John Keats |
MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 5
But being too happy in thine happiness,
That thou, light-wing¨¨d Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delv¨¨d earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Proven?al song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South! 15
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stain¨¨d mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim: 20
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, 25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night, 35
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalm¨¨d darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 45
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mus¨¨d rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die, 55
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain¡ª
To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 65
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that ofttimes hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 75
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:¡ªdo I wake or sleep? 80
Rainer Maria Rilke |
The First Elegy
Who if I cried out would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
I that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror which we still are just able to endure
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note
Of my dark sobbing.
Ah whom can we ever turn to
in our need? Not angels not humans
and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in
our interpreted world.
Perhaps there remains for us
some tree on a hillside which every day we can take
into our vision; there remains for us yesterday's street
and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease
when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.
Oh and night: there is night when a wind full of infinite space
gnaws at out faces.
Whom would it not remain for-that longed-after
mildly disillusioning presence which the solitary heart
so painfully meets.
Is it any less difficult for lovers?
But they keep on using each other to hide their own fate.
Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms
Into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.
Yes-the springtime needed you.
Often a star
was waiting for you to notice it.
A wave rolled toward you
out of the distant past or as you walked
under an open window a violin
yielded itself to your hearing.
All this was mission.
But could you accomplish it? Weren't you always
Distracted by expectation as if every event
announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place
to keep her with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
going and coming and often staying all night.
But when you feel longing sing of women in love;
for their famous passion is still not immortal.
of women abandoned and desolate (you envy them almost)
who could love so much more purely than those who were gratified.
Begin again and again the never-attainable praising;
remember: the hero lives on; even his downfall was
merely a pretext for achieving his final birth.
But Nature spent and exhausted takes lovers back
into herself as if there were not enough strength
to create them a second time.
Have you imagined
Gaspara Stampa intensely enough so that any girl
deserted by her beloved might be inspired
by that fierce example of soaring objectless love
and might say to herself Perhaps I can be like her ?
Shouldn't this most ancient suffering finally grow
more fruitful for us? Isn't it time that we lovingly
freed ourselves from the beloved and quivering endured:
as the arrow endures the bowstring's tension so that
gathered in the snap of release it can be more than
For there is no place where we can remain.
Listen my heart as only
Saints have listened: until the gigantic call lifted them
off the ground; yet they kept on impossibly
kneeling and didn't notice at all:
so complete was their listening.
Not that you could endure
God's voice-far from it.
But listen to the voice of the wind
and the ceaseless message that forms itself out of silence.
It is murmuring toward you now from those who died young.
Didn't their fate whenever you stepped into a church
In Naples or Rome quietly come to address you?
Or high up some eulogy entrusted you with a mission
as last year on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa.
What they want of me is that I gently remove the appearance
of injustice about their death-which at times
slightly hinders their souls from proceeding onward.
Of course it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer
to give up customs one barely had time to learn
not to see roses and other promising Things
in terms of a human future; no longer to be
what one was in infinitely anxious hands; to leave
even one's own first name behind forgetting it
as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.
Strange to no longer desire one's desires.
to see meanings that clung together once floating away
in every direction.
And being dead is hard work
and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel
a trace of eternity.
-Though the living are wrong to believe
in the too-sharp distinctions which they themselves have created.
Angels (they say) don't know whether it is the living
they are moving among or the dead.
The eternal torrent
whirls all ages along in it through both realms
forever and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.
In the end those who were carried off early no longer need us:
they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys as gently as children
outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers.
But we who do need
such great mysteries we for whom grief is so often
the source of our spirit's growth-: could we exist without them?
Is the legend meaningless that tells how in the lament for Linus
the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness;
and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god
had suddenly left forever the Void felt for the first time
that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.
Rainer Maria Rilke |
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them suddenly
pressed me against his heart, I would perish
in the embrace of his stronger existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror
which we are barely able to endure and are awed
because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Each single angel is terrifying.
And so I force myself, swallow and hold back
the surging call of my dark sobbing.
Oh, to whom can we turn for help?
Not angels, not humans;
and even the knowing animals are aware that we feel
little secure and at home in our interpreted world.
There remains perhaps some tree on a hillside
daily for us to see; yesterday's street remains for us
stayed, moved in with us and showed no signs of leaving.
