Monday, December 21, 2015

989. Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit - Wallace Stevens

If there must be a god in the house, must be,
Saying things in the rooms and on the stair,
Let him move as the sunlight moves on the floor,
Or moonlight, silently, as Plato’s ghost
Or Aristotle’s skeleton. Let him hang out
His stars on the wall. He must dwell quietly.
He must be incapable of speaking, closed,
As those are: as light, for all its motion, is;
As color, even the closest to us, is;
As shapes, though they portend us, are.
It is the human that is the alien,
The human that has no cousin in the moon.
It is the human that demands his speech
From beasts or from the incommunicable mass.
If there must be a god in the house, let him be one
That will not hear us when we speak: a coolness,
A vermilioned nothingness, any stick of the mass
Of which we are too distantly a part.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

988. The Lay Of The Trilobite - May Kendall

Poem of the week: The Lay of the Trilobite by May Kendall
A Victorian satire on evolutionary theory cleverly subverts, through a covert feminist argument, Darwinist ideas about the subjugation of women

Tuesday 27 October 2015 06.07 EDT

A mountain’s giddy height I sought,
Because I could not find
Sufficient vague and mighty thought
To fill my mighty mind;
And as I wandered ill at ease,
There chanced upon my sight
A native of Silurian seas,
An ancient Trilobite.
So calm, so peacefully he lay,
I watched him even with tears:
I thought of Monads far away
In the forgotten years.
How wonderful it seemed and right,
The providential plan,
That he should be a Trilobite,
And I should be a Man!
And then, quite natural and free
Out of his rocky bed,
That Trilobite he spoke to me
And this is what he said:
‘I don’t know how the thing was done,
Although I cannot doubt it;
But Huxley – he if anyone
Can tell you all about it;

How all your faiths are ghosts and dreams,
How in the silent sea
Your ancestors were Monotremes –
Whatever these may be;
How you evolved your shining lights
Of wisdom and perfection
From Jelly-Fish and Trilobites
By Natural Selection.
‘You’ve Kant to make your brains go round,
Hegel you have to clear them,
You’ve Mr Browning to confound,
And Mr Punch to cheer them!
The native of an alien land
You call a man and brother,
And greet with hymn-book in one hand
And pistol in the other!
‘You’ve Politics to make you fight
As if you were possessed:
You’ve cannon and you’ve dynamite
To give the nations rest:
The side that makes the loudest din
Is surest to be right,
And oh, a pretty fix you’re in!’
Remarked the Trilobite.
‘But gentle, stupid, free from woe
I lived among my nation,
I didn’t care – I didn’t know
That I was a Crustacean.*
I didn’t grumble, didn’t steal,
I never took to rhyme:
Salt water was my frugal meal,
And carbonate of lime.’
Reluctantly I turned away,
No other word he said;
An ancient Trilobite, he lay
Within his rocky bed.
I did not answer him, for that
Would have annoyed my pride:
I merely bowed, and raised my hat,
But in my heart I cried: –
‘I wish our brains were not so good,
I wish our skulls were thicker,
I wish that Evolution could
Have stopped a little quicker;
For oh, it was a happy plight,
Of liberty and ease,
To be a simple Trilobite

In the Silurian seas!’

