26 April 2015

The Goshawk

by T. H. White

The Goshawk

Chapter I

When I first saw him he was a round thing like a clothes basket covered with sacking. But he was tumultuous and frightening, repulsive in the same way as snakes are frightening to people who do not know them, or dangerous as the sudden movement of a toad by the door step when one goes out at night with a lantern into the dew. The sacking had been sewn with string, and he was bumping against it from underneath: bump, bump, bump, incessantly, with more than a nint of lunacy. The basket pulsed like a big heart in fever. It gave our weird cries of protest, hysterical, terrified, but furious and authoritative. It would have eaten anybody alive.

Imagine what his life had been till then. When he was an infant, still unable ot fly and untidy with bits of fluff, still that kind of mottled, motive and gaping toad which confronts us when we look into birds' nests in May: when, moreover, he was a citizen of Germany, so far away: a glaring man had come to his mother's nest with a basket like this one, and had stuffed him it. He had never seen a human being, never been confined in such a box, which smelled of darkness and manufacture and the stink of man. It must have been like death – the thing which we can never know beforehand – as, with clumsy talons groping for an unnatural foothold, his fledgeling consciousness was hunched and bundled in the oblong alien surroundingness. The gutteral voices, the un-birdlike den he was taken to, the scaly hands which bound him, the second basket, the smell and noise of the motor car, at the unbearable, measured clamour of the aircraft which bounced those skidding talons on the untrustworthy woven floor all the way to England: heat, fear, noise, hunger, the reverse of nature: with these to stomach, terrified, but still nobly and madly defiant, the eyas goshawk had arrived at my small cottage in his accursed basket – a wild and adolescent creature whose father and mother in eagles' nests had fed him with bloody meet still quivering with life, a foreigner from far black pine slopes, where a bundle of precipitous sticks and some white droppings, with a few bones and feathers splashed over the tree foot, had been to him the ancestral heritage. He was born to fly, sloping sideways, free among the verdure of that Teutonic upland, to murder with his fierce feet and to consume with that curved Persian beak, who now hopped up and down in the clothes basket with a kind of imperious precocity, the impatience of a spoiled but noble heir apparent to the Holy Roman Empire.

I picked up the clothes basket in a gingerly way and carried it to the barn. The workman's cottage which I lived in had been built under Queen Victoria, with barn and pigsty and bakehouse, and it had once been inhabited by a gamekeeper. There in the wood, long agon when Englishmen lived their own sports, instead of competing at games with tedious abstract tennis bats and cricket sticks and golfing mallets as they do today, the keeper who lived in the cottage had reared his pheasants. There was no wire netting in his days, and the windows of the low barn were enclosed with wooden slats, nailed criss-cross, a diamond lattice work. I put Gos down in the barn, in his basket, and was splitting a rabbit's head to get at the brain, when two friends whose sad employment I had lately followed came to take me to a public house for the last time. The hawk came out of the basket already strong on the wing, beat up to the rafters, while his master, armed with two pairs of leather gloves on each hand, cowered near the floor – and then there was no more time. I had intended to put a pair of jesses on him at once, but he flew up before I had pulled myself together: and it was only when the great bundle of young feathers was perching on the rafters that one could see the jesses already on him. Jesses were what they called the thongs about his feet. Jessed but not belled, perched at the top of the old gamekeeper's loft, baleful and extraordinary, I left the goshawk to settle down: while we three went out to the public house for a kind of last supper, at which none was more impatient of translation than the departing guest.

19 April 2015

I never saw another butterfly

The Butterfly
                                        by  Pavel Friedman
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone…
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly ‘way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished to
kiss the world goodbye.
For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto
But I have found my people here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut candles in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here,
In the ghetto.

12 April 2015

Beyond the bay, the infant-bearing sea

                                     by Rowan Williams

Swansea Bay: Dylan at 100

A thumb drawn down, smearing the grey wash,
storm pillars float over a December morning,
            the sun still tipping rocks with liquid
out at the headland. In the bay swells urge
this way and that; a dark patch swings
out from the sea wall, pushes the pushing current
sideways, the lanes of water tilting by inches
under the lurid morning, heaving this way and that
beneath the mottled skin and pinching it into the long
blade of a wave, the knife under the cloth
ready to slice. Watching, you have no notion
how it all runs, the hidden weights swinging
and striking, passing their messages, hidden
as the pulses under the scalp, behind the eyes,
that sometimes pinch themselves into a sharp
fold, into an edge, as if the buried cranial dances
gathered themselves to cut, for a moment, at
the skull's dry case and break through in white curls.

I sang in my chains. I listened for the pushing swell
of light in the country yards, the undertow
of bliss that still cuts at the cloth, at the bone,
at all the tired shrouds. I listened
for the tide retreating and the small lick and splash
of breeze on the trickles between corrugated sand,
for the silent footfall of pacing birds, processing
to their office. Beyond the bay, the infant-bearing sea
slips further off, the next room is quiet and the sun
whispers hoarsely. When I call in my dream for it,
my voice is small and the knife strains bluntly
at the knotted cloth. Watching the swell again
at whispering liquid sunrise, I have no answer
when I wonder how the world's sand runs
out of grace and the dark moods of the water
jostle each other; I cannot tell if they will gather
ever again, severing the milky web that holds me
mortally. Do not go. Now as I was

From Rowan Williams, The Other Mountain.

05 April 2015

I am not yet born

                           by Louis MacNeice

Prayer Before Birth

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
my life when they murder by means of my
hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
waves call me to folly and the desert calls
me to doom and the beggar refuses
my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
one face, a thing, and against all those
who would dissipate my entirety, would
blow me like thistledown hither and
thither or hither and thither
like water held in the
hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me. 

From poemhunter.com/poem/prayer-before-birth/