Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN OLD WOMAN: 2. HARVEST, by EDITH SITWELL



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AN OLD WOMAN: 2. HARVEST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I, an old woman whose heart is like the sun
Last Line: "sign from the dead."
Subject(s): Old Age


I, an old woman whose heart is like the Sun
That has seen too much, looked on too many sorrows,
Yet is not weary of shining, fulfilment, and harvest,
Heard the priests that howled for rain and the universal darkness,
Saw the golden princes sacrificed to the Rain-god,
The cloud that came and was small as the hand of Man.
And now in the time of the swallow, the bright one, the chatterer
The young women wait like the mother of corn for the lost one --
Their golden eyelids are darkened like the great rain-clouds.
But in bud and branch the nature of Fate begins
-- And love with the Lion's claws and the Lion's hunger
Hides in the brakes in the nihilistic Spring.
Old men feel their scolding heart
Reproach the veins that for fire have only anger.
And Christ has forgiven all men -- the thunder-browed Caesar,
That stone-veined Tantalus howling with thirst in the plain
Where for innocent water flows only the blood of the slain,
Falling forever from veins that held in their noonday
The foolish companion of summer, the weeping rose.
We asked for a sign that we have not been forsaken --
And for answer the Abraham-bearded Sun, the father of all things,
Is shouting of ripeness over our harvest forever.
And with the sound of growth, lion-strong, and the laughing Sun,
Whose great flames stretch like branches in the heat
Across the firmament, we almost see
The great gold planets spangling the wide air
And earth --
O sons of men, the firmament's beloved,
The Golden Ones of heaven have us in care --
With planetary wisdom, changeless laws,
Ripening our lives and ruling hearts and rhythms,
Immortal hungers in the veins and heart
Born from the primal Cause
That keeps the hearts and blood of men and beasts ever in motion,
The amber blood of the smooth-weeping tree
Rising towards the life-giving heat of the Sun . . .
For is not the blood -- the divine, the animal heat
That is not fire -- derived from the solar ray?
And does not the Beast surpass all elements
In power, through the heat and wisdom of the blood
Creating other Beasts -- the Lion a Lion, the Bull a Bull,
The Bear a Bear -- some like great stars in the rough
And uncreated dark -- or unshaped universes
With manes of fire and a raging sun for heart?
Gestation, generation, and duration --
The cycles of all lives upon the earth --
Plants, beasts, and men, must follow those of heaven;
The rhythms of our lives
Are those of the ripening, dying of the seasons,
Our sowing and reaping in the holy fields,
Our love and giving birth -- then growing old
And sinking into sleep in the maternal
Earth, mother of corn, the wrinkled darkness.
So we, ruled by those laws, see their fulfilment.
And I who stood in the grave-clothes of my flesh
Unutterably spotted with the world's woes
Cry, "I am Fire. See, I am the bright gold
That shines like a flaming fire in the night -- the gold-trained
planet,
The laughing heat of the Sun that was born from darkness --
Returning to darkness -- I am fecundity, harvest."
For on each country road,
Grown from the needs of men as boughs from trees,
The reapers walk like the harvesters of heaven --
Jupiter and his great train, and the corn-goddess,
And Saturn marching in the Dorian mode.
We heard in the dawn the first ripe-bearded fire
Of wheat (so flames that are men's spirits break from their thick
earth),
Then came the Pentecostal Rushing of Flames, God in the wind
that comes to the wheat,
Returned from the Dead for the guilty hands of Caesar
Like the rose at morning shouting of red joys
And redder sorrows fallen from young veins and heart-springs,
Come back for the wrong and the right, the wise and the
foolish,
Who like the rose care not for our philosophies
Of life and death, knowing the earth's forgiveness
And the great dews that comes to the sick rose:
For those who build great mornings for the world
From Edens of lost light seen in each other's eyes,
Yet soon must wear no more the light of the Sun
But say farewell among the morning sorrows.
The universal language of the Bread --
(O Thou who are not broken, or divided --
Thou who art eaten, but like the Burning Bush
Art not consumed -- Thou Bread of Men and Angels) --
The Seraphim rank on rank of the ripe wheat --
Gold-bearded thunders and hierarchies of heaven
Roar from the earth: "Our Christ is arisen, He comes to give a
sign from the Dead."




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