Outside the green velvet sitting room
white roses bloom after rain.
They hold water and sunlight
like cups of fine white china.
Within the boy who sleeps in my care
in the big chair the cold bloom
opens at terrible speed
and the splinter of ice moves
in his blood as he stirs in the chair.
Remembering me he smiles
politely, gritting his teeth
in silence on pain's red blaze.
A stick man in the ashes, his fires
die back. He is spars and springs.
He can talk again, gather
his cat to his bones. She springs
with a small cry in her throat, kneading
with diamond paws his dry
as tinder flesh. The least spark
of pain will burn him like straw.
The sun carelessly shines after rain.
The cat tracks thrushes in sweet
dark soil. And without concern
the rose outlives the child.
by Gillian Clarke
from Letter from a Far Country (1982)
I have seen it standing up grey,
Gaunt, as though no sunlight
Could ever thaw out the music
Of its great bell; terrible
In its own way, for religion
Is like that. There are times
When a black frost is upon
One’s whole being, and the heart
In its bone belfry hangs and is dumb.
But who is to know? Always,
Even in winter in the cold
Of a stone church, on his knees
Someone is praying, whose prayers fall
Steadily through the hard spell
Of weather that is between God
And himself. Perhaps they are warm rain
That brings the sun and afterwards flowers
On the raw graves and throbbing of bells.
by R. S. Thomas
from Pietà (1966)
The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another’s being mingle –
Why not I with thine?
See the mountain’s kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdain’d its brother:
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea –
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)
Like a painting it is set before one,
But less brittle, ageless; these colours
Are renewed daily with variations
Of light and distance that no painter
Achieves or suggests. Then there is movement,
Change, as slowly the cloud bruises
Are healed by sunlight, or snow caps
A black mood; but gold at evening
To cheer the heart. All through history
The great brush has not rested,
Nor the paint dried; yet what eye,
Looking coolly, or, as we now,
Through the tears’ lenses, ever saw
This work and it was not finished?
by R. S. Thomas
from Poetry For Supper (1958)
Consider the small fruit tree after the rain:
full of trembling raindrops
the enchanted magnificence of its branches
glitters in the sunlight.
Yet when the sun hides, in a moment
the magic vanishes.
It is again, as it was before,
an ordinary, poor little tree.
by Dobriša Cesarić (1902 – 1980), Croatia
Translated by Jeni Williams and Pavlija Jovic after the Croatian of Dobriša Cesarić.
The cuckoo I asked
How many years I would live… The
Pine tops shivered,
A yellow shaft fell to the grass.
In the fresh forest depths, no sound…
I am going
Home, and the cool wind
Caresses my hot brow.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1 June, 1919)
– from Подорожник (Plantain/Wayside Grass, 1921) translation by D. M. Thomas
The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.
Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.
The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying
And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.
by Louis MacNeice (1907 – 1963)