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David Gascoyne

The End Is Near The Beginning

Yes you have said enough for the time being
There will be plenty of lace later on
Plenty of electric wool
And you will forget the eglantine
Growing around the edge of the green lake
And if you forget the colour of my hands
You will remember the wheels of the chair
In which the wax figure resembling you sat

Several men are standing on the pier
Unloading the sea
The device on the trolly says MOTHER'S MEAT
Which means Until the end.

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The Cage

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.

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Snow in Europe

Out of their slumber Europeans spun
Dense dreams: appeasements, miracle, glimpsed flash
Of a new golden era; but could not restrain
The vertical white weight that fell last night
And made their continent a blank.

Hush, says the sameness of the snow
The Ural and Jura now rejoin
The furthest Arctic's desolation. All is one;
Sheer monotone: plain, mountain; country, town:
Contours and boundaries no longer show.

The warring flags hang colourless a while;
Now midnight's icy zero feigns a truce
Between the signs and seasons, and fades out
All shots and cries. But when the great thaw comes,
How red shall be the melting snow, how loud the drums!

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Spring MCMXL

London Bridge is falling down, Rome's burnt and Babylon
The Great is now but dust; yet still Spring must
Swing back through Time's continual arc to earth.
Though every land become as a black field
Dunged with the dead, drenched by the dying's blood,
Still must a punctual goddess waken and ascend
The rocky stairs, up into earth's chilled air,
And pass upon her mission through those carrion ranks,
Picking her way among a maze of broken brick
To quicken with her footsteps the short sooty grass between;
While now once more their futile matchwood empires flare and blaze
And through the smoke men gaze with bloodshot eyes
At the translucent apparition, clad in trembling nascent green
Of one they still can recognize, though scarcely understand.

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Perpetual Winter Never Known

When the light falls on winter evenings
And the river makes no sound in its passing
Behind the house, is silent but for its cold
Flowing, its reeds frozen stiffer than glass
How can one anticipate the dawn, a sudden
Blazing of sunlight thawing the harshest sky?
How can one not remember summer evenings?
Must not the tired heart sink and must not fear
Bite, like an acid, wrinkles in its stone?


Behind drawn curtains, gazing at the fire,
Think how the earth spins dumb and bound
By iron chains of frost through death-still air;
And how in every street the sealed windows
And orange cubes of firelight, how in houses
Cuckoo-clocks imitate the spring, candles are
Suns. Perpetual winter never known,
Families warm their hands and wait, nor
Ever doubt the season's transience.

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Yves Tanguy

The worlds are breaking in my head
Blown by the brainless wind
That comes from afar
Swollen with dusk and dust
And hysterical rain

The fading cries of the light
Awaken the endless desert
Engrossed in its tropical slumber
Enclosed by the dead grey oceans
Enclasped by the arms of the night

The worlds are breaking in my head
Their fragments are crumbs of despair
The food of the solitary damned
Who await the gross tumult of turbulent
Days bringing change without end.

The worlds are breaking in my head
The fuming future sleeps no more

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The Writer's Hand

What is your want, perpetual invalid
Whose fist is always beating on my breast's
Bone wall, incurable dictator of my house
And breaker of its peace? What is your will,
Obscure uneasy sprite : where must I run,
What must I seize, to win
A brief respite from your repining cries?

Is it a star, the passionate short spark
Produced by friction with another's flesh
You ache more darkly after. Is it power :
To snap restriction's leash, to leap
Like bloodhounds on the enemy? There is no grip
Can crush the fate you fight. Or is it to escape
Into the dream-perspectives maps and speed create?

You never listen, disillusion's dumb
To your unheeding ear. But see my hand,
The only army to enforce your claim
Upon life's hostile land : five pale, effete

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The Very Image - To Rene Magritte

An image of my grandmother
her head appearing upside-down upon a cloud
the cloud transfixed on the steeple
of a deserted railway-station
far away

An image of an aqueduct
with a dead crow hanging from the first arch
a modern-style chair from the second
a fir-tree lodged in the third
and the whole scene sprinkled with snow

An image of a piano-tuner
with a basket of prawns on his shoulder
and a firescreen under his arm
his moustache made of clay-clotted twigs
and his cheeks daubed with wine

An image of an aeroplane
the propellor is rashers of bacon

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Orpheus In The Underworld

Curtains of rock
And tears of stone,
Wet leaves in a high crevice of the sky:
From side to side the draperies
Drawn back by rigid hands.

And he came carrying the shattered lyre,
And wearing the blue robes of a king,
And looking through eyes like holes torn in a screen;
And the distant sea was faintly heard,
From time to time, in the suddenly rising wind,
Like a broken song.

Out of his sleep, from time to time,
From between half open lips,
Escaped the bewildered words which try to tell
The tale of his bright night
And his wing-shadowed day
The soaring flights of thought beneath the sun
Above the islands of the seas

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Salvador Dali

The face of the precipice is black with lovers;
The sun above them is a bag of nails; the spring's
First rivers hide among their hair.
Goliath plunges his hand into the poisoned well
And bows his head and feels my feet walk through his brain.
The children chasing butterflies turn round and see him there
With his hand in the well and my body growing from his head,
And are afraid. They drop their nets and walk into the wall like smoke.

The smooth plain with its mirrors listens to the cliff
Like a basilisk eating flowers.
And the children, lost in the shadows of the catacombs,
Call to the mirrors for help:
'Strong-bow of salt, cutlass of memory,
Write on my map the name of every river.'

A flock of banners fight their way through the telescoped forest
And fly away like birds towards the sound of roasting meat.
Sand falls into the boiling rivers through the telescopes' mouths
And forms clear drops of acid with petals of whirling flame.

[...] Read more

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