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!