27 March 2016

Easter 1916

                                  by William Butler Yeats 

Easter 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our wingèd horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road,
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud, 
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute to minute they live;
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be, 
Wherever green is worn, 
Are changed, changed utterly: 
A terrible beauty is born.

13 March 2016

I beg you to repair it

                                                            by Anne Porter

A Short Testament

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,
And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,
And where there are lives I may have withered around me,
Or lives of strangers far or near
That I’ve destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,
Remember them. I beg you to remember them
When winter is over
And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death’s bare branches.

Thanks to Grace Low.

06 March 2016

What did I see that morning?

                                by Robert MacFarlane 

                                      from Landmarks 

What did I see that morning? Hot winter sun on the 
face's brink but seen as gold. Air, still, blue. Tremors 
at the edge of vision: quick dark curve and slow 
straight line over green, old in the eye. Intersection, 
schrapnel of down, grey drop to drop, flail and 
clatter, four chops and the black star away with quick 
wing flicks.

Let me tell that again, clearer now, if clear is right.  
What did I see that morning? A green field dropping 
citywards. The narrow track at the bronze wood's 
border.  The sun low, but strong in the cold.  Then 
odd forms glimpsed in the eye's selvedge.  The 
straight line (grey) the flight -path of a wood pigeon 
passing over the field. The fast curve (dark) the kill-
path of a peregrine cutting south from the height of 
the beech tops. The pigeon is half struck but not 
clutched, chest-feathers blossom, it falls to the low 
cover of the crop and flails for safety to a hedge.  
The falcon rises to strike down again, misses, rises, 
misses again, two more rises and two more misses, 
the pigeon makes the hedge and as I rush the wood-
dge to close the gap the falcon, tired, lifts and 
turns and flies off east and fast over the summits of 
the hilltop trees, with quick sculling wing flicks.

And let me tell it one last time, clearer still perhaps. 
What did I see that morning?  It was windless and 
late autumn.  The sky was milky blue, and rich
leaves drifted in the path verges, thrown from the
trees by a night frost and a gale not long since
dropped away . . . A thin path leads to the woods,
a path that I have walked or run every few days for
the last ten years, and thereby come to know its
usual creatures, colours and weathers. I reached the
fringe of the beech wood, where the trees meet a big
sloping field of rapeseed, when my eye was caught
by strange shapes and vectors: the long slow flight of
a pigeon over the dangerous open of the field, and
the quick striking curve of a sparrowhawk – no, a
peregrine, somehow a peregrine, unmistakably a 
peregrine – closing to it from height.  The falcon 
slashed at the pigeon, half hit it, sent up a puff of 
down; the bird dropped into the rape and panicked 
towards the cover of the hawthorn hedge.  The falcon
 rose and fell upon it as it showed above the surface 
of the crop striking four more times but missing each 
time.  I ran to get closer, along the fringe of the 
wood, but the falcon saw me coming, had known I 
was an agent in the drama since before it had first 
struck, and so it lifted and flew off east over the beech
tops, black against the blue sky, its crossbow profile . .
 . its 'cloud-biting anchor shape' – unmistakable in 
silhouette, as my blood thudded.