- Biographical information
- At the British Museum
- The Faun Sees Snow for the First Time
- The Poplar
Name: Edward Godfree Aldington
Place and date of birth: Portsmouth, Hampshire (England); July 8, 1892
Place and date of death: Francia; July 27, 1962 (aged 70)
At the British Museum
- I turn the page and read:
'I dream of silent verses where the rhyme
Glides noiseless as an oar'.
The heavy musty air, the black desks,
The bent heads and the rustling noises
In the great dome
The sun hangs in the cobalt-blue sky,
The boat drifts over the lake shallows,
The fishes skim like umber shades through the undulating weeds,
The oleanders drop their rosy petals on the lawns,
And the swallows dive and swirl and whistle
About the cleft battlements of Can Grande's castle...
- Four days the earth was rent and torn
By bursting steel,
The houses fell about us;
Three nights we dared not sleep,
Sweating, and listening for the imminent crash
Which meant our death.
The fourth night every man,
Nerve-tortured, racked to exhaustion,
Slept, muttering and twitching,
While the shells crashed overhead.
The fifth day there came a hush;
We left our holes
And looked above the wreckage of the earth
To where the white clouds moved in silent lines
Across the untroubled blue.
The bitterness. the misery, the wretchedness of childhood
Put me out of love with God.
I can't believe in God's goodness;
I can believe
In many avenging gods.
Most of all I believe
In gods of bitter dullness,
Cruel local gods
Who scared my childhood.
I've seen people put
A chrysalis in a match-box,
'To see', they told me, 'what sort of moth would come'.
But when it broke its shell
It slipped and stumbled and fell about its prison
And tried to climb to the light
For space to dry its wings.
That's how I was.
Somebody found my chrysalis
And shut it in a match-box.
My shrivelled wings were beaten,
Shed their colours in dusty scales
Before the box was opened
For the moth to fly.
I hate that town;
I hate the town I lived in when I was little;
I hate to think of it.
There wre always clouds, smoke, rain
In that dingly little valley.
It rained; it always rained.
I think I never saw the sun until I was nine-
And then it was too late;
Everything's too late after the first seven years.
The long street we lived in
Was duller than a drain
And nearly as dingy.
There were the big College
And the pseudo-Gothic town-hall.
There were the sordid provincial shops-
The grocer's, and the shops for women,
The shop where I bought transfers,
And the piano and gramaphone shop
Where I used to stand
Staring at the huge shiny pianos and at the pictures
Of a white dog looking into a gramaphone.
How dull and greasy and grey and sordid it was!
On wet days -it was always wet-
I used to kneel on a chair
And look at it from the window.
The dirty yellow trams
Dragged noisily along
With a clatter of wheels and bells
And a humming of wires overhead.
They threw up the filthy rain-water from the hollow lines
And then the water ran back
Full of brownish foam bubbles.
There was nothing else to see-
It was all so dull-
Except a few grey legs under shiny black umbrellas
Running along the grey shiny pavements;
Sometimes there was a waggon
Whose horses made a strange loud hollow sound
With their hoofs
Through the silent rain.
And there was a grey museum
Full of dead birds and dead insects and dead animals
And a few relics of the Romans -dead also.
There was a sea-front,
A long asphalt walk with a bleak road beside it,
Three piers, a row of houses,
And a salt dirty smell from the little harbour.
I was like a moth-
Like one of those grey Emperor moths
Which flutter through the vines at Capri.
And that damned little town was my match-box,
Against whose sides I beat and beat
Until my wings were torn and faded, and dingy
As that damned little town.
At school it was just as dull as that dull High Street.
The front was dull;
The High Street and the other street were dull-
And there was a public park, I remember,
And that was damned dull, too,
With its beds of geraniums no one was allowed to pick,
And its clipped lawns you weren't allowed to walk on,
And the gold-fish pond you mustn't paddle in,
And the gate made out of a whale's jaw-bones,
And the swings, which were for 'Board-School children',
And its gravel paths.
And on Sundays they rang the bells,
From Baptist and Evangelical and Catholic churches.
They had a Salvation Army.
I was taken to a High Church;
The parson's name was Mowbray,
'Which is a good name but he thinks too much of it-'
That's what I heard people say.
I took a little black book
To that cold, grey, damp, smelling church,
And I had to sit on a hard bench,
Wriggle off it to kneel down when they sang psalms
And wriggle off it to kneel down when they prayed,
And then there was nothing to do
Except to play trains with the hymn-books.
There was nothing to see,
Nothing to do,
Nothing to play with,
Except that in an empty room upstairs
There was a large tin box
Containing reproductions of the Magna Charta,
Of the Declaration of Independence
And of a letter from Raleigh after the Armada.