Oh, and the night, the night, when the wind
full of cosmic space invades our frightened faces.
Whom would it not remain for -that longed-after,
gently disenchanting night, painfully there for the
solitary heart to achieve? Is it easier for lovers?
Don't you know yet ? Fling out of your arms the
emptiness into the spaces we breath -perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air in their more ferven flight.
Yes, the springtime were in need of you.
Often a star
waited for you to espy it and sense its light.
A wave rolled toward you out of the distant past,
or as you walked below an open window,
a violin gave itself to your hearing.
All this was trust.
But could you manage it?
Were you not always distraught by expectation,
as if all this were announcing the arrival
of a beloved? (Where would you find a place
to hide her, with all your great strange thoughts
coming and going and often staying for the night.
When longing overcomes you, sing of women in love;
for their famous passion is far from immortal enough.
Those whom you almost envy, the abandoned and
desolate ones, whom you found so much more loving
than those gratified.
Begin ever new again
the praise you cannot attain; remember:
the hero lives on and survives; even his downfall
was for him only a pretext for achieving
his final birth.
But nature, exhausted, takes lovers
back into itself, as if such creative forces could never be
achieved a second time.
Have you thought of Gaspara Stampa sufficiently:
that any girl abandoned by her lover may feel
from that far intenser example of loving:
"Ah, might I become like her!" Should not their oldest
sufferings finally become more fruitful for us?
Is it not time that lovingly we freed ourselves
from the beloved and, quivering, endured:
as the arrow endures the bow-string's tension,
and in this tense release becomes more than itself.
For staying is nowhere.
Listen my heart, as only saints
have listened: until the gigantic call lifted them
clear off the ground.
Yet they went on, impossibly,
kneeling, completely unawares: so intense was
Not that you could endure
the voice of God -far from it! But listen
to the voice of the wind and the ceaseless message
that forms itself out of silence.
toward you now from those who died young.
Whenever they entered a church in Rome or Naples,
did not their fate quietly speak to you as recently
as the tablet did in Santa Maria Formosa?
What do they want of me? to quietly remove
the appearance of suffered injustice that,
at times, hinders a little their spirits from
freely proceeding onward.
Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
to no longer use skills on had barely time to acquire;
not to observe roses and other things that promised
so much in terms of a human future, no longer
to be what one was in infinitely anxious hands;
to even discard one's own name as easily as a child
abandons a broken toy.
Strange, not to desire to continue wishing one's wishes.
Strange to notice all that was related, fluttering
so loosely in space.
And being dead is hard work
and full of retrieving before one can gradually feel a
trace of eternity.
-Yes, but the liviing make
the mistake of drawing too sharp a distinction.
Angels (they say) are often unable to distinguish
between moving among the living or the dead.
The eternal torrent whirls all ages along with it,
through both realms forever, and their voices are lost in
its thunderous roar.
In the end the early departed have no longer
need of us.
One is gently weaned from things
of this world as a child outgrows the need
of its mother's breast.
But we who have need
of those great mysteries, we for whom grief is
so often the source of spiritual growth,
could we exist without them?
Is the legend vain that tells of music's beginning
in the midst of the mourning for Linos?
the daring first sounds of song piercing
the barren numbness, and how in that stunned space
an almost godlike youth suddenly left forever,
and the emptiness felt for the first time
those harmonious vibrations which now enrapture
and comfort and help us.
Ted Hughes |
The tractor stands frozen - an agony
To think of.
Snow packed its open entrails.
Now a head-pincering gale,
A spill of molten ice, smoking snow,
Pours into its steel.
At white heat of numbness it stands
In the aimed hosing of ground-level fieriness.
It defied flesh and won't start.
Hands are like wounds already
Inside armour gloves, and feet are unbelievable
As if the toe-nails were all just torn off.
I stare at it in hatred.
The copse hisses - capitulates miserably
In the fleeing, failing light.
A dirtier sleetier snow, blow smokily, unendingly, over
Towards plantations Eastward.
All the time the tractor is sinking
Through the degrees, deepening
Into its hell of ice.
The starting lever
Cracks its action, like a snapping knuckle.
The battery is alive - but like a lamb
Trying to nudge its solid-frozen mother -
While the seat claims my buttock-bones, bites
With the space-cold of earth, which it has joined
In one solid lump.
