Strange Meetings

Original Text: 
Strange Meetings: Poems By Harold Monro (Wiltshire: Laurel Books, 2003): 65-72.
I
1If suddenly a clod of earth should rise,
2And walk about, and breathe, and speak, and love,
3How one would tremble, and in what surprise
4                        Gasp: ."Can you move?."
5I see men walking, and I always feel:
6."Earth! How have you done this? What can you be?."
7I can't learn how to know men, or conceal
8How strange they are to me.
II
9The dark space underneath is full of bones,
10The surface filled with bodies.-roving men,
11And floating above the surface a foam of eyes:
12Over that is Heaven. All the Gods
13Walk with cool feet, paddle among the eyes;
14Scatter them like foam-flakes on the wind
15Over the human world.
III
16Rising toward the surface, we are men
17A moment, till we dive again, and then
18We take our ease of breathing: we are sent
19Unconscious to our former element,
20There being perfect, living without pain
21Till we emerge like men, and meet again.
IV
22You live there; I live here:
23Other people everywhere
24Haunt their houses, and endure
25Days and deeds and furniture,
26Circumstances, families,
27And the stare of foreign eyes.
V
28Often we must entertain,
29Tolerantly if we can,
30Ancestors returned again
31Trying to be modern man.
32Gates of Memory are wide;
33All of them can shuffle in,
34Join the family, and, once inside,
35Alas, what a disturbance they begin!
36Creatures of another time and mood,
37They wrangle; they dictate;
38Bawl their experience into the brain and blood,
39Call themselves Fate.
VI
40Eyes float above the surface, trailing
41Obedient bodies, lagging feet.
42Where the wind of words is wailing
43Eyes and voices part and meet.
VII
BIRTH
44One night when I was in the House of Death,
45A shrill voice penetrated root and stone,
46And the whole earth was shaken under ground:
47I woke and there was light above my head.
48Before I heard that shriek I had not known
49The region of Above from Underneath,
50Alternate light and dark, silence and sound,
51Difference between the living and the dead.
VIII
52It is difficult to tell
53(Though we feel it well),
54How the surface of the land
55Budded into head and hand:
56But it is a great surprise
57How it blossomed into eyes.
IX
58A flower is looking through the ground,
59Blinking at the April weather;
60Now a child has seen the flower:
61Now they go and play together.
62Now it seems the flower will speak,
63And will call the child its brother.-
64But, oh strange forgetfulness!.-
65They don't recognise each other.
X
66Yesterday I heard a thrush;
67He held me with his eyes:
68I waited on my yard of earth,
69He watched me from his skies.
70My whole day was penetrated
71By his wild and windy cries,
72And the glitter of his eyes.
XI
73The stars must make an awful noise
74In whirling round the sky;
75Yet somehow I can't even hear
76Their loudest song or sigh.
77So it is wonderful to think
78One blackbird can outsing
79The voice of all the swarming stars
80On any day in spring.
XII
81Oh, how reluctantly some people learn
82To hold their bones together, with what toil
83Breathe and are moved, as though they would return,
84How gladly, and be crumbled into soil!
85They knock their groping bodies on the stones,
86Blink at the light, and startle at all sound,
87With their white lips learn only a few moans,
88Then go back under ground.
XIII
89The ploughboy, he could never understand.-
90While he was carried dozing in the cart,
91Or strolling with the plough across the land,
92He never knew he had a separate heart.
93Had someone told him, had he understood,
94It would have been like tearing up the ground.
95He slowly moves and slowly grows like wood,
96And does not turn his head for any sound.
97So they mistook him for a clod of land,
98And round him, while he dreamed, they built a town.
99He rubs his eyes; he cannot understand,
100But like a captive wanders up and down.
XIV
101You may not ever go to heaven;
102You had better love the earth;
103You'll achieve, for all your pain,
104(What you cannot understand)
105Privilege to drive a flower
106Through an inch of land.
107All the world is in your brain:
108Worship it, in human power,
109With your body and your hand.
XV
110I often stood at my open gate,
111        Watching the passing crowd with no surprise:
112I don't think I had used my eyes for hate
113        Till they met your eyes.
114I don't believe the road is meant for you,
115        Or, if it be,
116Will no one say what I am meant to do
117        Now while you stare at me?
XVI
118How did you enter that body? Why are you here?
119At once, when I had seen your eyes appear
120Over the brim of earth, they were looking for me.
121How suddenly, how silently
122We rose into this long-appointed place.
123From what sleep have you arrived,
124That your beauty has survived?
125You, the everlasting.-you
126Known before a word was .Àæ
XVII
127To-day, when you were sitting in the house,
128And I was walking to you from the town,
129At the far corner of the alder-wood,
130I'm certain you were strolling up and down.
131I thought: ."She's come to meet me, and meanwhile
132Is talking to the cowslips in the dew.."
133Just as you saw me, and began to smile.-
134It was not you.
135Now I'm not certain.-for how shall I say?
136I cannot tell, however I may stare,
137It it be you here in the house all day,
138Or whether you are wandering still out there.
XVIII
139Wipe away, please,
140That film from your eyes.
141I can't see you plainly. Are you
142The friend that I seem to remember? Are we
143The people I think we must be?
144We have talked for an hour: it seems you are he.
145I know you, I'm sure, though your eyes are so altered.
146Oh, in what life of our lives did we meet?.-
147But you smile, then you sigh, then you frown:
148Now you stare at me angrily. How can it be?
149I know you.-you do not know me.
XIX
150A man who has clung to a branch and he hangs.-
151                                Wondering when it will break.
152A woman who sits by the bed of a child,
153                                Watching for him to wake.
154People who gaze at the town-hall clock,
155                                Waiting to hear the hour.
156Somebody walking along a path,
157                                Stooping to pick a flower.
158Dawn; and the reaper comes out of his home,
159                                Moving along to mow.
160A frightened crowd in a little room,
161                                Waiting all day to go.
162A tall man rubbing his eyes in the dusk,
163                                Muttering ."Yes."; murmuring ."No.."
XX
164It is not difficult to die:
165You hold your breath and go to sleep;
166Your skin turns white or grey or blue,
167And some of your relations weep.
168The cheerful clock without a pause
169Will finish your suspended day.
170That body you were building up
171Will suddenly be thrown away.
172You turn your fingers to the ground,
173Drop all the things you had to do:
174It is the first time in your life
175You'll cease completely to be you.
XXI
176Memory opens; memory closes:
177Memory taught me to be a man.
178It remembers everything:
179It helps the little birds to sing.
180It finds the honey for the bee:
181It opens and closes, opens and closes. . . .
182           --Proverbs for the humble wise;
183             Flashes out of human eyes;
184             Oracles of paradise.
Publication Start Year: 
1916
Publication Notes: 
extracts only, English Review (1916), Poetry (1916), Georgian Poetry 3 (1917); Collected Poems, ed. Alida Monro, with prefaces by F. S. Flint and T. S. Eliot (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1933): 108-16.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004
Form: