Poet: 1935

Poet: 1935

See, on gravel paths under the harpstrung trees
He steps so near the water that a swan’s wing
Might play upon his lank locks with its wind,
The lake’s voice and the rolling of mock waves
Make discord with the voice within his ribs
That thunders as heart thunders, slows as heart slows.
Is not his heart imprisoned by the summer
Snaring the whistles of the birds
And fastening in its cage the flower’s colour?
No, he’s a stranger, outside the season’s humour,
Moves, among men caught by the sun,
With heart unlocked upon the gigantic earth.
He alone is free, and, free, moans to the sky.
He, too, could touch the season’s lips and smile,
But he is left. Summer to him
Is the unbosoming of the sun.

So shall he step till summer loosens its hold
On the canvas sky, and all hot colours melt
Into the browns of autumn and the sharp whites of winter,
And so complain, in a vain voice, to the stars.

Even among his own kin is he lost,
Is love a shadow on the wall,
Among all living men is a sad ghost.
He is not man’s nor woman’s man,
Leper among a clean people
Walks with the hills for company,
And has the mad trees’ talk by heart.

An image of decay disturbs the crocus
Opening its iris mouth upon the sill
Where fifty flowers breed in a fruit box,
And washing water spilt upon their necks
Cools any ardour they may have
And he destroys, though flowers are his loves,
If love he can being no woman’s man.
An image born out of the uproarious spring
Hastens the time of the geranium to breathe;
Life, till the change of mood, forks
From the unwatered leaves and the stiff stalks,
The old flowers’ legs too taut to dance,
But he makes them dance, cut capers
Choreographed on paper.
The image changes, and the flowers drop
Into their prison with a slack sound,
Fresh images surround the tremendous moon,
Or catch all death that’s in the air.

O lonely among many, the gods’ man
Knowing exceeding grief and the gods’ sorrow
That, like a razor, skims, cuts, and turns,
Aches till the metal meets the marrow,
You, too, know the exceeding joy
And the triumphant crow of laughter.
Out of a bird’s wing writing on a cloud
You capture more than man or woman guesses;
Rarer delight shoots in the blood
At the deft movements of the irises
Growing in public places than man knows.

See, on gravel paths under the harpstrung trees
Feeling the summer wind, hearing the swans,
Leaning from windows over a length of lawns,
On tumbling hills admiring the sea,
I am alone, alone complain to the stars.
Who are his friends? The wind is his friend,
The glow-worm lights his darkness, and
The snail tells of coming rain.

3 responses to “Poet: 1935”

  1. I like this, though there are some odd constructions (e.g., “And he destroys, though flowers are his loves, / If love he can being no woman’s man.”). Also, I have no idea what “harpstrung trees” might look (or sound) like. I think, though, that I could grow to appreciate this poem as I come to understand it better. Thanks for the post.

  2. My current guess regarding “harpstrung trees” is willows or similarly viny trees. I take the distinguishing character of harpstrings as their being parallel in rows. Viny trees seem to reasonably approximate that. Also, there is the precedent of the Aeolian harp.

    Under this reading, I think they’d sound like rustling, which really isn’t the characteristic sound of a harp.