Well-known member
Probably, I didn't though.

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 in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrible.
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 our 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 springtimes 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.
Sing 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 of sufferings 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 itself.
For there is no place where we can remain.
Voices. Voices. 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.
Strange 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 has suddenly left forever,
the Void felt for the first time that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.


Well-known member
dauntless wildebeest. here, with the rain approaching on the horizontal, in the frantic, headlong wind.
coupled with a brick. out at the limit. or at what was the limit, yesterday. a grazed stomach. the usual
bumps and bruises. heavy internal bleeding. rough geraniums, traffic with the Regent.
accosted at the border. grope out a soft flesh expanse and hold on. it leads nowhere,
this road. grim death, reductio ab absurdo.
pinic in the car-park. and why not?
and also, when the undertow of meaning takes hold, grabs the ankle, and pulls you down.
completely without romance, these old coffee grinds and lemon peels. this time, no, not this time.
septic tide. billious outwash. if we had known, then maybe, then maybe, if we had known, then maybe.
the bites, the red welts, the insects at the blood. summer also. dumb starlight. not getting any closer.
in some sense of it, they know, your friends, the ones who will destroy you. it is they who
have discerned the fatal weakness, they alone who will exploit it. you before i
it is you who must go before i.
circle of crows dancing on one leg. Hopi.

we have arrived at this vantage, this overlook over fear. what is to come.
disrepute. disgrace. defeat. all we had worked for, void.
come to nothing. dry irrigation canal. dust in the mouth
leaching at the moisture there.

gravid adjunct. at this harbour we, narwhols, artic cloud in crystalline air.
where the ships go out. where the ships come in.

standardised time and space here. this hill.

venal despatch. wind-jockeys, buffeted, in the fulsome air.
and we do. often, these errors.
and we know, each time
they cost so much more than the time before, and this
calculus there is no exit from. will you come back to us then? and from that hearth take sustenance?
i don't think so, it doesn't seem i'm ready yet.

and the fear creeps in, as pitiless as starlight.

this satchel, scuffing against the spine. those were the bad old days. laughter was important then, because there
was so much misery. but laughter became debased, and mixed with spite. to jeer.
addiction, later, with some comfort. desolate evenings. mosquito squidged agains the window pane. your blood there,
in some composite. owing nobody. thanking nobody. not i, the body is not i. the body suffering is not the i. well, at what price?

trying to say something that is not i love you, something other but equally important, cherished, held.
we were. in those times
and times on. in the hugeness of it, and none of it caring. in the impossible weight of that indfiference, were.
impossible to reach so distant both, in emptiness, so fathomless.

but only ever at the impossible edge of the thing, only there, and nowhere else. at the Artic rim. At the gravity of.
who we are to, heirs to, forgetting all we. not in touch even this knowing. so together there, and anon.

the frontier took him. he can't come back. he has that space, that distance, now inside the eye, trapped there.
this is not the same man who left, this is not the man we said goodbye to, he has come back transfigured, strange to us.
read Joshua. in at that axis, to supplant. vernal
on dainty

if took it,
with all the glamour of the wind upon it,
with all that deathless life
of forces, fourfold.

ill omen, in at rustle, just a sweep.
malice, cloaked, not triumphant.

in the circumference of his eye. in the great glories of his eye. on the sea there upon that surface rounded.

the contaminants comprise your message. encrypt your belief. stake out the
foreclosed premies. if you
adopt these premises. at work,
though you would have us killed to speak of it.

we are a conquered people.

remnants. tattered flag. have you build the wall around
this vital reliquary of only holy only left this only give up this.

die on this ruined piece of ground. tooth in the muscle. up against the physical limits of the organism.
sing, here, for me, sing
as my mother did
a song.


Well-known member
Obviously it's about boozing partly. Male friendship. The sense of very dark sinister forces behind the ritual.

You before I. Who is being made a sacrifice.


bandz ahoy
It reminds me of 'The Wasteland' - I suppose that might be deliberate (the circle of crows dancing)?


Well-known member
Wasn't deliberate but it's hard to avoid him. Takes up a lot of space that poem. It's very hard not to write a wasteland. They are deliberate anti-wastelands. Vegetable empire is one, I think olsons the kingfishers was conceived as an anti wasteland.


bandz ahoy
It's that sort of liturgical tone, the flowers, the dust... The SERIOUSNESS

This is full of striking phrases/images - lame 'analysis' but I can only cursorily glance at this cos I'm under a neon light being paid to be bored.

(Did I talk about how interesting I find the contrast between your forum voice and your poets voice? Nothing - or very little - of the personality you project on this forum is there in your poetry. No reason it should be, of course.)


Well-known member
Yeah I know. I've managed to purge that stuff, mostly. It will creep in at the edges whenever I relax my vigilance. It's about the level of perspective and whatnot.

I am still a human being and can telescope back to human dimensions, although this seems more and more a dubious ability. How to live out there? Is it possible? Is it desirable?


Well-known member
Seriousness I think is crucially important. To reclaim the ability to be deeply serious. To think of yourself as serious and deserving serious engagement. To take life with the utmost seriousness. I think that's part of what learning to write is about.


Well-known member
I mean, looked at through another set of eyes it not remotely serious. It's like Eliot dismissing a wasteland as vaguely musical bleating or whatever his phrase was. Sort of pathetic. There's an interesting essay on bathos in Prynne


Well-known member
I e talked on here before about making a rational conscious decision as a teenager to stop being a clown. I was good at it. I could make people laugh and I really cherished that gift and was very proud of it but I had to let it go cos it locked me out off all these other different zones of feeling and ways to communicate. It was self mutiliating in a terrible way.


bandz ahoy
I might be going crazy because it seems so unlikely but I think I read somewhere that Yeats was actually a funny guy.


bandz ahoy
I e talked on here before about making a rational conscious decision as a teenager to stop being a clown. I was good at it. I could make people laugh and I really cherished that gift and was very proud of it but I had to let it go cos it locked me out off all these other different zones of feeling and ways to communicate. It was self mutiliating in a terrible way.

I'm still a clown, and always shall be.

But like any cliched clown I'm covertly the most serious of people.

And when I read my 'serious' writing in diaries and so on I'm always nauseated by it. But I think this is my problem. I've learned a way of 'sounding' serious from serious writers and so when I write 'seriously' it comes off as pompous and masturbatory.


bandz ahoy
There is something self-mutilating about being a clown, but also mutilating of everything else - it's either sprung from or nurtured a deep nihilism in me, a deep conviction that nothing really matters, which I'm trying to address. Nietzsche '“A joke is an epigram on the death of a feeling.”


Well-known member
I remember first breaking in on the high seriousness voice and being startled by it. Suspicious, alarmed. I knew on some level that it was a new achievement I'd unlocked and that I was allowed it, I'd earned it in some obscure way, but the newness of it, and the stateliness of it, and the certitude, were things I looked askance at. I've grown into it a little as the years have gone by.

It's all part of the growth of the thing. New things happen. Something shifts inside. You grow another limb, or a set of gills.