Comonteretary by Carol Robbins
  • He was not a Crustacean. He has since discovered he was an Arachnid, or something similar. But he says it does not matter. He says they told him wrong once, and they may again.
May Kendall was born Emma Goldworth Kendall in Bridlington, Yorkshire, in 1864. Little is known about her education; on the evidence of her work, it was a solid one. Her father was a Methodist minister, and Kendall’s interest in the sciences never deflected her from her religious convictions and sense of life as sacred. She was founder member of the York Fabian Society and collaborated with Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree on radical sociological works in the early 20th century, by which time she had abandoned poetry and fiction. Her later years were sad: it’s thought that she suffered from senile dementia. She died in an institution in 1943, and is buried in York, the city where she spent the greater part of her life.
The Lay of the Trilobite was first printed in Punch magazine in January 1885, one of an occasional series of unsigned comic “lays”. By then, Kendall had published her first novel, That Very Mab, in collaboration with Andrew Lang, and she had contributed work to Lang’s column in Longman’s Magazine. As a poet, she was not a lone female voice: Mathilde Blind, Emily Pfeiffer and Constance Naden, for example, were similarly emancipated New Women engaged in challenging received ideas.
Kendall’s tetrameters are technically assured, her rhymes sharp-witted, if not, as satire, steel-tipped. The scientific accuracy is imperfect, as she was later to acknowledge, at least with regard to her classification of the trilobite. Reprinting the Lay in the “Science” section of her 1887 debut collection, Dreams to Sell, she added a comic footnote correcting the classification from crustacean to “Arachnid, or something similar”. In fact, trilobites are arthropods.
An informative essay by John Holmes, The Lay of the Trilobite: Rereading May Kendall includes a reproduction of the Punch cartoon accompanying the poem, and points out a passing resemblance of the caricatured scientist to Sir Richard Owen. Owen, mostly remembered now for establishing London’s Natural History Museum, was a brilliant palaeontologist, and an unscrupulous and fiercely ambitious man. Concerning evolution, he held that dominant forms arose as a result of specific acts of creation, the “providential plan” which Kendall mentions in the sixth line of her second stanza. Owen opposed Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and he and the staunch Darwinian Thomas Henry Huxley (see stanza 3) were deeply entrenched enemies.
Kendall’s own argument with evolutionary theory was essentially an argument with Social Darwinism. The latter legitimised existing power structures, and thus colluded with the subjugation of women. Darwin himself considered women to be deficient in their abilities for “deep thought, reasoning or imagination, or merely the use of the senses or hands”.
Although Kendall does not propose an overtly feminist critique of evolutionary science in the poem – nor would the conservative Punch have accepted it for publication if she had – such a critique is strongly hinted, and borne out by other poems of hers, such as Woman’s Future. From the Lay’s first line, her part-scientist, part-philosopher protagonist is the butt of teasing, and his pride is brought down, softly but surely, in the denouement. He meets the fossilised trilobite grandly confident in his man-sized brain, having scaled a mountain in search of the sufficiently “vague and mighty thought” required to furnish such a “mighty mind”. The trilobite (looking sufficiently relaxed and indolent in the cartoon to suggest a visual pun on “lay”) at first confirms the mountaineer’s sense of his superior place in the natural order. Thinking “of Monads far away”, he’s moved to tears by the fossil’s mere presence – like a man melted by the charms of a deferential woman, perhaps. And then, the trilobite speaks.
Kendall’s verses may seem at first to reflect a Victorian tendency to turn science into a branch of fantasy. Many commentators have remarked on the resemblance to Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poems. The latter are more truly subversive and more imaginative than anything Kendall writes. But Kendall’s talking trilobite has an important message to deliver (see especially verses 5 and 6), and an unusually disenchanted view of human achievement to declare. Kendall isn’t subverting serious poetry by writing “nonsense verse”: she’s subverting nonsense verse by making it ask serious questions.
Victorian science was not fully tamed and ordered territory. This was a period when taxonomies were sometimes in flux, and the boundaries between species not always clear cut. Monotremes, for example, had not long since been defined as egg-laying mammals. The Punch cartoon is apparently inaccurate, showing a eurypterid and not a trilobite. Kendall is jocular and casual on territory she knows to be slippery with recent skirmishes. Of course, such an attitude contrasts with the way in which modern poets approach scientific material. A science-writing poet today would lose a lot of credibility if found to have failed to get her Googled references properly checked against the latest research.
What Kendall takes seriously is the more ambitious cross-referencing in which scientific reasoning engages with social improvement. The value of evolution is challenged by the trilobite-poet because mankind’s advances have produced many terrible results. Philosophy is seen as a kind of Teutonic game, and aesthetics fares no better: Kendall’s quip about Browning reflects the general puzzlement of Victorian readers with his poetry. Verse itself becomes a subject of scepticism when the trilobite affirms that, among his modest virtues, he “never took to rhyme”.
The scientist bows and tips his hat as he takes his leave of the friendly fossil, too proud to agree with him openly, but secretly undermined. In the last stanza we learn that, thoroughly persuaded, he, too, wishes that “Evolution could/ Have stopped a little quicker”. It’s perhaps a rather sentimental conclusion, and one unlikely to have been shared by Kendall herself. In Woman’s Future, she evokes mountains and mightiness of her own, declaring “Our talents shall rise in a mighty crescendo,/ We trust Evolution to make us amends!” Her tone is partly ironical, of course, but in the same poem she earnestly chides women for wasting their energies on trivia. Her sense of magnificent possibilities for human development is typically offset by the honest realism of a pragmatic Yorkshirewoman. It’s not that she denies the possibility of further human evolution: she sees it both as thoroughly desirable and thoroughly difficult of attainment. And so May Kendall will lay aside her pen, as she hopes her sisters will abandon their “woolwork” and “patchwork”. There’s more serious graft needed if a clergyman’s brilliant daughter is to help repair the fallen world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

