Alun Lewis--Welsh/British

       
Alun Lewis
(1915-1944)
 
Lewis has been referred to as the last great Romantic poet of the twentieth century. Born in 1915, his short life ended in 1944 when he was killed in the Burma during the Second World War. As a young man, he taught briefly following his graduation from university. During the war he fought with the South Wales Borderers. His first collection of poems, Raiders’ Dawn, was published in 1942. The Last Inspection, a book of short stories, followed the next year. Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets, his second volume of poetry was published after his death. In 1948, a number of his letters and short stories about India were published.
 

 

Goodbye

So we must say Goodbye, my darling,
And go, as lovers go, for ever;
Tonight remains, to pack and fix on labels
And make an end of lying down together.
I put a final shilling in the gas,
And watch you slip your dress below your knees
And lie so still I hear your rustling comb
Modulate the autumn in the trees.
And all the countless things I shall remember
Lay mummy-cloths of silence round my head;
I fill the carafe with a drink of water;
You say 'We paid a guinea for this bed,'
And then, 'We'll leave some gas, a little warmth
For the next resident, and these dry flowers,'
And turn your face away, afraid to speak
The big word, that Eternity is ours.
Your kisses close my eyes and yet you stare
As though god struck a child with nameless fears;
Perhaps the water glitters and discloses
Time's chalice and its limpid useless tears.
Everything we renounce except our selves;
Selfishness is the last of all to go;
Our sighs are exhalations of the earth,
Our footprints leave a track across the snow.
We made the universe to be our home,
Our nostrils took the wind to be our breath,
Our hearts are massive towers of delight,
We stride across the seven seas of death.
Yet when all's done you'll keep the emerald
I placed upon your finger in the street;
And I will keep the patches that you sewed
On my old battledress tonight, my sweet.


 

 

All Day It Has Rained

All day it has rained, and we on the edge of the moors
Have sprawled in our bell-tents, moody and dull as boors,
Groundsheets and blankets spread on the muddy ground
And from the first grey wakening we have found
No refuge from the skirmishing fine rain
And the wind that made the canvas heave and flap
And the taut wet guy-ropes ravel out and snap.
All day the rain has glided, wave and mist and dream,
Drenching the gorse and heather, a gossamer stream
Too light to stir the acorns that suddenly
Snatched from their cups by the wild south-westerly
Pattered against the tent and our upturned dreaming faces.
And we stretched out, unbuttoning our braces,
Smoking a Woodbine, darning dirty socks,
Reading the Sunday papers - I saw a fox
And mentioned it in the note I scribbled home; -
And we talked of girls and dropping bombs on Rome,
And thought of the quiet dead and the loud celebrities
Exhorting us to slaughter, and the herded refugees;

As of ourselves or those whom we
For years have loved, and will again
Tomorrow maybe love; but now it is the rain
Possesses us entirely, the twilight and the rain.
And I can remember nothing dearer or more to my heart
Than the children I watched in the woods on Saturday
Shaking down burning chestnuts for the schoolyard's merry play,
Or the shaggy patient dog who followed me
By Sheet and Steep and up the wooded scree
To the Shoulder o' Mutton where Edward Thomas brooded long
On death and beauty - till a bullet stopped his song.
 

 

Raiders' Dawn

Softly the civilized
Centuries fall,
Paper on paper,
Peter on Paul.
And lovers walking
From the night -
Eternity’s masters,
Slaves of Time -
Recognize only
The drifting white
Fall of small faces
In pits of lime.
Blue necklace left
On a charred chair
Tells that Beauty
Was startled there.