Monday, May 13, 2013

Four-Line Poems, Part Seven: "Sighs Nature An Alas? Or Merely, Amen?"

If I take my daily walk in the late afternoon or early evening, I can watch the swallows take their dinner above the open fields that I pass through. They rise and fall and dive and curve at the same time each day.  Their single-mindedness, swiftness, and precision are wonderful to behold:  a beautiful unchoreographed ballet.

Then again, who am I to say that they are not choreographed?  All of their movements may be perfectly planned in a way that is well beyond my ken.

Anna Isabella Brooke, "Wharfedale from above Bolton Abbey" (1954)

            The Spotted Flycatcher

Gray on gray post, this silent little bird
Swoops on its prey -- prey neither seen nor heard!
A click of bill; a flicker; and, back again!
Sighs Nature an Alas?  Or merely, Amen?

Walter de la Mare, Inward Companion: Poems (1950).

De la Mare's use of "alas" in "The Spotted Flycatcher" brings to mind another of his poems.

                  Harvest Home

A bird flies up from the hayfield;
Sweet, to distraction, is the new-mown grass:
But I grieve for its flowers laid low at noonday --
        And only this poor Alas!

I grieve for War's innocent lost ones --
The broken loves, the mute goodbye,
The dread, the courage, the bitter end,
The shaken faith, the glazing eye.

O bird, from the swathes of that hayfield --
The rancid stench of the grass!
And a heart stricken mute by that Harvest Home --
        And only this poor Alas!

Walter de la Mare, The Burning-Glass and Other Poems (1945).

Joseph Kavanagh (1856-1918), "Gypsy Encampment on the Curragh"

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