987. The Hinds - Kathleen Jamie

Carol Rumens's poem of the week in The Guardian
Each week Carol Rumens picks a poem to discuss.
Written amid the ‘tremendous energy’ of Scotland’s independence campaign, this supple nature poem might be a livelier than usual image of nationhood

Monday 5 October 2015 06.08 EDT
Last modified on Wednesday 7 October 2015 12.12 EDT

The Hinds

Walking in a waking dream
I watched nineteen deer
pour from ridge to glen-floor,
then each in turn leap,
leap the new-raised
peat-dark burn. This
was the distaff side;
hinds at their ease, alive
to lands held on long lease
in their animal minds,
and filing through a breach
in a never-mended dyke,
the herd flowed up over
heather-slopes to scree
where they stopped, and turned to stare,
the foremost with a queenly air
as though to say: Aren’t we
the bonniest companie?
Come to me,
you’ll be happy, but never go home.

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The title of Kathleen Jamie’s lively new collection, The Bonniest Companie, published this week by Picador Poetry, is tucked away in The Hinds, third line from the end. As the poet’s note tells us, the words are an allusion to the Scottish Border Ballad, Tam Lin
In the ballad, the young knight and virginity-bandit Tam Lin is rescued from enchantment by an intrepid, aristocratic young woman, Janet, whom, luckily, he has made pregnant on their first encounter. At the end of the tale, the Queen complains angrily of Janet that “she has ta’en awa the bonniest knight / in a’ my companie”. The phrase “bonniest companie” has an inclusive resonance for the new collection, whose poems mark the natural cycle of the year, and were written, Jamie records, at the rate of one a week during 2014, drawing on the “tremendous energy” generated in Scotland at that time.
In the poem, of course, “the bonniest companie” are the nineteen hinds, met in “a waking dream”, who thereby acquire an aura of magic – dangerous magic that will engulf the one seduced: “you’ll be happy, but never go home”. A couplet in the wonderfully mystical poem, Less and Less Human, O Savage Spirit by William Carlos Williams, seems pertinent: “It is the human that is the alien,/ The human that has no cousin in the moon.” Confronted by stunningly beautiful animals, simply and powerfully at one with their environment, we may placate our sense of alienation with fantasy connection: might we not run away and join them? Do ancient tales of Faery enchantment and entrapment draw on such fantasies?
The hinds are real animals, of course, probably red deer, and the poem recreates their wiriness and agility in its own wiry shape and agile lines. The verbs-in-apposition that tie them to their upland location suggest controlled energy: poured from, filing through, poured up. Two well-placed “leaps” compress the mass movement (governed by “I watched”) into the individually see-able: “then each in turn leap, / leap the new-raised/ peat-dark burn.” That the “burn” is “new-raised” may suggest recent effects of rainfall: the burn is full and fast. Does “peat-dark burn” carry a tiny echo, perhaps, of “wine-dark sea?” If so, it recalls a thought memorably expressed by the Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh, defending the Homeric significance of local matters in his war-haunted poem, Epic.
Jamie’s sound-effects range from the subtly consonantal, like “leap”, with its echo of watery hoof-plopping, to the full chords of rhyme: “pour/floor”, “turn/burn”, “ease/lease”, “this/distaff”, etc. The labials of lines eight and nine (“alive/ to lands held on long lease”) evoke the fluidity of the animals’ movement on their own ground. A triple “e/ie” rhyme towards the end, where the boldest hind utters her seductive invitation, is like a simple animal mating-call transcribed into human.
The old-fashioned euphemism “distaff side” marks one of several moments of self-amused anthropomorphism. Jamie’s line-break on “this” signals an emphasis, light-hearted though it may be, on the animals’ gender. Her phrase intimates the social world of the ballad. The hinds also live in a rigidly gendered society, even if their actions hardly seem comparable to the monotonous subservience of ladies spinning the flax. They’re more like Janet, who’s more like a modern woman, free to rove and range.
“Lease” is a loaded word. The deer’s “lease” on the land may well stretch back a long way, but the term that implies temporality and may foreshadow a less settled future. So far so good, perhaps, unless the un-mended breach in the dyke denotes a neglect that won’t always prove benign.
Plain, solid nouns build the mimetic topography: “ridge”, “glen-floor”, “breach” , “dyke” , “heather-slopes”, and the wonderfully onomatopoeic “scree”. “Heather-slope” is a good compound, evoking the depth and layered springiness of heather so thick it seems to be the actual substance of the hill.
Almost suddenly, the poem pauses its flow. Line 15, lengthened a little beyond the others and slowed by its monosyllables, marks the change. From now on, the hinds are standing still, emboldened by distance, perhaps, looking back on the speaker. “Queenly air” is finely judged, and, again, there’s a touch of humour in the conscious anthropomorphism, apparently extended to the almost flirtatious challenge issued by the alpha female.
There’s a characteristic combination of delicacy and brawn in Jamie’s poetry, and both are at work in The Hinds. In its supple energy, the poem might be a riposte to those stiff and gloomy oil-paintings with their antlered images of nationhood, and frequently bearing the title, “Stag at Bay”.
The magic of Jamie’s nineteen hinds is that they are not magic. They’re free and easy and glad-to-be-female, with no hunter – not even a rutting stag – to bother them, or not in the quicksilver moments of the poem. And yet you might read a hint of almost Rilkean challenge in the deer’s invitation: “Come to me,/ you’ll be happy, but never go home”. In other words, perhaps, “You must change your life.”