I squirt commercial sure-fire
Down the black throat - it just coughs.
It ridicules me - a trap of iron stupidity
I've stepped into.
I drive the battery
As if I were hammering and hammering
The frozen arrangement to pieces with a hammer
And it jabbers laughing pain-crying mockingly
Into happy life.
Shuddering itself full of heat, seeming to enlarge slowly
Like a demon demonstrating
A more-than-usually-complete materialization -
Suddenly it jerks from its solidarity
With the concrete, and lurches towards a stanchion
Bursting with superhuman well-being and abandon
Shouting Where Where?
Worse iron is waiting.
Levers awake imprisoned deadweight,
Shackle-pins bedded in cast-iron cow-****.
The blind and vibrating condemned obedience
Of iron to the cruelty of iron,
Wheels screeched out of their night-locks -
Among the tormented
Tonnage and burning of iron
Weeping in the wind of chloroform
And the tractor, streaming with sweat,
Raging and trembling and rejoicing.
Sylvia Plath |
The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.
Look how white everything is, how quiet, how snowed-in
I am learning peacefulness, lying by myself quietly
As the light lies on these white walls, this bed, these hands.
I am nobody; I have nothing to do with explosions.
I have given my name and my day-clothes up to the nurses
And my history to the anaesthetist and my body to surgeons.
They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same as another,
So it is impossible to tell how many there are.
My body is a pebble to them, they tend it as water
Tends to the pebbles it must run over, smoothing them gently.
They bring me numbness in their bright needles, they bring me sleep.
Now I have lost myself I am sick of baggage ----
My patent leather overnight case like a black pillbox,
My husband and child smiling out of the family photo;
Their smiles catch onto my skin, little smiling hooks.
I have let things slip, a thirty-year-old cargo boat
Stubbornly hanging on to my name and address.
They have swabbed me clear of my loving associations.
Scared and bare on the green plastic-pillowed trolley
I watched my teaset, my bureaus of linen, my books
Sink out of sight, and the water went over my head.
I am a nun now, I have never been so pure.
I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free ----
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.
The tulips are too red in the first place, they hurt me.
Even through the gift paper I could hear them breathe
Lightly, through their white swaddlings, like an awful baby.
Their redness talks to my wound, it corresponds.
They are subtle: they seem to float, though they weigh me down,
Upsetting me with their sudden tongues and their colour,
A dozen red lead sinkers round my neck.
Nobody watched me before, now I am watched.
The tulips turn to me, and the window behind me
Where once a day the light slowly widens and slowly thins,
And I see myself, flat, ridiculous, a cut-paper shadow
Between the eye of the sun and the eyes of the tulips,
And I hve no face, I have wanted to efface myself.
The vivid tulips eat my oxygen.
Before they came the air was calm enough,
Coming and going, breath by breath, without any fuss.
Then the tulips filled it up like a loud noise.
Now the air snags and eddies round them the way a river
Snags and eddies round a sunken rust-red engine.
They concentrate my attention, that was happy
Playing and resting without committing itself.
The walls, also, seem to be warming themselves.
The tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals;
They are opening like the mouth of some great African cat,
And I am aware of my heart: it opens and closes
Its bowl of red blooms out of sheer love of me.
The water I taste is warm and salt, like the sea,
And comes from a country far away as health.
Philip Larkin |
'Dockery was junior to you,
Wasn't he?' said the Dean.
'His son's here now.
Death-suited, visitant, I nod.
You keep in touch with-' Or remember how
Black-gowned, unbreakfasted, and still half-tight
We used to stand before that desk, to give
'Our version' of 'these incidents last night'?
I try the door of where I used to live:
The lawn spreads dazzlingly wide.
A known bell chimes.
I catch my train, ignored.
Canal and clouds and colleges subside
Slowly from view.
But Dockery, good Lord,
Anyone up today must have been born
In '43, when I was twenty-one.
If he was younger, did he get this son
At nineteen, twenty? Was he that withdrawn
High-collared public-schoolboy, sharing rooms
With Cartwright who was killed? Well, it just shows
How much .
How little .
Yawning, I suppose
I fell asleep, waking at the fumes
And furnace-glares of Sheffield, where I changed,
And ate an awful pie, and walked along
The platform to its end to see the ranged
Joining and parting lines reflect a strong
To have no son, no wife,
No house or land still seemed quite natural.
