From “Odi Barbare”

written by

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What is far hence led to the den of making:
Moves unlike wildfire | not so simple-happy
Ploughman hammers ploughshare his durum dentem
 Digging the Georgics

Vision loads landscape | lauds Idoto Mater
Bearing up sacrally so graced with bodies
Voids the challenge how far from Igboland great-
 Stallioned Argos

Vehemencies minus the ripe arraignment
Clapper this art taken to heart the fiction
What are those harsh cryings astrew the marshes
 Weep not to hear them

Accolades Muses’ dithyrambics far-fraught
Borrowed labour ashen with sullen harrow
Cruel past that | Sidney and vesperal Tom
 Campion courted

Put to claim not otherwise vowed the era
What else here goes | I am no Igbo wit well
Versed in Virgil Pindar Euripides child-
 Hallowed Idoto

Revelation blessed in its unforthcoming
Closed with tempus aedificandi tempus
Destruendi bringing discharge of measure
 Blasting the home-straight


Lovelace there come difficult times between us
Though in your place I cannot well imagine
Why I should not follow her chequered steps in-
 Out of the sunlight

Candlelight here given the invocation
Starlit even | whatever else is silence
Gratiana somewhere still | she is dancing
 Dancing?and ?singing

Singing not her heart out beyond the fable
Grand carotid arteries self-fulfilling
How the blood’s tempered in its modulation
 Balanced impulsive

So are our storms trackered from solemn orbit
Turbulence granted our sequestered sphere now
Buffetted now spun on an awl now baffled
 Wreathed in cloud-garlands

Masques do so challenge and compose to labour
Hers the masque-like venture the scenes mechanic
Stars have held being since creation’s fourth day
 Turned to their music

Noble her frame troubling the fame we yield her
All rites well done short of a consummation
Treading down nothingness to ever-dealing
 Maker unmonstrant


?odz I’ve been there done that the vanished children
Klezmer makes glad music at Lazarus gate
If as straggling voices the dead return now
 They have our number

Breathing hard we wrestled asbestos brake-pads
Luminously radioactive watches
Fizzled green plaque riding elastic wrist-bands
 Glue smelt of peardrops

Someone those taut days was predicting biros
Not my blubbered Jewish pal bright a bully
That we knew klezmer I much doubt the Wedding
 Dance for the Old Men

Time released me from him as I could not have
Many then had foresight but I was not one
Vital spinners counting there’s no subtraction
 Ever can oust them

Odds are for pittance where redemption strands us
Debts of those long-dead sparks of phantom brain cells:
Who’s to dance broyges tants the dance of anger’s

There is no known voice but a clarinet sounds
Almost human touting a melt to die for
Hurl of things fastbound the last-known survivors’
 Wailed diminution


Breathe on my nesh eyes as upon a glass | this
Something so exquisite I scarce can bear it
I do not think I ever could have borne it
 If not for real

Make estrangement all our desires that age so
Perfect empowerment the imperfection
How indemnify a degraded legend
 Lost to computing

Contumacious that I am and that now like
Poggio I | too much enjoy invective—
This for our good—so what you saw me turned on
 Mind if I stress this

Breathe on my nesh eyes I am tired of sleeping
Largo ma non troppo affettuoso
Well becomes fierce Didone trionfante
 Lyric oblation

As fantastic here as in those odd films we
Watched albeit singly The Tales of Hoffmann
What we must be not to be worked with mirrors
 Hives of perspective

Could I have found you in a film by Ophüls
Silent resonances of glass configured
Had I but struck us off The Masque of Blackness
 As it was playing

© Geoffrey Hill