Song of the Barren Orange Tree by Federico Garcia Lorca

Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.
Why was I born among mirrors?
The day walks in circles around me,
and the night copies me
in all its stars.
I want to live without seeing myself,
and I will dream that ants
and thistleburrs are my
leaves and my birds.
Cut my shadow from me.
Free me from the torment
of seeing myself without fruit.

Translated by W.S. Merwin

I dread the beauty of approaching spring by Iris Tree

I dread the beauty of approaching spring
Now the old month is dead and the young moon
Has pierced my heart with her sharp silver horns.
My tired soul is startled out of sleep
By all the urging joy of bud and leaf,
And in the barren yard where I have paced
Content with prison and despair’s monotony,
The trees break into music wild and shrill,
And flowers come out like stars amid the dust,
Bewildering my loneliness with beauty….
For winter with her melancholy face
Shone back my miseries as in a glass,
And wept and whined in harmony with me;
And I could listen by the withering ashes
To the ill-omened drum of dropping rain,
And sighing harken sighs and mute feel silence,
And cold stretch forth my hand into the snows,
And hating, hear the laughter of the wind
Whose mad hands tear the sky.
But now again the promise of the spring
Shall lift my martyred spirit from the dust,
To where the lilied altar shines with peace,
And the white priestess comes
Crowning each candle with a gold desire
Engirdling with pallors
The forehead of a divine ghost.
Ah, but they die, these gods, the candles dwindle
And spring is but a radiant beckoning
To death that follows slowly, silently….

O flitting swallows, fleeting laugh of wind,
O flash of silver in the wings of dawn
That are spread out and closed. O hush of night
Breathless with love, oh swish of whispering tide
That swells and shrinks upon the dreaming shore.
O gentle eyes of children wonder-wide
That grow too soon to weariness and close;
O scuttling run of rabbit on the hills,
And flight of lazy rooks above the elm;
O birds’ eggs frail, tinged faintly, nestled close,
And mystery of flower in the bud.
O burning galaxy of buttercups,
And drone of bees above the pouting rose,—
O twilit lovers stilled with reverie
And footprints of them swerving on the sand
And darkness of them clasped against the sky!
I see beyond the glory of your days
The grey days marching one behind the other
To the bleak tunes of silence.
When mists shall smear the radiance of the moon
And the lean thief shall pass,
Snatching the glittering toys away from love,
Plucking the feathers from the wings of peace.
And Life herself, grown old and crooked now,
Shall go the way that her long shadow points,
Her long black shadow down the roads of sleep.


From Poems, Iris Tree (1920)

My Heart, a Bitter Cherry by Gloria Diéz

My heart
a bitter cherry,
hung beneath the sun in spring.
My blood,
red sap
that satisfies itself
around a
black-green seed.

Autumn is here, extending
its roots
towards the unique point
where my stem is,
keeps me alive
and still suffering.

The void at my feet
like a lover
who patiently waits
to receive me.
Who knows
if one day
or another, or another,
he will have me:
amber at last,
mature and transparent,
fit to die or to be re-born.

Gloria Diéz

From Troubled Times, 20th Century Spanish Poets, Prospice 15: Edited/Translated by J.C.R. Green, Albert Rowe, & Sandra MacGregor Hastie.

Poems by Lilian Le Mesurier (1935)

Presented here are some poems from A Book of Verse by Lilian Le Mesurier, published in 1935. Le Mesurier was a writer and activist who researched and campaigned for prison reform. Amongst other works, she wrote Boys in Trouble: A Study of Adolescent Crime and its Treatment (1939) and  A Socialist Woman’s Guide to Intelligence: A Reply to Mr Shaw (1929).

The poems express feelings on social progress, activism, motherhood, hope and despair.


The Journey

It’s a wild night for a soul to go,
Stars shine, but winds blow,
And the flood tides flow.

It’s a long road to the nearest star,
Where the band of well-beloved are,
But I shall reach it near or far.

A wild night for a naked soul
To cast aside the broken bowl
And start for the distant goal.

A wild night and a lonely way,
And Death is terrible they say
Yet methinks I like his looks to-day!

And glad I’ll lay my garment by
And fling me forth to the windy sky
When Death rides by.

A long road to the nearest star,
Where the band of well-beloved are.
But I shall reach it, near or far.


Hands of a Boy

Oh! sunburnt hands of a boy that hold my heart,
Play your part!

I wish you humble and eager, quick to learn
And slow to spurn.

I wish you wisdom and strength and long to live,
That you may have more to give.

Give largesse to the world of all you find,
Give your heart and your toil and your mind.

