The Collected Poems

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A new and definitive edition of the poetry by one of the best-loved and most enduringly popular modern poets, this collection includes almost all of Elizabeth Jennings’ published work and a large selection of her unpublished pieces as well as resources detailing her poetry, prose, essays, plays, and correspondence. Illuminating the religious faith at the heart of her poetry, this comprehensive collection celebrates Jennings’ accomplishments and exposes them to a new community of readers.

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The Elements

PDF

 

Estrangement

PDF

 

The Lucky

PDF

No dial reasons why we fall apart,

The clock goes ticking on, we cannot see

The palest indication that the heart

Will not strike out the night’s futurity.

The Lucky

Sailors and gamblers and all such,

These least expect and most deserve my praise

Who, not didactic, yet most ably teach

The tranquil taking of the splendid days.

For whom a spot of breeze, a turned-up penny

Bring golden lights into their lucky eyes –

These face the world and have no fear of any,

And strut the daily storms without disguise.

Modern Poet

This is no moment now for the fine phrases,

The inflated sentence, words cunningly spun,

For the floreate image or the relaxing pun

Or the sentimental answer that most pleases.

We must write down an age of reckless hunger,

Of iron girders, hearts like plumb-lines hung

And the poet’s art is to speak and not to be sung

And sympathy must turn away to anger.

Time

Why should we think of ends, beginnings,

Who for a moment draw our pace

Through moons and sunsets, risings, wanings,

Who brush the moment, seek a place

 

Modern Poet

PDF

No dial reasons why we fall apart,

The clock goes ticking on, we cannot see

The palest indication that the heart

Will not strike out the night’s futurity.

The Lucky

Sailors and gamblers and all such,

These least expect and most deserve my praise

Who, not didactic, yet most ably teach

The tranquil taking of the splendid days.

For whom a spot of breeze, a turned-up penny

Bring golden lights into their lucky eyes –

These face the world and have no fear of any,

And strut the daily storms without disguise.

Modern Poet

This is no moment now for the fine phrases,

The inflated sentence, words cunningly spun,

For the floreate image or the relaxing pun

Or the sentimental answer that most pleases.

We must write down an age of reckless hunger,

Of iron girders, hearts like plumb-lines hung

And the poet’s art is to speak and not to be sung

And sympathy must turn away to anger.

Time

Why should we think of ends, beginnings,

Who for a moment draw our pace

Through moons and sunsets, risings, wanings,

Who brush the moment, seek a place

 

Time

PDF

No dial reasons why we fall apart,

The clock goes ticking on, we cannot see

The palest indication that the heart

Will not strike out the night’s futurity.

The Lucky

Sailors and gamblers and all such,

These least expect and most deserve my praise

Who, not didactic, yet most ably teach

The tranquil taking of the splendid days.

For whom a spot of breeze, a turned-up penny

Bring golden lights into their lucky eyes –

These face the world and have no fear of any,

And strut the daily storms without disguise.

Modern Poet

This is no moment now for the fine phrases,

The inflated sentence, words cunningly spun,

For the floreate image or the relaxing pun

Or the sentimental answer that most pleases.

We must write down an age of reckless hunger,

Of iron girders, hearts like plumb-lines hung

And the poet’s art is to speak and not to be sung

And sympathy must turn away to anger.

Time

Why should we think of ends, beginnings,

Who for a moment draw our pace

Through moons and sunsets, risings, wanings,

Who brush the moment, seek a place

 

The Clock

PDF

Why cannot we accept the hour,

The present, be observers and

Hold a full knowledge in our power,

Arrest the falling of the sand?

And keep the watchful moment, pour

Its meaning in the hurried hand?

The Clock

The old clock

With its tick reluctant, slow,

Makes me wish there were some clock within

More regular than heart, steady as rock,

That we might know

The time to end, begin,

The time for stopping love or war

Or hate,

And see the stiff hand turning O before

Before it is too late.

