Poems by George Reavey: chosen by Samuel Beckett, March 1977

 

Je brûle mes chimères

 

In the shelter of night’s lone chasm

I burn worn rags of thought,

And stir the slowsmoking embers.

Here alone is concentration

Brief as darkness, and a grasp hard as fate;

And here, too, is the balance where desire

Is set against accomplishment.

Thus, with steel needle, in a moment

Vision draws the shreds together seamless;

Then, keen with scissor edge, it rips

Back the pierced fabric into strips,

Which soon, in hopeless flames,

Are but charred threads turning ashgrey with morn.

 

(From Faust’s Metamorphoses, 1932, 15)

 

 

Metamorphosis of love //

 

Wavenumbed I fell through Ocean’s mesh

And passed through fables and changing myths;

Worlds of desire crept in my veins

And nameless layers of pain grew flesh

 

The salt of sorrow seared my sores,

My lips spoke foam of farswung seas;

None dared yet glimpse the grimgreen change,

Of my new calm unlock the doors.

 

(From Faust’s Metamorphoses, 1932, 58)

 

 

Envoi

 

Is this not nightmare? When I wake

The sun will gild a glassy lake.

In marriage seasoned and in war,

I’ll watch my ploughshares turn the earth.

 

And laden ships put out of shore,

The harvest done, of grain no dearth;

And laws immutable hold sway.

Like battlements or swords’ array.

 

from Faust’s Dialectic 1935

 

(From Nostradam, 1935, 28)

 

 

From a letter to Samuel Beckett from Jean Reavey, 3 February 1977,

‘George’s last request of me was to retype his poem  Green and blue which he had dedicated to you—with one word to be changed. He asked that I bring it to him at the hospital―with an envelope for mailing―and he would sign it. That day his eyes and ears were closed to me. That night he died.’

 

Green and blue

 

And of grass all was told

    in green legend and three-leaved remembrance;

And of blue in the iris

    of erin by lough and boreen.

 

Tale of giant and gem,

    gentle daughters, grim gentry from over

Grey waters, and nodding old men

    by the soft-smoking peat,

 

Talking silver-leapt salmon and milk-

    misted morning by lake,

Mountain bog, and the little slight people

    slipping out of the shade,

 

And then melting away,

    like twelve sons blown away by the winds

From the language that lingers

    where the Atlantic tunnels the rock.

 

Timeless talk by the rain-

    sodden peat, night-long whispers in erse;

By the blue of the lough

                all is told in green legend of erin.

 

George Reavey