Chapter One


to Bruce Montgomery

All catches alight

At the spread of spring:

Birds crazed with flight

Branches that fling

Leaves up to the light -

Every one thing,

Shape, colour and voice,

Cries out, Rejoice!

A drum taps: a wintry drum.

Gull, grass and girl

In air, earth and bed

Join the long whirl

Of all the resurrected,

Gather up and hurl

Far out beyond the dead

What life they can control -

All runs back to the whole.

A drum taps: a wintry drum.

What beasts now hesitate

Clothed in cloudless air,

In whom desire stands straight?

What ploughman halts his pair

To kick a broken plate

Or coin turned up by the share?

What lovers worry much

That a ghost bids them touch?

A drum taps: a wintry drum.

Let the wheel spin out,

Till all created things

With shout and answering shout

Cast off rememberings;

Let it all come about

Till centuries of springs

And all their buried men

Stand on the earth again.

A drum taps: a wintry drum.


This was your place of birth, this daytime palace,

This miracle of glass, whose every hall

The light as music fills, and on your face

Shines petal-soft; sunbeams are prodigal

To show you pausing at a picture's edge

To puzzle out the name, or with a hand

Resting a second on a random page -

The clouds cast moving shadows on the land.

Are you prepared for what the night will bring?

The stranger who will never show his face,

But asks admittance; will you greet your doom

As final; set him loaves and wine; knowing

The game is finished when he plays his ace,

And overturn the table and go into the next room?


The moon is full tonight

And hurts the eyes,

It is so definite and bright.

What if it has drawn up

All quietness and certitude of worth

Wherewith to fill its cup,

Or mint a second moon, a paradise? -

For they are gone from earth.



To wake, and hear a cock

Out of the distance crying,

To pull the curtains back

And see the clouds flying -

How strange it is

For the heart to be loveless, and as cold as these.



for James Ballard Sutton

The ego's county he inherited

From those who tended it like farmers; had

All knowledge that the study merited,

The requisite contempt of good and bad;

But one Spring day his land was violated;

A bunch of horsemen curtly asked his name,

Their leader in a different dialect stated

A war was on for which he was to blame,

And he must help them. The assent he gave

Was founded on desire for self-effacement

In order not to lose his birthright; brave,

For nothing would be easier than replacement,

Which would not give him time to follow further

The details of his own defeat and murder.


Kick up the fire, and let the flames break loose

To drive the shadows back; Prolong the talk on this or that excuse,

Till the night comes to rest

While some high bell is beating two o'clock.

Yet when the guest

Has stepped into the windy street, and gone,

Who can confront

The instantaneous grief of being alone?

Or watch the sad increase

Across the mind of this prolific plant,

Dumb idleness?


The horns of the morning

Are blowing, are shining,

The meadows are bright

With the coldest dew;

The dawn reassembles.

Like the clash of gold cymbals

The sky spreads its vans out

The sun hangs in view.

Here, where no love is,

All that was hopeless

And kept me from sleeping

Is frail and unsure;

For never so brilliant,

Neither so silent

Nor so unearthly, has

Earth grown before.



In the field, two horses,

Two swans on the river,

While a wind blows over

A waste of thistles

Crowded like men;

And now again

My thoughts are children

With uneasy faces

That awake and rise

Beneath running skies

From buried places.

For the line of a swan

Diagonal on water

Is the cold of winter,

And each horse like a passion

Long since defeated

Lowers its head,

And oh, they invade

My cloaked-up mind

Till memory unlooses

Its brooch of faces -

Streams far behind.

Then the whole heath whistles

In the leaping wind,

And shrivelled men stand

Crowding like thistles

To one fruitless place;

Yet still the miracles

Exhume in each face

Strong silken seed,

That to the static

Gold winter sun throws back

Endless and cloudless pride.


Climbing the hill within the deafening wind

The blood unfurled itself, was proudly borne

High over meadows where white horses stood;

Up the steep woods it echoed like a horn

Till at the summit under shining trees

It cried: Submission is the only good;

Let me become an instrument sharply stringed

For all things to strike music as they please.

How to recall such music, when the street

Darkens? Among the rain and stone places

I find only an ancient sadness falling,

Only hurrying and troubled faces,

The walking of girls' vulnerable feet,

The heart in its own endless silence kneeling.


Within the dream you said:

Let us kiss then,

In this room, in this bed,

But when all's done

We must not meet again.

Hearing this last word,

There was no lambing-night,

No gale-driven bird

Nor frost-encircled root

As cold as my heart.



At one the wind rose,

And with it the noise

Of the black poplars.

Long since had the living

By a thin twine

Been led into their dreams

Where lanterns shine

Under a still veil

Of falling streams;

Long since had the dead

Become untroubled

In the light soil.

There were no mouths

To drink of the wind,

Nor any eyes

To sharpen on the stars'

Wide heaven-holding,

Only the sound

Long sibilant-muscled trees

Were lifting up, the black poplars.

And in their blazing solitude

The stars sang in their sockets through the night:

'Blow bright, blow bright

The coal of this unquickened world.'


Like the train's beat

Swift language flutters the lips

Of the Polish airgirl in the corner seat.

The swinging and narrowing sun

Lights her eyelashes, shapes

Her sharp vivacity of bone.

Hair, wild and controlled, runs back:

And gestures like these English oaks

Flash past the windows of her foreign talk.

The train runs on through wilderness

Of cities. Still the hammered miles

Diversify behind her face.

And all humanity of interest

Before her angled beauty falls,

As whorling notes are pressed

In a bird's throat, issuing meaningless

Through written skies; a voice

Watering a stony place.


I put my mouth

Close to running water:

Flow north, flow south,

It will not matter,

It is not love you will find.

I told the wind:

It took away my words:

It is not love you will find,

Only the bright-tongued birds,

Only a moon with no home.

It is not love you will find:

You have no limbs

Crying for stillness, you have no mind

Trembling with seraphim,

You have no death to come.


Nursery Tale

All I remember is

The horseman, the moonlit hedges,

The hoofbeats shut suddenly in the yard,

The hand finding the door unbarred:

And I recall the room where he was brought,

Hung black and candlelit; a sort

Of meal laid out in mockery; for though

His place was set, there was no more

Than one unpolished pewter dish, that bore

The battered carcase of a carrion crow.

So every journey that I make

Leads me, as in the story he was led,

To some new ambush, to some fresh mistake:

So every journey I begin foretells

A weariness of daybreak, spread

With carrion kisses, carrion farewells.


The Dancer


Or falling leaf,

Which ought I to imitate

In my dancing?

And if she were to admit

The world weaved by her feet

Is leafless, is incomplete?

And if she abandoned it,

Broke the pivoted dance,

Set loose the audience?

Then would the moon go raving,

The moon, the anchorless

Moon go swerving

Down at the earth for a catastrophic kiss.