Deception

Children who find their strength in loneliness,

Discouraging the bright sun on the roofs

(The sun that nullifies their secret caves)

Are desperate before the lovers’ kiss

Acknowledging defeat and laugh at love’s

Cowardly despair in loneliness.

They swear that they will never love like this,

And boys in gangs harry the girls and run

In many lonelinesses, quick to shun

The female wrath, the pity of the sun.

They keep their separateness like a disease

Until the darkness can no longer hide

Their ebbing strength, their impotent despair,

 

Deception

PDF

Why cannot we accept the hour,

The present, be observers and

Hold a full knowledge in our power,

Arrest the falling of the sand?

And keep the watchful moment, pour

Its meaning in the hurried hand?

The Clock

The old clock

With its tick reluctant, slow,

Makes me wish there were some clock within

More regular than heart, steady as rock,

That we might know

The time to end, begin,

The time for stopping love or war

Or hate,

And see the stiff hand turning O before

Before it is too late.

Deception

Children who find their strength in loneliness,

Discouraging the bright sun on the roofs

(The sun that nullifies their secret caves)

Are desperate before the lovers’ kiss

Acknowledging defeat and laugh at love’s

Cowardly despair in loneliness.

They swear that they will never love like this,

And boys in gangs harry the girls and run

In many lonelinesses, quick to shun

The female wrath, the pity of the sun.

They keep their separateness like a disease

Until the darkness can no longer hide

Their ebbing strength, their impotent despair,

 

Warning

PDF

Warning

Child do not tell your images, we kill them

With argument and I would wish you deaf

Rather than hear the mad cries of our logic

Aiming at beauty, wounding it with grief.

Be silent now and do not tell your magic.

And when your children dream O never tell them

Those dreams were yours, for if they should believe

Such dreams belong to others it would fill them

With knowledge that displaces dreams and if

You argue truth for images you kill them.

John the Baptist

Growing from old age he was close to death,

When he was born carried the look of death.

The mouth sharp as a sword forbade the touch

Of softness. In the desert he found sand

And friendly thistles for his hardened hand.

He was a god a short time, camped within

A wilderness and found his childhood there,

Built sand castles, was tempted first to sin

But pleasure was repellent. With long hair

He frightened and baptised throughout Judea.

Ironic for him that was precursor

Of one who turned the water into wine

And multiplied the loaves, one who was wiser

In knowing peace. The tawny lion John

 

John the Baptist

PDF

Warning

Child do not tell your images, we kill them

With argument and I would wish you deaf

Rather than hear the mad cries of our logic

Aiming at beauty, wounding it with grief.

Be silent now and do not tell your magic.

And when your children dream O never tell them

Those dreams were yours, for if they should believe

Such dreams belong to others it would fill them

With knowledge that displaces dreams and if

You argue truth for images you kill them.

John the Baptist

Growing from old age he was close to death,

When he was born carried the look of death.

The mouth sharp as a sword forbade the touch

Of softness. In the desert he found sand

And friendly thistles for his hardened hand.

He was a god a short time, camped within

A wilderness and found his childhood there,

Built sand castles, was tempted first to sin

But pleasure was repellent. With long hair

He frightened and baptised throughout Judea.

Ironic for him that was precursor

Of one who turned the water into wine

And multiplied the loaves, one who was wiser

In knowing peace. The tawny lion John

 

Tuscany

PDF

Tuscany

His stopping here grows close to living as

He marks a landscape for his thoughts. Before

His mind inhabited itself and not

Outside itself could pass,

But here

Built ready for him, to be recognised

His thoughts confront him in the light, the trees.

And contemplation active as the sea,

Purposeful yet half drawing back will come

At last in single meeting up the shore.

So all his questions answered outside him

Enrich his prayer,

Expose this different landscape as his home,

All to restore him perfect inwardly.

Cave Dwellers

Outside the cave the animals roar and whine,

Inside they move upon the walls and stride

Only within the pattern that the men

Who worked in careful patience have allowed.

