Week 135: The View From The Window, by R.S.Thomas

One of R.S.Thomas’s very best, I think.

The View From The Window

Like a painting it is set before one,
But less brittle, ageless; these colours
Are renewed daily with variations
Of light and distance that no painter
Achieves or suggests. Then there is movement,
Change, as slowly the cloud bruises
Are healed by sunlight, or snow caps
A black mood; but gold at evening
To cheer the heart. All through history
The great brush has not rested,
Nor the paint dried; yet what eye,
Looking coolly, or, as we now,
Through tears’ lenses, ever saw
This work and it was not finished?

R.S.Thomas

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Week 134: Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost

Until quite recently I had somehow overlooked this delicate short lyric in my well-worn copy of Robert Frost’s ‘Collected Poems’; it has since become one of my favourites. I guess we all have our gold – the vigour of our youth, first love, the infancy of our children – and indeed it does not stay.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost

Week 133: Dead Poets: Recalling Them In November, by Geoffrey Grigson

Dead Poets: Recalling Them In November

Friends, my friends of so much
Time gone, of languages
Brighter than mackerel,
It is beyond bearing that you are dead.

No, I bear it most days too easily.
But there are moments when a drop falls
And sends tremors over my bason, at 8 a.m.
When light comes up behind

Our hill and reveals flaws in the
Window-glass shaped like comets or
Skulls: to think of you warm, of you gone
Is a cold air all round me then.

So many. And in so many ways
Of course myself I mourn, my
Own ash thrown on to that
Frosty grey lawn.

Geoffrey Grigson

Week 132: Gone, by Carl Sandburg

I don’t know how far Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) thought in terms of gender politics – probably as a poet he just loved the individuality of people and things. But certainly in this poem he manages to reconcile male yearnings with a respect for feminine independence to achieve a balance perhaps not always to be found in the poetry of the past.

Gone

Everybody loved Chick Lorimer in our town.
Far off
Everybody loved her.

So we all love a wild girl keeping a hold
On a dream she wants.
Nobody knows now where Chick Lorimer went.
Nobody knows why she packed her trunk…
A few old things
And is gone,

Gone with her little chin
Thrust ahead of her
And her soft hair blowing careless
From under a wide hat,
Dancer, singer, a laughing passionate lover.

Were there ten men or a hundred hunting Chick?
Were there five men or fifty with aching hearts?
Everybody loved Chick Lorimer.
Nobody knows where she’s gone.

Carl Sandburg

Week 131: As I Walked Out One Evening, by W.H.Auden

It is possible to be irritated at the wilful obscurity of much of the early Auden but still to acknowledge that he was at least trying to do something different, and then when it worked the results were sensational. Had anything been heard before in English poetry quite like this mordant blend of folksong and nursery rhyme, where the words seem to dance to a ghostly tune that one can never quite identify?

As I Walked Out One Evening

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
“Love has no ending.

“I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

“I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

“The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.”

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
“O let not Time deceive you
You cannot conquer Time.

‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

“In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

“Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver”s brilliant bow.

“O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.

“The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

“Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

“O look, look in the mirror,
O look in your distress;
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

“O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With all your crooked heart.”

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

W.H.Auden