Peter Russell

(1921-2003 / Bristol)

Three Songs For Benjamin Britten - Poem by Peter Russell


Where is now the wandering stag
And the drunken friendly faun?
The prophet wrapped in his woolen rag
And the hare that lives on the moon?

Where is now the peeping dryad
And the serpent in the bush?
Whose are these voices in the wood
That bid me roughly "Hush!"?

The forest's full of uniforms,
The deep lake is still;
The wind-flowers seem to cry "To arms!"
And the harebells ring the till.


You, man, going down the road
Have you got a soul?
A jewel gleams inside the toad -
My heart's a glowing coal.

You there, lady, warm in furs
What's in your soft breast?
Is it a kitten that gently purrs
Or a tigress in your chest?


I hang my sorrow in the air
From a rope of cloud.
Upsidedown it swings there
While I laugh aloud.

I kick the earth with a hobnailed boot,
The sky-god bares his teeth;
My sorrow dreams like a trailing root
In the bright steam underneath.

The rocks are hurled about my ear,
The storm rips at the tree;
My sorrow's tossed on the point of a spear
But it still hangs free.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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