You will build perhaps a City of Beautiful Joy,
Oh! hands beloved, oh! clean-cut hands of a boy!

A shrine, or a shop, or a home, as you may choose,
But something for men to use.

And whether you build in lives or stone or song,
Build strong!

If the work that you planned in hope is not built true,
Scrap it and build anew.

Oh! hands of a boy, brown hands that hold my heart,
Worthily play your part!


Midsummer Night in London

London, London, blazing bright,
Streams of traffic and streams of light
And all the beating pulse of the summer in your garish night.

And, just one step away, the silent square,
The blackness of the trees against the fair
Far sky, and little winds that blow in my uncovered hair.

Both part of London’s heart, and she holds ours.
Sordid and sacred, mistress and mother both,
Her children and her lovers, nothing loath,
Come when she beckons. All her throbbing hours
Are wrapped to-night in June, as in a cloak
Of beauty. Do they see, these hurrying folk,
Who seem so sunk in self or sin or care?

At least they feel the beauty unaware.


The Thinker

(To Graham Wallas)

As one who waits, his finger on his lips,
Rapt, and expectant of the coming God,
So the tense Soul

Waits for his thought, until the Spirit stirs
Within him, like a babe at quickening time,
And he perceives the goal.

He knows it shall be, but not when or how
Or with what labour and anguish. So he waits
Patient within the gates.

Brooding he sits. His vast enveloping gaze
Now inward turned, now flashing near and far
To every world and star.

Through the long years behind him and ahead
He sends his travelling thought, his straining mind,
To probe, and search, and find.

Then the quick leap of the inventive brain,
And the new thought to ease an ancient past
Comes to the birth at last.

All birth is hope. A child, or else a thought,
Or maybe both in one. Who counts the cost
When such a hope is bought?

Such a fierce wonder of joy! Who measures pain?
Or the long waiting in the wilderness
When life is born again.

Now thoughts for an old world, to help and heal.
Not dreams for fairy islands far away,
But here and for to-day.

His ripe fruit given, then he passes on
Again to brooding patience and slow toil;
For so more fruit is won.

As one who waits expectant of the God,
And passionately eager for the goal,
So the tense Thinker’s Soul.


Glacier Water

Grey glacier water
under my window,
through the Alpine village
turbulent, tossing.
Day-time and dark-time
patient, persistent,
never never ceasing.
From days primordial
shaping the mountains.

Thoughts men are thinking,
passionate, relentless,
born of emotion
dumb and disturbing.
Nurturing in silence
struggling for utterance,
pressing for action,
clamouring for beauty,
Shaping the future.

Force of the water,
force of men’s thinking,
nothing can stop them.

Life-givers, death-dealers,
as we may use them.
Dam them and hinder,
stop up their channels,
they will break prison
spreading destruction.
Make them a fair-way
give them free passage,
they will bring plenty,
they will make beauty.


Suggested by Epstein’s “Genesis”

Life, straining, struggling to be born!
Man’s life.
From the womb of the beast pressing outwards,
From the loins of the East surging upwards.
Pushing onwards through travail
To fill the worlds and replenish the earth.

No easy spawning!
The patient mother is heavy and gross
In the moment of torpor before the birth-pangs tear her.
She is ugly, bestial, horrible,
Moving to terror and pity,
But she is great with the promise of power.

The tenderness of maternity is nascent in her tragic eyes,
Lust is forgotten in fecundity.
In the gesture of her ape-like hands that pray for privacy
and demand reverance,
She celebrates the sacredness of birth,
Bears witness to the miracle of life made new.

She is inviolable.


The One Taken to the Other Left

When we can talk no longer,
Let not your heart be wrung,
With grief for words we did not say
And songs we might have sung.
Think only, words were needless,
For all we left unsaid
Was clear to us as daylight
Let love be comforted!

And when all beauty hurts you,
Life’s lovely days and nights
That once we shared and made our own,
Earth’s poignant fresh delights!
Still let the years bring comfort,
The helpful healing years.
They helped and healed me living,
And, dead, I need no tears.

I think your laugh would teach me
Wherever I might be.
So glad a sound God could not spare
From cosmic harmony!

Yet if I sleep unhearing,
All’s well, nor needs lament,
For waking I’ll wake gladly,
Or sleeping, lie content.


Written in Dejection

Life, you have broken my heart,
Death, will you mend it?
Sooth I am fain to depart
Mend it or end it.

I am too old for more coping
With getting and giving.
I am too sad for more hoping,
Too tired for more living.

Grief that consumes every part,
Who should endure it?
Life, you have broken my heart!
Death, can you cure it?