Sunday, 26 July 2009

Basil Bunting's Complete Poems--The Books of Odes

from The First Book of Odes

I am agog for foam. Tumultuous come
with teeming sweetness to the bitter shore
tidelong unrinsed and midday parched and numb
with expectation. If the bright sky bore
with endless utterance of a single blue
unphrased, its restless immobility
infects the soul, which must decline into
an anguished and exact sterility
and waste away: then how much more the sea
trembling with alteration must perfect
our loneliness by its hostility.

opening lines of 3

Those impatient thighs will be bruised soon enough.

Sniff the sweet narcotic distilled by coupled


He will shrink, his manhood leave him, slough selfaware
the last skin of the flayed: despair.
He will nurse his terror carefully, uncertain
even of death's solace
impotent to outpace
dispersion of the soul, disruption of the brain.

last lines of "10: Chorus of Furies"

substance utters or time
stills and restrains
joins design and

supple measure deftly
as thought's intricate polyphonic
score dovetails with the tread
sensuous things
keep in our consciousness.

opening lines of 15

we have the sea to stare at,
its treason, capaciousness, tedium

last lines of 22

                  They say 'Adios!' shyly but look back
more than once, knowing our thoughts
                        and sharing our
                  desires and lack of faith in desire.

last lines of "30: The Orotava Road"

Days now
less bitter than
rind of wild gourd.
Cool breezes. Lips
moistened, there are words.

last lines of 33

from the Second Book of Odes

                                    Must [the girls]
also stop their ears to your tomcat
wailing, a promise your body cannot keep?


The breeze she wears
lifts and falls back.

. . .

giggles, ceramic
huddle of notes


Basil Bunting's Complete Poems is available from

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