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

986. Halfway Down - Chard Diniord

Halfway down: the sight of a doe
through the trees in the meadow.
I stopped to stare at her staring at me.
The silence arced between us like a wire
in a current that equaled strangeness
over time, and since her stare was wild —
so charged with fear the moment froze
on the line of sky and field, man
and deer — she broke our stillness
in her flight from me. I stood alone
but double then as the man on the path
and the memory of the man she carried
with her beyond the meadow into
the next meadow and the meadow after
that where she returned my image
to the field of her forgetting in which

I roamed like a deer myself, remembering.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

985. Our Story - William Stafford

Remind me again—together we
trace our strange journey, find
each other, come on laughing.
Some time we’ll cross where life
ends. We’ll both look back
as far as forever, that first day.
I’ll touch you—a new world then.
Stars will move a different way.
We’ll both end. We’ll both begin.

Remind me again.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

984. Some Say - Maureen N. McLane

Some say a host
of horsemen, a horizon
of ships under sail
is most beautiful &
some say a mountain
embraced by the clouds &
some say the badass
booty-shakin’ shorties
in the club are most
beautiful and some say
the truth is most
beautiful dutifully singing
what beauty might
sound under stars
of a day. I say
what they say
is sometimes
what I say
Her legs long
and bare shining
on the bed the hair
the small tuft
the brown languor
of a long line
of sunlit skin I say
whatever you say
I’m saying is beautiful
& whither truth beauty
and whither whither
in the weather of an old day
suckerpunched by a spiral
of Arctic air blown
into vast florets of ice
binding the Great Lakes
into a single cracked sheet
the airplanes fly
unassuming over    O they eat
and eat the steel mouths
and burn what the earth
spun eons to form
Some say calamity
and some catastrophe
is beautiful    Some say
porn     Some jolie laide
Some say beauty
is hanging there at a dank bar
with pretty and sublime
those sad bitches left behind
by the horsemen

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

983. A Tale Begins - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak

Our ships are not yet back from Winnland.
We still have to get over the S. Gothard pass.
We’ve got to outwit the watchmen on the desert of Thor,
fight our way through the sewers to Warsaw’s center,
gain access to King Harald the Butterpat,
and wait until the downfall of Minister Fouche.
Only in Acapulco
can we begin anew.

We’ve run out of bandages,
matches, hydraulic presses, arguments, and water.
We haven’t got the trucks, we haven’t got the Minghs’ support.
This skinny horse won’t be enough to bribe the sheriff.
No news so far about the Tartars’ captives.
We’ll need a warmer cave for winter
and someone who can speak Harari.

