SAILING TO BYZANTIUM That is no country for old men. The young In one another's arms, birds in the trees, —Those dying generations—at their song, The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect. II An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress, Nor is there singing school but studying Monuments of its own magnificence; And therefore I have sailed the seas and come To the holy city of Byzantium. III O sages standing in God's holy fire As in the gold mosaic of a wall, Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre, And be the singing-masters of my soul. Consume my heart away; sick with desire And fastened to a dying animal It knows not what it is; and gather me Into the artifice of eternity. IV Once out of nature I shall never take My bodily form from any natural thing, But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make Of hammered gold and gold enamelling To keep a drowsy Emperor awake; Or set upon a golden bough to sing To lords and ladies of Byzantium Of what is past, or passing, or to come. FROM: LONGMAN ENGLISH SERIES POETRY 1900 TO 1975 Editor George MacBeth
SIMPLE SONG OF MY WIFE As she comes in, cackles burst from the door, The potted plants all stamp, shaking the floor, A blond streak, small and drowsy, in her hair Cheeps like a frightened sparrow in the straw. Clumsily whirling towards her through the air, The ageing light-flex too lets out a squawk: Everything spins – to jot it down, no chance. She has come back. She has been gone all day. She bears an enormous poppy in her hands To drive death, my adversary, away. 5 January 1940 FROM: Miklós Radnóti FORCED MARCH Translated by George Gömöri and Clive Wilmer Enitharmon Press
DREAM OF WINTER These were the sounds that dinned upon his ear – The spider’s fatal purring, and the grey Trumpeting of old mammoths locked in ice. No human sound there was: only the evil Shriek of the violin sang of human woe And conquest and defeat, and the round drums Sobbed as they beat. He saw the victim nailed against the night With ritual stars. The skull, a ruin of dreams, Leaned in the wind, merry with curl and thorn. The long robes circled. A penitential wail For the blue lobster and the yellow cornstalk And the hooded victim, broken to let men live, Flashed from their throats. Then all the faces turned from the Winter Man. From the loch’s April lip a swan slid out In a cold rhyme. The year stretched like a child And rubbed its eyes on light. Spring on the hill With lamb and tractor, lovers and burning heather. Byres stood open. The wind’s blue fingers laid A migrant on the rock. FROM: The Faber Book of 20th Century Verse Edited by John Heath-Stubbs & David Wright
SONG XII from TWELVE SONGS
For something a bit different – here is SONG XII set to music by Benjamin Britten.
Peformed by Karen Coker (soprano) and Eric Jenkins (Piano)
MARINA Quis hic locus quae Regio, quae mundi plaga? What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands What water lapping the bow And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog What images return O my daughter. Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning Death Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning Death Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning Death Those who suffer the ecstacy of the animals, meaning Death Are become unsubstantial, reduced by a wind, A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog By this grace dissolved in place What is this face, less clear and clearer The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger – Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the Eye Whisper and small laughter between leaves and hurrying Feet Under sleep, where all the waters meet. Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat. I made this, I have forgotten And remember. The rigging weak and the canvas rotten Between one June and another September. Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own. The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking. This form, this face, this life Living to live for a world of time beyond me; let me Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken, The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships. What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers And woodthrush calling through the fog My daughter. FROM: Collected Poems 1909-1962 T.S. Eliot Faber Paperbacks
CORONA Autumn eats its leaf out of my hand: we are friends. From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk: then time returns to the shell. In the mirror it’s Sunday, in dream there is room for sleeping, our mouths speak the truth. My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one: we look at each other, we exchange dark words, we love each other like poppy and recollection, we sleep like wine in the conches, like the sea in the moon’s blood ray. We stand by the window embracing, and people look up from the street: it is time they knew! It is time the stone made an effort to flower, time unrest had a beating heart. It is time it were time. It is time. FROM: PAUL CELAN Selected Poems Penguin Poetry
IN THE WOODS The woods grew deeper and deeper. The red trunks bigger and bigger. Thegreen crowns heavier and heavier. The air darker and darker. The busheslusher and lusher. The mushrooms thicker and thicker. Until there wasnothing but mushrooms to walk on. It was harder and harder for the man to walk, to force his way through without slipping. But on he went anyway repeating faster and faster and over and over the same sentence: – – The scars that mend Colours that blend. To his left and slightly behind him walked a woman. Every time the man finished his sentence, she said with great assurance and rolling her r’s vigorously: Verrry cleverrrr. FROM: KLÄNGE (SOUNDS) Translated and with an introduction by Elizabeth R. Napier Yale University Press
VISITATIONS As one comes in another goes out. As one shakes out a tablecloth another is eating a hearty meal. As one sits down alone another listens to his lover’s heart beating. As one prays for deliverance, another delivers a letter or an explosive device. As one gathers the harvest, his brother lies in the doorway. As one finds a nice coincidence between numbers, his neighbour sees his coins disappear down the waiting slot. As one man examines the fruit of his labour his shadow tells beads, counts peas into the pot or stars in the sky and feels the night wind blowing on his face with all this coming and going. * As one goes out, the other comes in. It is light in the window where the angel bends over the stove giving the virgin a fright. It is bright at the top of the house where the road ends. There’s a distinct touch of gold in the gutter running with beer. There is translucence in the chipped saucer with its rim of used butter. There’s a glow on TV. There’s a faint sense of the luminous numinous in the alarm clock set for six in the morning and a kind of shine in the mirror the angels have learned to unlock and enter suddenly and an even harder to define radiance in the skin, in the shock of dawn with sheet turned down and bedroom curtains drawn.
GEORGE SZIRTES’ BLOG
SIMPLIFY ME WHEN I AM DEAD Remember me when I am dead and simplify me when I'm dead. As the processes of earth strip off the colour of the skin: take the brown hair and blue eye and leave me simpler than at birth, when hairless I came howling in as the moon entered the cold sky. Of my skeleton perhaps, so stripped, a learned man will say "He was of such a type and intelligence," no more. Thus when in a year collapse particular memories, you may deduce, from the long pain I bore the opinions I held, who was my foe and what I left, even my appearance but incidents will be no guide. Time's wrong-way telescope will show a minute man ten years hence and by distance simplified. Through that lens see if I seem substance or nothing: of the world deserving mention or charitable oblivion, not by momentary spleen or love into decision hurled, leisurely arrive at an opinion. Remember me when I am dead and simplify me when I'm dead.
STRANGE GARDENER Over the meadows framed in the quiet osiers, dreams the pond region of summer gnat-busyness and in the afternoon’s blue drowsiness plops among the water shadows and the cool trees wait beyond. A young man lived there with a swift, sad face, and full of phantasy repeating as he heard it the alliterative speech of the water spirit smoothing his pale hair with automatic ecstasy. This was his garden Uncultivated (order hated him) whence (in a winter madness whose scourge drove him to recklessness) seeing the frost harden the water spirit translated him.