1476 Chapters
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XL (i) (‘I know not if it is the longed-for night’)

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF


Reason is sympathetic when I claim

To find in love a lasting happiness.

With strong examples and true words, my shame

Reminds me of the weakness I possess.

She says, ‘The living sun can only give

Death, not a phoenix, now to one like you.’

He who himself has no desire to live,

No hands can save, however willing to.

I understand the truth and know my fate:

I have another heart which cruelly

Kills me the more I yield to its demands.

It is between two deaths that my lord stands.

One baffles me, the other one I hate.

In such suspense body and soul will die.

XL (i)

I know not if it is the longed-for night

Of its first maker that the spirit feels,

Or if some old and honoured memory steals

The heart and makes its beauty shine so bright;

Or maybe fame or dreams themselves can bring

A lovely object to the eyes and heart.

From such a vision many tears can spring

And many memories remain to hurt.

I know not what I feel or seek, or who

Guides me, or where I should true guidance seek,

And yet I feel that someone points the way.

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Miro, c.1963–66 (UD, 186/1/33)

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Mind Has Wounds

I have hated these months

Planned to run away

Especially at night when the doors were locked and I was wearing only pyjamas.

I have tried so hard to be kind;

What has emerged has often been tears, self-pity, near hatred

Most of all, I have spent my time saying ‘Sorry,’

Feeling guilty for what was not my fault.

Drugs helped but I knew all would be the same tomorrow,

This place of healing has seemed like a prison.

I have wanted kisses and kindness.

I have wanted to know what is wrong.

God, don’t go away. I have never ceased to believe

But you have often seemed a void,

I have learnt a lot, I think;

I am changed.

But most of all,

I am afraid of the future.


Miro, you have been highly praised lately:

One hears strange comments such as ‘So like children’s art’

In smug, sophisticated voices, or ‘Another Klee, so mathematical.’

If one is honest, if one tries to define one’s pleasure,

Then I think it is because you have made your own world

And managed to do it without shutting us out.

That pleases us and makes us love you.

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XXXI To Tommaso de’ Cavalieri

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

XXX To Tommaso de’ Cavalieri

This glorious light I see with your own eyes

Since mine are blind and will not let me see.

Your feet lend me their own security

To carry burdens far beyond my size.

Supported by your wings I now am sped,

And by your spirit to heaven I am borne.

According to your will, I’m pale or red –

Hot in the harshest Winter, cold in sun.

All my own longings wait upon your will,

Within your heart my thoughts find formulation,

Upon your breath alone my words find speech.

Just as the moon owes its illumination

To the sun’s light, so I am blind until

To every part of heaven your rays will reach.

XXXI To Tommaso de’ Cavalieri

Why, more than ever, do I give such vent

To my desire, when neither tears nor words

Can change the destiny I move towards?

Nothing I do can my own fate prevent.

Why does the weary heart make death appear

Desirable, since every man must die?

There is no consolation for me here

Where joy is far outweighed by misery.

Yet if the blows must come decreed by fate

And I am powerless, there’s comfort in

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Eighty-one Years Old

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The Shells

I have the shells now in a leather box –

Limpets and cowries, ones like hands spread out.

Lifeless they are yet bear the weight of doubt

And of desire with all its hidden shocks.

Once, as a child, I might have pressed the shell

Close to my ear and thought I heard the sea.

Now I hear absence sighing quietly.

I am the one who makes and pulls the bell.

You gathered these and so they bear your print.

I cannot see it, yet the simply knowing

That you have marked these shells keeps my love growing.

Passion can hide in any lifeless hint.

A sentiment perhaps, yet every gift

Carries the weight of all we did not do.

The shells are fragments and the fragments few,

But you still sound in what the shells have left.

Eighty-one Years Old

She wants to die and all of us

Agree although we do not say;

Instead, we tend her every day,

Bring flowers and food without much fuss.

She stares at us and we stare back,

Each knowing what the others lack.

She cannot die. At times, her heart

Moves slowly, almost stops and then

The lingering life begins again,

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Sonnet for Late Summer

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

The sound would shake the trees. Suppose, suppose

That this were really so,

I could not live it long, I would depose

Myself, would overthrow

My power and risk whatever else I’d lose.

July Island

Frolicking over streets, parading Summer,

Leaves are like little boats.

The wind tides them along, the sunsets shimmer

Upon them, painted coats

As they stand to, but not for long.

Listen a sailor’s song

Is on the breeze which comes in warm soft waves.

We swim upon such air.

That wind which was a launcher of those leaves

Combs also through our hair.

A mood of mariners prevails,

Birds’ wings are bending sails.

All this until the sun withdraws its slow

Gilding, its mingling with

The drying wind, until horizons glow

And we draw in our breath,

Patter our strolling feet upon

Dark pools left by the sun.

Sonnet for Late Summer

With all this growing I must run a race,

Catch at a leaf the moment just before

It looses to a breeze, unmask a face

And show the future with the present stare.

Or take a jug surrounded by its own

Stillness, then raise it. Words must show the run

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