patience between.
by R. S. Thomas
from Pieta (1966)
I imagine this midnight moment’s forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock’s loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.
Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:
Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox’s nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now
Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come
Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Coming about its own business
Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.
by Ted Hughes (1930-1998)
from The Hawk In The Rain
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
A man who cultivates a garden, the way Voltaire wanted.
One who is grateful there is music in the world.
Who delights in knowing where words come from.
Two workmen who, in a cafe in the South, play chess silently.
The potter who deliberates over form and colour.
The typesetter who lays out this page well but still is not pleased
A woman and a man reading the last tercets of a certain canto.
One who strokes a sleeping animal.
Who justifies, or wishes to, a wrong done to him.
Who is grateful for Stevenson,
Who prefers others to be right.
These are people who, ignored, are saving the world.
by Jorge Luis Borges, 1899-1986, Argentina
translated by Kurt Heinzelman
There’s holy holy people
They are in capel bach –
They don’t like surpliced choirs,
They don’t like Sospan Fach.
They don’t like Sunday concerts,
Or women playing ball,
They don’t like William Parry much
Or Shakespeare at all.
They don’t like beer or bishops,
Or pictures without texts,
They don’t like any other
Of the nonconformist sects.
And when they go to Heaven
They won’t like that too well,
For the music will be sweeter
Than the music played in Hell.
by Idris Davies