Elegy Before Death

Cecil Day-Lewis, October 1952

Come to the orangery. Sit down awhile.
The sun is setting: the verandah frames
An illuminated leaf of Italy.
Gold and green and blue, stroke upon stroke,
Seem to tell what nature and man could make of it
If only their marriage were made in heaven. But see,
Even as we hold the picture,
The colors are fading already, the lines collapsing
Fainting into the dream they soon will be.

Again? Again we are baffled who have sought
So long in a melting Now the formula
Of Always. There is no fast dye. Always? –
That is the word the sirens sing
On bone island. Oh stop your ears, and stop
All this vain peering through the haze,
The fortunate haze wherein we change and ripen,
And never mind for what. Let us even embrace
The shadows wheeling away our windfall days.

Again again again, the frogs are screeling
Down by the lilypond. Listen! I’ll echo them –
Gain gain gain … Could we compel
One grain of one vanishing moment to deliver
Its golden ghost, loss would be gain
And Love step naked from illusion’s shell.
Did we but dare to see it,
All things to us, you and I to each other,
Stand in this naked potency of farewell.


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