We don’t know whom to trust in Nineveh,
what conditions the Prince-Cardinal will decree,
which names Beria has still got inside his files.
They say Karol the Hammer strikes tomorrow at dawn.
In this situation, let’s appease Cheops,
report ourselves of our own free will,
change faiths,
pretend to be friends with the Doge,
and say that we’ve got nothing to do the the Kwabe tribe.

Time to light the fires.
Let’s send a cable to grandma in Zabierzow.
Let’s untie the knot in the yurt’s leather straps.

May delivery be easy,
may our child grow and be well.
Let him be happy from time to time
and leap over abysses
Let his heart have strength to endure
and his mind be awake and reach far.

But not so far
that it sees into the future.
Spare him
that one gift,

O heavenly powers.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

982. It Was A Time - Stephen Dunn

Some of us just wanted to drop out, go far away
from integrity’s demands. Others sought strange
consultations with their almost vanished selves.
And the brave, they would meet somewhere
in zero weather to subvert the drift of the land.
It was a time to link arms, or cross the boarder.
And who were you, and who was I?
Such questions seemed like a lifelong job.
We put the world on notice, and world
hardly noticed. When we occupied the offices

of people who just wanted to do their jobs
and go home, we thought we’d done something
historical, bold. We desired to be as compelling
as Belmondo with a cigarette. Monica Vitti
looking just so. But always the familiar banalities
would return—-an existential day followed
by a comfortable night, the rhapsodies
of achievement, then a great smalling down.
No one could be sure what was true. In time

we become people we only occasionally knew

Saturday, May 09, 2015

981. Two Paintings by Gustav Klimt - Jorie Graham

Although what glitters
         on the trees,
row after perfect row,
        is merely
the injustice
        of the world,

the chips on the bark of each
        beech tree
catching the light, the sum
        of these delays
is the beautiful, the human

body of flaws.
        The dead
would give anything
        I’m sure,
to step again onto
        the leaf rot,

into the avenue of mottled shadows,
        the speckled
broken skins. The dead
        in their sheer
open parenthesis, what they
        wouldn’t give

for something to lean on
        that won’t
give way. I think I
        would weep
for the moral nature
        of this world,

for right and wrong like pools
        of shadow
and light you can step in
        and out of
crossing this yellow beech forest,
        this buchen-wald,

one autumn afternoon, late
        in the twentieth
century, in hollow light,
        in gaseous light. . . .
To receive the light
        and return it

and stand in rows, anonymous,
        is a sweet secret
even the air wishes
        it could unlock.
See how it pokes at them
        in little hooks,

the blue air, the yellow trees.
        Why be afraid?
They say when Klimt
        died suddenly
a painting, still

was found in his studio,
        a woman’s body
open at its point of
rendered in graphic,

detail—something like
        a scream
between her legs. Slowly,
he had begun to paint
        a delicate

garment (his trademark)
        over this mouth
of her body. The mouth
        of her face
is genteel, bored, feigning a need
        for sleep. The fabric

defines the surface,
        the story,
so we are drawn to it,
        its blues
and yellows glittering
        like a stand

of beech trees late
        one afternoon
in Germany, in fall.
        It is called
Buchenwald, it is
        1890. In

the finished painting
        the argument
has something to do
        with pleasure.

Jorie Graham, “Two Paintings by Gustav Klimt” from Erosion. Copyright © 1983 by Jorie Graham. Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

980. The Little Ways That Encouarge Good Fortune

Wisdom is having things right in your life
and knowing why.
If you do not have things right in your life
you will be overwhelmed:
you may be heroic, but you will not be wise.
If you have things right in your life
but do not know why,
you are just lucky, and you will not move
in the little ways that encourage good fortune.

The saddest are those not right in their lives
who are acting to make things right for others:
they act only from the self—
and that self will never be right:

no luck, no help, no wisdom.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

979. A Tale Begun - Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

The world is never ready
for the birth of a child.

Our ships are not yet back from Vineland.
We still have to get over the S. Gothard pass.
We've got to outwit the watchmen on the desert of Thor,
fight our way through the sewers to Warsaw's center,
gain access to King Harald the Butterpat,
and wait until the downfall of Minister Fouché.
Only in Acapulco
can we begin anew.

