General Editor: Marc R. Plamondon

Representative Poetry Online, edition 6.0, is a web anthology of 4,800 poems in English and French by over 700 poets spanning 1400 years.  more about RPO
 
New poet: Émile Nelligan

 

 

 

 

Exposure

I
1Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knife us ...
2Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent ...
3Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient ...
4Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
5  But nothing happens.
6Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire.
7Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
8Northward incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
9Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
10  What are we doing here?
11The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow ...
12We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
13Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
14Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
15  But nothing happens.
16Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
17Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
18With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause and renew,
19We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
20  But nothing happens.
II
21Pale flakes with lingering stealth come feeling for our faces--
22We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
23Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
24Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
25  Is it that we are dying?
26Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires glozed
27With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
28For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
29Shutters and doors all closed: on us the doors are closed--
30  We turn back to our dying.
31Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
32Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
33For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
34Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
35  For love of God seems dying.
36To-night, His frost will fasten on this mud and us,
37Shrivelling many hands and puckering foreheads crisp.
38The burying-party, picks and shovels in their shaking grasp,
39Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
40  But nothing happens.
 What thou lovest well remains,
                  the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov'st well is thy true heritage
Whose world, or mine or theirs
                or is it of none?
First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
Ezra Pound Pisan Cantos, LXXXI
Maps