Was sodden as the bed of an ancient lake.
Treed with iron and was bird less. In the sunk lane
The ditch – a seep silent all summer –
Made brown foam with a big voice: that, and my boots
On the lanes scrubbed stones, in the gulleyed leaves
Against the hill’s hanging silence;
Mist silvering the droplets on the bare thorns
Slower than the change of daylight.
In a let of the ditch a tramp was bundled asleep.
Face tucked down into beard, drawn in
Under his hair like a hedgehog’s. I took him for dead,
But his stillness separated from the death
From the rotting grass and the ground. The wind chilled,
And a fresh comfort tightened through him,
Each hand stuffed deeper into the other sleeve.
His ankles, bound with sacking and hairy hand,
Rubbed each other, resettling. The wind hardened;
A puff shook a glittering from the thorns,
And again the rains’ dragging grey columns
Smudged the farms. In a moment
The fields were jumping and smoking; the thorns
Quivered, riddled with the glassy verticals.
I stayed on under the welding cold
Watching the tramp’s face glisten and the drops on his coat
Slash and darken. I thought what strong trust
Slept in him- as the trickling furrows slept,
And the thorn roots in their grip on darkness;
And the buried stones taking the weight of winter;
The hill where the hare crouched with clenched teeth.
Rain plastered the land till it was shining
Like hammered lead, and I ran, and in the rushing wood
Shuttered by a black oak leaned.
The keeper’s gibbet had owls and hawks
By the neck, weasels, a gang of cats, crows:
Some stiff, weightless, twirled like dry bark bits
In the drilling rain. Some still had their shape,
Had their pride with it; hung, chins on chests,
Patient to outwait these worst days that beat
Their crowns bare and dripped from their feet.
|A memorial stone to Ted Hughes