Thursday, September 27, 2007


The Cage
by David Gascoyne (1916-2001)

In the waking night
The forests have stopped growing
The shells are listening
The shadows in the pools turn grey
The pearls dissolve in the shadow
And I return to you

Your face is marked upon the clockface
My hands are beneath your hair
And if the time you mark sets free the birds
And if they fly away towards the forest
The hour will no longer be ours

Ours is the ornate birdcage
The brimming cup of water
The preface to the book
And all the clocks are ticking
All the dark rooms are moving
All the air’s nerves are bare

Once flown
The feathered hour will not return
And I shall have gone away.

September Sun: 1947
by David Gascoyne

Magnificent strong sun! in these last days
So prodigally generous of pristine light
That’s wasted only by men’s sight who will not see
And by self-darkened spirits from whose night
Can rise no longer orison or praise:

Let us consume in fire unfed like yours
And may the quickened gold within me come
To mintage in due season, and not be
Transmuted to no better end than dumb
And self-sufficient usury. These days and years

May bring the sudden call to harvesting,
When if the fields Man labours only yield
Glitter and husks, then with an angrier sun may He
Who first with His gold seed the sightless field
Of Chaos planted, all our trash to cinders bring.


From the poet's obituary, a fascinating biographical datum:

[...] depression, fuelled by amphetamine abuse, took its toll. The writing dried up, and, in the 1960s, Gascoyne retreated in despair to his parents' home on the Isle of Wight, fetching up, after his father's death, in the local asylum. There, a miracle occurred. A therapist named Judy Tyler Lewis read one of his poems, September Sun, to the inmates. When he claimed it as his, she thought it one more of his delusions. But they married, and lived happily thereafter on the island.