The Bear on the Delhi Road

Original Text: 
Earle Birney, Selected Poems 1940-66 (Toronto and Montreal: McClelland and Stewart, 1966): 14. PS 8503 I75A1 1966 Robarts Library
1Unreal tall as a myth
2by the road the Himalayan bear
3is beating the brilliant air
4with his crooked arms
5About him two men bare
6spindly as locusts leap
7One pulls on a ring
8in the great soft nose His mate
9flicks flicks with a stick
10up at the rolling eyes
11They have not led him here
12down from the fabulous hills
13to this bald alien plain
14and the clamorous world to kill
15but simply to teach him to dance
16They are peaceful both these spare
17men of Kashmir and the bear
18alive is their living too
19If far on the Delhi way
20around him galvanic they dance
21it is merely to wear wear
22from his shaggy body the tranced
23wish forever to stay
24only an ambling bear
25four-footed in berries
26It is no more joyous for them
27in this hot dust to prance
28out of reach of the praying claws
29sharpened to paw for ants
31It is not easy to free
32myth from reality
33or rear this fellow up
34to lurch lurch with them
35in the tranced dancing of men


30] deodars: cedar-like tree. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Fall by Fury (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart).
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

© the Estate of Earle Birney. This poem is protected by Canadian copyright law. RPO is grateful to Madam Justice Wailan Low, the executor of Earle Birney's literary estate, for permission to publish. Anyone wishing to reprint this poem must seek permission in advance from the Birney estate.