In the Heart of Contemplation

In the heart of contemplation ­–
Admiring, say, the frost-flowers of the white lilac,
Or lark’s song busily sifting like sand-crystals
Through the pleased hourglass an afternoon of summer,
Or your beauty, dearer to me than these –
Discreetly whisper in the ear,
The glance of one passing my window recall me
From lark, lilac, you, grown suddenly strangers.
 
In the plump and pastoral valley
Of a leisure time, among the trees like seabirds
Asleep on a glass calm, one shadow moves –
The sly reminder of the forgotten appointment.
All the shining pleasures, born to be innocent,
Grow dark with a truant’s guilt:
The day’s high heart falls flat, the oaks tremble,
And the shadow sliding over your face divides us.
 
In the act of decision only,
In the hearts cleared for action like lovers naked
For love, this shadow vanishes: there alone
There is nothing between our lives for it to thrive on.
You and I with lilac, lark and oak-leafed
Valley are bound together
As in the astounded clarity before death.
Nothing is innocent now but to act for life’s sake.

from Collected Poems (Jonathan Cape, 1970), used by permission of PFD on behalf of the Estate of C Day Lewis. Recordings used by permission of the BBC

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