There were also several packets of stamps,
Yellow and blue Guatemala parrots,
Blue stags and red baboons and birds from Sarawak,
Indians and Men-of-war
From the United States,
And the green and red portraits
Of King Francobello
I don't believe in God.
I do believe in avenging gods
Who plague us for sins we never sinned
But who avenge us.
That's why I'll never have a child,
Never shut up a chrysalis in a match-box
For the moth to spoil and crush its brght colours,
Beating its wings against the dingy prison-wall.
- Plus quan se atque suos amavit omnes,
You were my playmate by the sea.
We swam together.
Your girl's body had no breasts.
We found prawns among the rocks;
We liked to feel the sun and to do nothing;
In the evening we played games with the others.
It made me glad to be by you.
Sometimes I kissed you,
And you were always glad to kiss me;
But I was afraid -I was only fourteen.
And I had quite forgotten you, you and your name.
To-day I pass through the streets.
She who touches my arms and talks with me
Is -who knows?- Helen of Sparta,
And there are you
A whore in Oxford Street.
Che son contenti nel fuoco.
We are of those that Dante saw
Glad, for love's sake, among the flames of hell,
Outdaring with a kiss all-powerful wrath;
For we have passed athwart a fiercer hell,
Through gloomier, more desperate circles
Than ever Dante dreamed:
And yet love kept us glad.
- Come, thrust your hands in the warm earth
And feel her strength through all your veins;
Breathe her full odors, taste her mouth,
Which laughs away imagined pains;
Touch her life's womb, yet know
This substance makes your grave also.
Shrink not; your flesh is no more sweet
Than flowers which daily blow and die;
Nor are your mein and dress so neat,
Nor half so pure your lucid eye;
And, yet, by flowers and earth I swear
You're neat and pure and sweet and fair.
Like a gondola of green scented fruits
Drifting along the dark canals of Venice,
You, O exquisite one,
Have entered into my desolate city.
The blue smoke leaps
Like swirling clouds of birds vanishing.
So my love leaps forth toward you,
Vanishes and is renewed.
A rose-yellow moon in a pale sky
When the sunset is faint vermilion
In the mist among the tree-boughs
Art thou to me, my beloved.
A young beech tree on the edge of the forest
Stands still in the evening,
Yet shudders through all its leaves in the light air
And seems to fear the stars-
So are you still and so tremble.
The red deer are high on the mountain,
They are beyond the last pine trees.
And my desires have run with them.
The flower which the wind has shaken
Is soon filled again with rain;
So does my heart fill slowly with tears,
Until you return.
And beyond Nineveh
In the dusk
They were afraid.
In Thebes of Egypt
In the dust
They chanted of them to the dead.
In my Lesbos and Achaia
Where the God dwelt
We knew them.
Now men say "They are not":
But in the dusk
Ere the white sun comes -
A gay child that bears a white candle -
I am afraid of their rustling,
Of their terrible silence,
The menace of their secrecy.
- Water ruffled and speckled by galloping wind
Which puffs and spurts it into tiny pashing breaks
Dashed with lemon-yellow afternoon sunlight.
The shining of the sun upon the water
Is like a scattering of gold crocus-petals
In a long wavering irregular flight.
The water is cold to the eye
As the wind to the cheek.
In the budding chestnuts
Whose sticky buds glimmer and are half-burst open
The starlings make their clitter-clatter;
And the blackbirds in the grass
Are getting as fat as the pigeons.
Too-hoo, this is brave;
Even the cold wind is seeking a new mistress.
The Faun Sees Snow for the First Time
Send vengeance on these Oreads
White frozen flecks of mist and cloud
Over the brown trees and the tufted grass
Of the meadows, where the stream
Runs black through shining banks
Of bluish white.
Are the halls of heaven broken up
That you flake down upon me
Feather-strips of marble?
Dis and Styx!
When I stamp my hoof
The frozen-cloud-specks jam into the cleft
So that I reel upon two slippery points...
Fool, to stand here cursing
When I might be running!
- Why do you always stand there shivering
Between the white stream and the road?
The people pass through the dust
On bicycles, in carts, in motor-cars;
The waggoners go by at down;
The lovers walk on the grass path at night.
Stir from your roots, walk, poplar!
You are more beautiful than they are.
I know that the white wind loves you,
Is always kissing you and turning up
The white lining of your green petticoat.
The sky darts through you like blue rain,
And the grey rain drips on your flanks
And loves you.
And I have seen the moon
Slip his silver penny into your pocket
As you straightened your hair;
And the white mist curling and hesitating
Like a bashful lover about your knees.
I know you, poplar;
I have watched you since I was ten.
But if you had a little real love,
A little strength,
You would leave your nonchalant idle lovers
And go walking down the white road
Behind the waggoners.
There are beautiful beeches down beyond the hill.
Will you always stand there shivering?