Modern Verse in English, 1900-1950

By David Cecil; Allen Tate | Go to book overview

William Jay Smith (Am. b. 1918)

Persian Miniature

Ah, all the sands of the earth lead unto heaven.
I have seen them rise on the wind, a golden thread,
The sands of the earth which enter the eye of heaven,
Over the graves, the poor, white bones of the dead.
Over the buckling ice, the swollen rivers,
Over the ravened plains, and the dry creek-beds,
The sands are moving. I have seen them move,
And where the pines are bent, the orient
Grain awaits the passage of the wind.
Higher still the laden camels thread
Their way beyond the mountains, and the clouds
Are whiter than the ivory they bear
For Death's black eunuchs. Gold, silk, furs
Cut the blood-red morning. All is vain.
I have watched the caravans through the needle's eye
As they turn, on the threshing floor, the bones of the dead,
And green as a grasshopper's leg is the evening sky.


Dream

One day in a dream as I lay at the edge of a cliff,
The black water rose, and the children bobbed in the street.
Death with her bonfires signalled the planes to land
Where glass-beaked birds had pecked at my bound feet.
The water's bare hands reached found the base of the cliff,
And my heart cried, Hope, and my brain, There is nothing
unknown.
I looked at my charts, and my kingdoms lay buried in sand,
My desiccate body picked clean as a bird's breast-bone.
The ships for the west weighed anchor; I watched them depart,
And on what impossible port were their prows then set
That they moved with a grace defying the mind and the heart,
With tackle of cloud, with decks encumbered and wet?
The air was like chalk; I was nothing. I thought I had
Reached the end of my dream; and I might have if
The waves had not risen and roared, the winds gone mad,
And when I awoke I lay at the edge of a cliff.

-618-

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