The sower walks down the even furrows;
his fathers all furrowed the path he follows.
The young seed glitters gold in his hand,
but it must fall into the black ground.
There, amid the tunnels of the blind worm,
it will die on its due day – and grow again.
So now my soul treads the path of the grain –
down into darkness – and spring’s return.
And you, my people, and you, my native land,
you will die and live, when the dark months end,
for we have been granted only this one truth:
whatever lives must follow the grain’s path.
by Владислав Фелицианович Ходасевич (Vladislav Felitsianovich Khodasevich)
translated by Robert Chandler
Cars pass him by; he’ll never own one.
Men won’t believe in him for this.
Let them come into the hills
And meet him wandering a road,
Fenced with rain, as I have now;
The wind feathering his hair;
The sky’s ruins, gutted with fire
Of the late sun, smouldering still.
Nothing is his, neither the land
Nor the land’s flocks. Hired to live
On hills too lonely, sharing his hearth
With cats and hens, he has lost all
Property but the grey ice
Of a face splintered by life’s stone.
by R. S. Thomas
from Tares (1961)
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
To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind’s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
Bats not angels, in the high roof.
Was he balked by the silence? He kneeled long,
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man’s body.
by R. S. Thomas
From Song At The Year’s Turning (1955)
Out of the sighs a little comes,
But not of grief, for I have knocked down that
Before the agony; the spirit grows,
Forgets, and cries;
A little comes, is tasted and found good;
All could not disappoint;
There must, be praised, some certainty,
If not of loving well, then not,
And that is true after perpetual defeat.
After such fighting as the weakest know,
There’s more than dying;
Lose the great pains or stuff the wound,
He’ll ache too long
Through no regret of leaving woman waiting
For her soldier stained with spilt words
That spill such acrid blood.
Were that enough, enough to ease the pain,
Feeling regret when this is wasted
That made me happy in the sun,
And, sleeping, made me dream
How much was happy while it lasted,
Were vagueness enough and the sweet lies plenty,
The hollow words could bear all suffering
And cure me of ills.
Were that enough, bone, blood, and sinew,
The twisted brain, the fair-formed loin,
Groping for matter under the dog’s plate,
Man should be cured of distemper.
For all there is to give I offer:
Crumbs, barn, and halter.
by Dylan Thomas