Diary of the Plague Year: Day 94 17 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: W. B. Yeats (1865 – 1939)

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
 
 

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 81 4 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Miklós Radnóti (1909-1944)

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

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 79 2 June 2020: Quotidian Poetry: George Mackay Brown (1921 – 1966)

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

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 75 29 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: T.S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

                           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

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 73 27 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Paul Celan (1920 – 1970)

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

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 71 25 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)

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
 

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 60 14 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: George Szirtes (1948 -)

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

http://georgeszirtes.blogspot.com/

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 58 12 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Keith Douglas (1920-1944)

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.
 

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 57 11 May 2020: Quotidian Poetry: Keith Douglas (1920-1944)

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.