Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Song - Stephen Spender

(This is the 3rd poem by Spender here - do read the earlier ones, especially "Daybreak", which is one of the most beautiful and gentle and loving poems I know.  Link to his bio is there.)   As befitting one of the leading 20th century English poets, one comes to expect a masterful command of language, like a lion-tamer putting very independent and willful beasts into their places and paces.  The imagery, the word-choices, the airiness of the tone in contrast to the heaviness of the subject is brilliant.  He captures the conflicting emotional states so well: the anger, the sense of betrayal (actual or supposed) the pain in having to imagine how/why it occurred.... Yet.. yet all of it ending with a lonely resignation/bewilderment which is not angry because he loves her still.  And she is a fool for not knowing itIf you haven't been there yet, I hope it's a place you never visit....

Stranger, you who hide my love
         In the curved cheek of a smile
And sleep with her upon a tongue
         Of soft lies that beguile,
                  Your paradisal ecstasy
         Is justified is justified
By hunger of all beasts beneath
         The overhanging cloud
                  Who to snatch quick pleasures run
                  Before their momentary sun
Be eclipsed by death.

Lightly, lightly, from my sleep
         She stole, our vows of dew to break
Upon a day of melting rain
         Another love to take:
                  Her happy happy perfidy
         Was justified was justified
Since compulsive needs of sense
         Clamour to be satisfied
                  And she was never one to miss
                  Plausible happiness
Of a new experience.

I, who stand beneath a bitter
         Blasted tree, with the green life
Of summer joy cut from my side
         By that self-justifying knife,
                  In my exiled misery
         Were justified were justified
If upon two lives I preyed
         Or punished with my suicide,
                  Or murdered pity in my heart
                  Or two other lives did part
To make the world pay what I paid.

Oh, but supposing that I climb
         Alone to a high room of clouds
Up a ladder of the time
And lie upon a bed alone
         And tear a feather from a wing
And listen to the world below
And write round my high paper walls
         Anything and everything
Which I know and do not know!

                                                                     Stephen Spender - English

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