A Poem by Charles Tomlinson

Summer thunder darkens, and its climbing

Cumulae, disowning our scale in the zenith,

Electrify this music: the evening is falling apart.

Castles-in-air; on earth: green, livid fire.

The radio simmers with static to the strains

Of this mock last-day of nature and of art.



We have lived through apocalypse too long:

Scriabin’s dinosaurs! Trombones for the transformation

That arrived by train at the Finland Station,

To bury its hatchet after thirty years in the brain

Of Trotsky. Alexander Nikolayevitch, the events

Were less merciful than your mob of instruments.



Too many drowning voices cram this waveband.

I see Lenin’s face by yours –

Yours, the fanatic ego of eccentricity against

The systematic son of a schools inspector

Tyutchev on desk—for the strong man reads

Poets as the antisemite pleads: ‘A Jew was my friend.’



Cymballed firesweeps. Prometheus came down

In more than orchestral flame and Kérensky fled

Before it. The babel of continents gnaw now

And tears at the silk of those harmonies that seemed

So dangerous once. You dreamed an end

Where the rose of the world would go out like a close in music.



Populations drag the partitions down

And we are a single town of warring suburbs:

I cannot hear such music for its consequence:

Each sense was to have been reborn

Out of a storm of perfumes and light

To a white world, an in-the-beginning.



In the beginning, the strong man reigns:

Trotsky, was it not then you brought yourself

To judgment and to execution, when you forgot

Where terror rules, justice turns arbitrary?

Chromatic Prometheus, myth of fire,

It is history topples you in the zenith.



Blok, too, wrote The Scythians

Who should have known: he who howls

With the whirlwind, with the whirlwind goes down.

In this, was Lenin guiltier than you

When, out of merciless patience grew

The daily prose such poetry prepares for?



Scriabin, Blok, men of extremes,

History treads out the music of your dreams

Through blood, and cannot close like this

In the perfection of anabasis. It stops. The trees

Continue raining though the rain has ceased

In a cooled world of incessant codas:



Hard edges of the houses press

On the after-music senses, and refuse to burn,

Where an ice cream van circulates the estate

Playing Greensleeves, and at the city’s

Stale new frontier even ugliness

Rules with the cruel mercy of solidities.


P.S. I am hoping that students would find this useful. No intention to breach any rules or laws. Just for educational purposes. Cheers!


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Filed under British, English, Poetry

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