We've run out of bandages,
matches, hydraulic presses, arguments, and water.
We haven't got the trucks, we haven't got the Minghs' support.
The skinny horse won't be enough to bribe the sheriff.
No news so far about the Tartars' captives.
We'll need a warmer cave for winter
and someone who can speak Harari.

We don't know whom to trust in Nineveh,
what conditions the Prince-Cardinal will decree,
which names Beria has still got inside his files.
They say Karol the Hammer strikes tomorrow at dawn.
In this situation, let's appease Cheops,
report ourselves of our own free will,
change faiths,
pretend to be friends with the Doge,
and say that we've got nothing to do with the Kwabe tribe.

Time to light the fires.
Let's send a cable to grandma in Zabierzów.
Let's untie the knots in the yurt's leather straps.
May delivery be easy,
may our child grow and be well.
Let him be happy from time to time
and leap over abysses.
Let his heart have strength to endure
and his mind be awake and reach far.

But not so far
that it sees into the future.
Spare him 
that one gift,

O heavenly powers.

978. Most of the Warriors - James Kavanaugh

Most of the warriors I knew
Have settled down to gardening, and the morning Times,
Tired of stalking ghosts
and the melody of secret rhythms
above the sound of traffic
and other monotonous voices,
Finally content to stare and wonder.

Most of the warriors I knew
Have unsaddled stallions and built a fence in the backyard,
Weary of studying the clouds
And the shadows creeping across mountains
beyond the flash of neon
and other pretentious symbols,
Finally content to stare and wonder.

Most of the warriors I knew
Have died before their time and are forgotten
Save in the memory of their sons
And the dreams they seldom share
beyond the taint of time
and other unimportant measures

Finally content to stare and wonder.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

977. The Voice - Thomas Hardy

Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who all all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair.

Can it be you that I hear? Let me view you, then,
Standing as when I drew near to the town
Where you would wait for me: yes, as I knew you then,
Even to the original air-blue gown!

Or is it only the breeze in its listlessness
Traveling across the wet mead to me here,
You being ever dissolved to wan wistlessiness,
Heard no more again far or near?

Thus I; faltering forward,
Leaves around me falling,
Wind oozing thin through the thorn from norward,
And the woman calling.

From Seamus Heaney
“I can’t honestly say that I break down when I read “The Voice,” but
when I get to the last four lines the dear ducts do congest a bit. The
poem is one of several Thomas Hardy wrote immediately after the
death of his first wife in late November 1912, hence his poignancy
of dating it “December 1912.” Hardy once described this group
of memorial poems as “an expiation,” acknowledging his grief and
remorse at the way he had neglected and hurt the one “who was all to
me… first, when our day was fair.” What renders the music of the
poem so moving is the drag in the voice, as if there were sinkers on
many of the lines. But in the final stanza, in that landscape of falling
leaves, wind and thorn, and the woman calling, there is a banshee note
that haunts “long after it is heard no more.”

Sunday, February 01, 2015

976. That Day - Denise Levertov

Across s lake in Switzerland, fifty years ago,
light was jousting with long lances, fencing with 
back and forth among cloudy peaks and foothills.
We watched from a small pavilion, my mother and I, 

And then, behold, a shaft, a column,
a defined body, not of light but of silver rain,
formed and set out from the distant shore, leaving behind
the silent feints and thrusts, and advanced
unswervingly, at a steady pace,
toward us.
I knew this! I’d seen it! Not the sensation
of déjà vu: it was Blakes’s inkwash vision,
“The Spirit of God Moving Upon the Face of the Waters’!
The column steadily came on
across the lake toward us; on each side of it,
there was no rain. We rose to our feet, breathless—
and then it reached us, took us
into its veil of silver, wrapped us
in finest weave of wet, 

and we laughed for joy, astonished.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

975. Presentiment - Rilke

Translated from the German by Edward Snow

I’m like a flag surrounded by distances.
I can sense the coming winds, and have to live them,
while things down below don’t stir yet:
the doors still close softly, and the chimneys hold silence;
the windows don’t tremble yet, the dust lies calm.

Then all at once the squalls arrive and I’m embroiled like the sea.
And I spread myself out and plunge deep inside myself
and cast myself off and am entirely alone

in the great storm.