Only a numbness registered the shock
Of finding out how much had gone of life,
How widely from the others.
Only nineteen, he must have taken stock
Of what he wanted, and been capable
No, that's not the difference: rather, how
Convinced he was he should be added to!
Why did he think adding meant increase?
To me it was dilution.
Where do these
Innate assumptions come from? Not from what
We think truest, or most want to do:
Those warp tight-shut, like doors.
They're more a style
Our lives bring with them: habit for a while,
Suddenly they harden into all we've got
And how we got it; looked back on, they rear
Like sand-clouds, thick and close, embodying
For Dockery a son, for me nothing,
Nothing with all a son's harsh patronage.
Life is first boredom, then fear.
Whether or not we use it, it goes,
And leaves what something hidden from us chose,
And age, and then the only end of age.
Belinda Subraman |
At the edge of winter
in crisp early March
a dull thud of numbness
delays joy and sadness
that will make us weep.
In the flow of life
every aspect bears its opposite.
there’s the balance of peace
in the realization of balance.
With the warm blanket of knowledge
is the freezing cold of truth.
We are greeted with tears
as we come into this world
and tears as we go out.
Rg Gregory |
wandering around milan my father
i know that (bred in the bone) i'm you
i walk and think - my legs roll onwards
i take in the atmosphere but not the view
but now you're dead - and i've been silent
for the past five months since you were burned
a numbness that called itself acceptance
sat in my heart and outward yearned
with other deaths i've not been stingy
when my mother died and then my daughter
a kind of celebration knew me
and words flowed upwards like clear water
but you were ninety-two in dying
when nature came proudly to claim its own
you went as rightly as you'd journeyed
and words had best leave well alone
but as i sit on this sunny sunday
watching an italian family pass
i am this small boy holding tightly
his father's hand across the grass
and here as i sit now weeping lightly
i'm sorry for those speechless tomes
that only now dare dredge that language
to honour your presence in my bones
and child to you i am a father
and my own children i tightly need
for all those deaths i deal them daily
may these green words a little bleed
Emile Verhaeren |
Shall we suffer, alas! the dead weight of the years until at length we are no more than two quiet people, exchanging the harmless kisses of children at evening when the fire flames in the hollow of the chimney?
Shall our dear furniture see us drag ourselves with slow steps from the hearth to the beechen chest, support ourselves by the wall to reach the window, and huddle our tottering bodies on heavy seats?
If our wreck is to appear one day in such guise, while numbness deadens our brains and our arms, we shall not bemoan, in spite of evil fate, and we shall hold our tears pent up in our breasts.
For even so, we shall still keep our eyes with which to gaze on the day that follows night, and to see the dawn and the sun shed their radiance on life, and make a wonderful object of the earth.
Edgar Lee Masters |
Do you remember, O Delphic Apollo,
The sunset hour by the river, when Mickey M'Grew
Cried, "There's a ghost," and I, "It's Delphic Apollo";
And the son of the banker derided us, saying, "It's light
By the flags at the water's edge, you half-witted fools.
And from thence, as the wearisome years rolled on, long after
Poor Mickey fell down in the water tower to his death
Down, down, through bellowing darkness, I carried
The vision which perished with him like a rocket which falls
And quenches its light in earth, and hid it for fear
Of the son of the banker, calling on Plutus to save me?
Avenged were you for the shame of a fearful heart,
Who left me alone till I saw you again in an hour
When I seemed to be turned to a tree with trunk and branches
Growing indurate, turning to stone, yet burgeoning
In laurel leaves, in hosts of lambent laurel,
Quivering, fluttering, shrinking, fighting the numbness
Creeping into their veins from the dying trunk and branches!
'Tis vain, O youth, to fly the call of Apollo.
Fling yourselves in the fire, die with a song of spring,
If die you must in the spring.
For none shall look
On the face of Apollo and live, and choose you must
'Twixt death in the flame and death after years of sorrow,
Rooted fast in the earth, feeling the grisly hand,
Not so much in the trunk as in the terrible numbness
Creeping up to the laurel leaves that never cease
To flourish until you fall.
O leaves of me
Too sere for coronal wreaths, and fit alone
For urns of memory, treasured, perhaps, as themes
For hearts heroic, fearless singers and livers --