The earth turns over, our side feels the cold...
Lovely, but here no part of me, the world
rolls under shadow like a woollen ball:
all terror's darkening magazine, the cold
indecency of outward violence, will
grown lecherous with death, all crouching might
of iron, being far, even seems beautiful.
The wind's cold surplice in the sky, I sit
here, in the washed and choirboy afternoon;
and the grass claps its coloured fingers at
the clarity of water; and the sun
is in my hair like a chrysanthemum.
For here the will of quietness is done.
No, not of war: the dragon and the drum
that pulse his blood about the world are here
a breast beneath my hand, and out of time.
This tall season is my chanteclere
from night in mirrors, cannon flowering
like falling trees; all ceremony of war.
Calm acres and Mozartean air, spring
with its cold confetti in the boughs,
are not the world but a more inward thing:
as a wet garment on the body shows
the curl of limb and muscle, this day
droops in the shape of secret images.
Love, and the lovely clothing of its play,
its thinking film upon the flesh; the stride
and ache of afterthought to our long woe
our tenderness, the hangman of the blood:
here in your flowered scarf of Egypt, deep
as seasons under water, blooms our good.
A silkwhite skein of egrets that sew-up
the ploughman's gashes on a field: our words
have glittered so across a wounded hope
and been a splendid prophecy of birds;
and the wet crops that flourish towards sand
in growing wildfire, the childbed of seeds,
are in the planets' march to us, our end.
Oh infinite progression from our close-
-cupped origin, acorn of stellar wind!
Here in the olive-shadows of our peace
is movement too intense for motion, heart
of a great tigerish whirlwind over us.
More terrible than fear, that bestial heat
rages beyond our vision and is safe:
iron insects with locked horns, the beat
of heavy air, horrible cells of life
that is not man but built of him; the smash
of wings and bodies; anger, dismay, grief:
all pain that makes a bugle of the flesh
turns here to awful beauty, beautiful
because our lives are under it. This hush
we know our love by, and our secret will,
is the exceeding clamour of the bat.
Then here I see our union grow full,
the wind's old scars and wounds cut into it,
a strip of hazel-shining foil, the river.
Fast in the river's darkening mind, I sit
and reach towards Europe, pitiful as a lover,
through this enormous shadow of the world,
while beautiful and remote, the world turns over.
Near Maadi, 1942