Ragpickings: "The Philosopher of Nature"


'Oak Tree', Ansel Adams.
'Oak Tree', Ansel Adams.

THE PHILOSOPHER OF NATURE

Variations on poems and fragments by Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)

 

My blood 

the flowing river, my poem the churning sky. 

The words, you understand, were secondary. 

Have you ever sung to an oak, an ash, the aspen's 

shining leaves? Melodious trees, their shadows 

carried me, bewildered, to the gate. 

And then I heard the murmur – 

the heartbeat of the gods.

 

~   

 

My lament (for the dead) will never end: when our hill, 

that dreaming green, is levelled, even... our final 

daylight quenched. 

 

~

 

The path parts, our way is lost, in loneliness, in grief. 

This errant grief, a bitter stream, will lead me on 

forever: it whispers

from beyond the brink. 

 

~

 

Late as I am, oh grant me, 

breath, a single summer, or the first 

autumnal chill restored, the lost, unhurried interval 

with her, above the river, a stillness deep and green... 

enough to fill my heart. 

 

'The Tuna Catch', Joaquin Sorolla.
'The Tuna Catch', Joaquin Sorolla.

~

 

Blue to grey, the falling heights of heaven – 

I walked below them slowly, pondering the past. 

Sometimes, a sleepless god will weep, a tide rise up

between my ribs.

 

~

 

Colossal trees, stomping light, their manes 

tossed up to the sky – what joy!

 

~

The morning clear, 

the air a vivid blue, once more 

the dolphins fly, the island gannets dip, 

the sun-quick waters raise, again, 

an abundant harbour, tinkling: 

the fishermen in motion, 

the scintillating nets...

whether memory or vision, 

the bright sails lift my life.

 

~

 

A mist of sun on the wooden sill. 

Within: a flush of plums, the knife 

laid out, an idle bowl of bread.

 

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo.
Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo.

~

 

I wanted only 

the dark light, caught, in a fractal glass, 

the fragmentary shadows stilled –  

and then to sleep, drifting easy 

in the river of shades.

 

~

 

Bleak the mud, black the bark, the wind 

a bitten rock! Oh where, in broken winter, 

do the meadow-flowers rest, the lark 

that lay between us (when we kissed)?

 

~

 

All that's left: relentless rain, spattering 

the steeples, clattering the slates. 

 

~

 

The weight in the gut. The storm. The sting. 

The loneliness unceasing. The greyest rain. 

The earth itself a-brim, with bitterness, 

with pain. All these, too, are lovely. We flare, 

a little wick, before the darkness drops.


Ciarán O'Rourke // May 2022