"I am not one who was born in the custody of wisdom. I am one who is fond of olden times and intense in quest of the sacred knowing of the ancients." Gustave Courbet

20 March 2018



I could draw its map by heart,
showing its contours,
strata and vegetation,
name every height,
small burn and lonely sheiling,
but nameless to me,
faceless as heather or grouse,
are those who live there,

its dead too vague for judgement,
tangible only
what they wrought, their giant works
of delve and drainage
in days preterite: long since
their hammering stopped
as the lodes all petered out
in the Jew Limestone.

Here and there a tough chimney
still towers over
dejected masonry, moss,
decomposed machines,
with no one about, no chance
of buttering bread,
a land postured in my time
for marginal farms.

Any musical future
is most unlikely.
Industry wants Cheap Power,
romantic muscle
a perilous wilderness,
Mr Pleasure pays
for surf-riding, claret, sex:
it offers them none.

To me, though, much: a vision,
not (as perhaps at
twelve I thought it) of Eden,
still less of a New
Jerusalem but, for one,
convinced he will die,
more comely, more credible
than either day-dream.

How but with some real focus
of desolation
could I, by analogy,
imagine a Love
that, however often smeared,
shrugged at, abandoned
by a frivolous worldling,
does not abandon?

W.H. Auden

No comments: