Enoch Powell (1912-1998), First Poems: Fifty Short Lyrics
(Oxford: Shakespeare Head Press, 1937), XXXVIII:
The sky is white from east to west,
And bright the day will break;
It lies to me that life is best,
And hearing I awake.
And so from east to west the sky
Will whiten as before
And lie again the selfsame lie,
The day I wake no more.
The lights are growing in the west,
Nor yet the east is black;
The sun goes slower down to rest
And brings the summer back.
I hate the growing light of spring,
I hate the lingering sun,
I hate the sights that only bring
Regret for summers done.
Day in, day out, the sunset sky
Renews the grinding pain
Of springs and summers gone that I
Can never live again;
And when the sun below the sea
The clouds with crimson dyes,
I shrink and turn; for there I see
My life that bleeding lies.
Oh sweet it is to see the sky
Behind the yellow gorse,
And sweet it is to hear the cry
Of swallows in their course,
And sweet upon the windy lea
To shout and leap and run;
But this were sweeter far to me,
Neither to feel nor move nor be
Nor ever see the sun.
Sharp rises on the cloudless blue
The knife-edge of the hills,
And boundless sunlight clear and true
The vale beneath them fills.
As clear as light, sharp as a knife
A truth springs in my breast:
There are but two things, death and life,
And death of these is best.
I knew that Powell was a classical scholar and politician, but not that he wrote poetry. Despite (or perhaps because of) their lugubrious tone, these poems in the spirit of Housman appeal to me. I haven't seen Powell's First Poems
, or his Collected Poems
(London: Bellew, 1990) either. The texts above are taken from an apparently defunct blog, England Expects
Nick Sinclair, Enoch Powell