So rich they are it seems they’re painted in

The creatures’ blood, the blood that burns outside.

Caves are our minds. How to relaxing peace

Our animals withdrawn there! They are tamed

To tapestries and dance on musicless

Obedient only to what we have named

Their laws, yet pacify our own distress.

But still outside the ravenous creatures rove

 

Cave Dwellers

PDF

Tuscany

His stopping here grows close to living as

He marks a landscape for his thoughts. Before

His mind inhabited itself and not

Outside itself could pass,

But here

Built ready for him, to be recognised

His thoughts confront him in the light, the trees.

And contemplation active as the sea,

Purposeful yet half drawing back will come

At last in single meeting up the shore.

So all his questions answered outside him

Enrich his prayer,

Expose this different landscape as his home,

All to restore him perfect inwardly.

Cave Dwellers

Outside the cave the animals roar and whine,

Inside they move upon the walls and stride

Only within the pattern that the men

Who worked in careful patience have allowed.

So rich they are it seems they’re painted in

The creatures’ blood, the blood that burns outside.

Caves are our minds. How to relaxing peace

Our animals withdrawn there! They are tamed

To tapestries and dance on musicless

Obedient only to what we have named

Their laws, yet pacify our own distress.

But still outside the ravenous creatures rove

 

Delay

PDF

poems

(1953)

Delay

The radiance of the star that leans on me

Was shining years ago. The light that now

Glitters up there my eyes may never see,

And so the time lag teases me with how

Love that loves now may not reach me until

Its first desire is spent. The star’s impulse

Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful

And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

Winter Love

Let us have Winter loving that the heart

May be in peace and ready to partake

Of the slow pleasure Spring would wish to hurry

Or that in Summer harshly would awake,

And let us fall apart, O gladly weary,

The white skin shaken like a white snowflake.

Woman in Love

All familiar thoughts grow strange to her,

One thought insists on opening each door,

Each window on to love, the others stir

And creep as strangers, skulking on the edge

To find an entry by some subterfuge.

But she dismisses them and grows one thought

Whatever hands obey, whatever voice

Speaks of indifference. She is tamed, self-taught.

Peace in a high room now defines the noise

As meaningless and she, beyond the range

 

Winter Love

PDF

poems

(1953)

Delay

The radiance of the star that leans on me

Was shining years ago. The light that now

Glitters up there my eyes may never see,

And so the time lag teases me with how

Love that loves now may not reach me until

Its first desire is spent. The star’s impulse

Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful

And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

Winter Love

Let us have Winter loving that the heart

May be in peace and ready to partake

Of the slow pleasure Spring would wish to hurry

Or that in Summer harshly would awake,

And let us fall apart, O gladly weary,

The white skin shaken like a white snowflake.

Woman in Love

All familiar thoughts grow strange to her,

One thought insists on opening each door,

Each window on to love, the others stir

And creep as strangers, skulking on the edge

To find an entry by some subterfuge.

But she dismisses them and grows one thought

Whatever hands obey, whatever voice

Speaks of indifference. She is tamed, self-taught.

Peace in a high room now defines the noise

As meaningless and she, beyond the range

 

Woman in Love

PDF

poems

(1953)

Delay

The radiance of the star that leans on me

Was shining years ago. The light that now

Glitters up there my eyes may never see,

And so the time lag teases me with how

Love that loves now may not reach me until

Its first desire is spent. The star’s impulse

Must wait for eyes to claim it beautiful

And love arrived may find us somewhere else.

Winter Love

Let us have Winter loving that the heart

May be in peace and ready to partake

Of the slow pleasure Spring would wish to hurry

Or that in Summer harshly would awake,

And let us fall apart, O gladly weary,

The white skin shaken like a white snowflake.

Woman in Love

All familiar thoughts grow strange to her,

One thought insists on opening each door,

Each window on to love, the others stir

And creep as strangers, skulking on the edge

To find an entry by some subterfuge.

