03 November 2013

Bitter Lemons

by Lawrence Durrell


In an island of bitter lemons
Where the moon's cool fevers burn
From the dark globes of the fruit,

And the dry grass underfoot
Tortures memory and revises
Habits half a lifetime dead

Better leave the rest unsaid,
beauty, darkness, vehemence
Let the old sea nurses keep

Their memorials of sleep
And the Greek sea's curly head
Keep its calms like tears unshed

Keep its calms like tears unshed.


Anonymous hand, record one afternoon,
In May, some time before the fig-leaf:
Boats lying idle in the sky, a town
Thrown as on a screen of watered silk,
Lying on its side, reddish and soluble,
A sheet of glass leading down into the sea . . .

Down here an idle boy catches a cicada:
Imprisons it, laughing, in his sister's cloa
In whose warm folds the silly creature sings.

Shape of boats, body of a young girl, cicada,
Conspire and join each other here,
In twelve sad lines against the dark.


These ships, these islands, these simple trees
Are our rewrds in substance, being poor.
This earth a dictionary is
To the root and growth of seeing,
And to the servant heart a door.
Some on the green surface of the land
With all their canvas up in leav and flower,
And some empty of influence
But from the water-winds,
Free as love's green attractions are.

Smoke bitter and blue from farms.
And points of feeble light in houses
Come after them in the scale
Of the material and the beautiful;
Are not less complex but less delicate
And less important than these living
Instruments of space,
Whose quiet communication is
With older trees in ships on the grey waves:
And order and a music
Like a writing on the skies
Too private for the reason or the pen;
Too simple even for the heart's surprise.

From The Poetry of Lawrence Durrell, 1962.

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