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The First Four Books of Poems

by W. S. Merwin

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Half Roundel I make no prayer For the spoilt season, The weed of Eden. I make no prayer. Save us the green In the weed of time. Now is November; In night uneasy Nothing I say. I make no prayer. Save us from the water That washes us away. What do I ponder? All smiled disguise, Lights in cold places, I make no prayer. Save us from air That wears us loosely. The leaf of summer To cold has come In little time. I make no prayer. From earth deliver And the dark therein. Now is no whisper Through all the living. I speak to nothing. I make no prayer. Save us from fire Consuming up and down. Evening with Lee Shore and Cliffs Sea-shimmer, faint haze, and far out a bird Dipping for flies or fish. Then, when over That wide silk suddenly the shadow Spread skating, who turned with a shiver High in the rocks? And knew, then only, the waves' Layering patience: how they would follow after, After, dogged as sleep, to his inland Dreams, oh beyond the one lamb that cried In the olives, past the pines' derision. And heard Behind him not the sea's gaiety but its laughter. The Fishermen When you think how big their feet are in black rubber And it slippery underfoot always, it is clever How they thread and manage among the sprawled nets, lines, Hooks, spidery cages with small entrances. But they are used to it. We do not know their names. They know our needs, and live by them, lending them wiles And beguilements we could never have fashioned for them; They carry the ends of our hungers out to drop them To wait swaying in a dark place we could never have chosen. By motions we have never learned they feed us. We lay wreaths on the sea when it has drowned them.… (more)

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There are a number of fine poems in this collection, and Merwin's use of language and his varied subjects are commendable. However, sometimes the language drifts to the needlessly archaic and verbose. ( )
  dasam | Jul 25, 2017 |
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Half Roundel I make no prayer For the spoilt season, The weed of Eden. I make no prayer. Save us the green In the weed of time. Now is November; In night uneasy Nothing I say. I make no prayer. Save us from the water That washes us away. What do I ponder? All smiled disguise, Lights in cold places, I make no prayer. Save us from air That wears us loosely. The leaf of summer To cold has come In little time. I make no prayer. From earth deliver And the dark therein. Now is no whisper Through all the living. I speak to nothing. I make no prayer. Save us from fire Consuming up and down. Evening with Lee Shore and Cliffs Sea-shimmer, faint haze, and far out a bird Dipping for flies or fish. Then, when over That wide silk suddenly the shadow Spread skating, who turned with a shiver High in the rocks? And knew, then only, the waves' Layering patience: how they would follow after, After, dogged as sleep, to his inland Dreams, oh beyond the one lamb that cried In the olives, past the pines' derision. And heard Behind him not the sea's gaiety but its laughter. The Fishermen When you think how big their feet are in black rubber And it slippery underfoot always, it is clever How they thread and manage among the sprawled nets, lines, Hooks, spidery cages with small entrances. But they are used to it. We do not know their names. They know our needs, and live by them, lending them wiles And beguilements we could never have fashioned for them; They carry the ends of our hungers out to drop them To wait swaying in a dark place we could never have chosen. By motions we have never learned they feed us. We lay wreaths on the sea when it has drowned them.

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