But she dismisses them and grows one thought

Whatever hands obey, whatever voice

Speaks of indifference. She is tamed, self-taught.

Peace in a high room now defines the noise

As meaningless and she, beyond the range

 

Weathercock

PDF

Yet when he comes will then unlearn it all,

Find thought within her mind and fact in him

At variance, almost inimical,

And as peacemaker will exile the dream,

Escape her own mind and acknowledging

This love as strange enact a truer pledging.

Weathercock

A hard tin bird was my lover

Fluttering with every breeze

To north and west would hover

In fierce extremities

But I would never find

Him quietly in the south

Or in the warmest east

And never near my mouth

And never on my breast.

A hard bird swinging high

Glinting with gold and sun

Aloft swung in the sky

Ready to run

O would I were that sun

He swings to with desire

Could see my love’s gold eye

And feel his fire.

The Substitute

He rehearsed then with an understudy

(Love he had cast not ready to play the part

Nor knowing yet disturbance in the heart).

Nearly indifferent he explored the body

Of one untutored, ready to be hurt,

Absolute, being unpractised in the role.

She took the lesson wholly in the school

Of his rehearsal, learnt it thoroughly,

Played it entire while his mind still was full

 

The Substitute

PDF

Yet when he comes will then unlearn it all,

Find thought within her mind and fact in him

At variance, almost inimical,

And as peacemaker will exile the dream,

Escape her own mind and acknowledging

This love as strange enact a truer pledging.

Weathercock

A hard tin bird was my lover

Fluttering with every breeze

To north and west would hover

In fierce extremities

But I would never find

Him quietly in the south

Or in the warmest east

And never near my mouth

And never on my breast.

A hard bird swinging high

Glinting with gold and sun

Aloft swung in the sky

Ready to run

O would I were that sun

He swings to with desire

Could see my love’s gold eye

And feel his fire.

The Substitute

He rehearsed then with an understudy

(Love he had cast not ready to play the part

Nor knowing yet disturbance in the heart).

Nearly indifferent he explored the body

Of one untutored, ready to be hurt,

Absolute, being unpractised in the role.

She took the lesson wholly in the school

Of his rehearsal, learnt it thoroughly,

Played it entire while his mind still was full

 

The Meeting

PDF

If she his waking love and she his dream

Used cruelly should meet, his love would stir

A sympathy and union in them,

The loved and loving have a common theme,

And he the instigator be in neither

But as the cause they recognised each other.

The Meeting

This meeting now blurs all we have become

Though not quite back to then,

And asks that here we build ourselves not dream

Each other out as when love had begun,

For now each one must fashion himself of

No other but himself and not of love.

So only can we greet and meet in calm

And watch the once mixed love divide and go

To where the other cannot know

And not to you or me as home.

So we construct

Pure meeting of pure self we think and yet

Envy those others moving into love

Strange and oblique where we are now direct.

The Infatuation

She looks in mood of dream to take his meaning

And loves what she is thinking that she sees

And gathers it so close about her ways

She cannot see he has a true beginning

Within her only, imaged there to dress

All her own passion in a deep distress.

 

The Infatuation

PDF

If she his waking love and she his dream

Used cruelly should meet, his love would stir

A sympathy and union in them,

The loved and loving have a common theme,

And he the instigator be in neither

But as the cause they recognised each other.

The Meeting

This meeting now blurs all we have become

Though not quite back to then,

And asks that here we build ourselves not dream

Each other out as when love had begun,

For now each one must fashion himself of

No other but himself and not of love.

So only can we greet and meet in calm

And watch the once mixed love divide and go

To where the other cannot know

And not to you or me as home.

So we construct

Pure meeting of pure self we think and yet

Envy those others moving into love

Strange and oblique where we are now direct.

The Infatuation

She looks in mood of dream to take his meaning

And loves what she is thinking that she sees

And gathers it so close about her ways

She cannot see he has a true beginning

Within her only, imaged there to dress

All her own passion in a deep distress.

 

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