Andrew Lansdown

Andrew Lansdown header image

A.D. Hope

 

Two poems by A.D. Hope:

1. “Ode On the Death of Pius the Twelfth”

2. “The Death of The Bird”

 

 

Ode On the Death of Pius the Twelfth

 

To every season its proper act of joy,

To every age its natural mode of grace,

Each vision its hour, each talent we employ

        Its destined time and place.

 

I was at Amherst when this great pope died;

The northern year was wearing towards the cold;

The ancient trees were in their autumn pride

         Of russet, flame and gold.

 

Amherst in Massachusetts in the Fall:

I ranged the college campus to admire

Maple and beech, poplar and ash in all

         Their panoply of fire.

 

Something that since a child I longed to see,

This miracle of the other hemisphere:

Whole forests in their annual ecstasy

         Waked by the dying year.

 

Not budding Spring, not Summer’s green parade

Clothed in such glory these resplendent trees;

The lilies of the field were not arrayed

          In riches such as these.

 

Nature evolves their colours as a call,

A lure which serves to fertilise the seed;

How strange then that the splendour of the Fall

         Should serve no natural need

 

And, having no end in nature, yet can yield

Such exquisite natural pleasure to the eye!

Who could have guessed in summer’s green concealed

          The leaf’s resolve to die?

 

Yet from the first spring shoots through all the year,

Masked in the chlorophyll’s intenser green,

The feast of crimson was already there,

          These yellows blazed unseen.

 

Now in the bright October sun the clear

Translucent colours trembled overhead

And as I walked, a voice I chanced to hear

         Announced: The Pope is dead!

 

A human voice, yet there the place became

Bethel: each bough with Pentecost was crowned;

The great trunks rapt in unconsuming flame

          Stood as on holy ground.

 

I thought of this old man whose life was past,

Who in himself and his great office stood

Against the secular tempest as a vast

          Oak spans the underwood;

 

Who in the age of Armageddon found

A voice that caused all men to hear it plain,

The blood of Abel crying from the ground

          To stay the hand of Cain;

 

Who found from that great task small time to spare:

– For him and for mankind the hour was late –

So much to snatch, to save, so much to bear

         That Mary’s part must wait,

 

Until in his last years the change began:

A strange illumination of the heart,

Voices and visions such as mark the man

         Chosen and set apart.

 

His death, they said, was slow, grotesque and hard,

Yet in that gross decay, until the end

Untroubled in his joy, he saw the Word

         Made spirit and ascend.

 

Those glorious woods and that triumphant death

Prompted me there to join their mysteries:

This Brother Albert, this great oak of faith,

         Those fire-enchanted trees.

 

Seven years have passed, and still, at times I ask

Whether in man, as in those plants, may be

A splendour, which his human virtues mask,

         Not given to us to see?

 

If to some lives at least comes a stage

When, all active man now left behind,

They enter on the treasure of old age,

         This autumn of the mind.

 

Then, while the heart stands still, beyond desire

The dying animal knows a strange serene:

Emerging in its ecstasy of fire

         The burning soul is seen.

 

Who sees it? Since old age appears to men

Senility, decrepitude, disease,

What Spirit walks among us, past our ken,

         As we among these trees,

 

Whose unknown nature, blessed with keener sense

Catches its breath in wonder at the sight

And feels its being flood with that immense

         Epiphany of light?

 

          A.D. Hope

 

 

 

 

The Death of The Bird 

 

For every bird there is this last migration;

Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;

With a warm passage to the summer station

Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.

 

Year after year a speck on the map divided

By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come;

Season after season, sure and safely guided,

Going away she is also coming home;

 

And being home, memory becomes a passion

With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest;

Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart’s possession

And exiled love mourning within the breast.

 

The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;

The palm-tree casts a shadow not its own;

Down the long architrave of temple or palace

Blows a cool air from moorland scraps of stone.

 

And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger,

The delicate voice, more urgent with despair,

Custom and fear constraining her no longer,

Drives her at last on the waste leagues of air.

 

A vanishing speck in those inane dominions,

Single and frail, uncertain of her place.

Alone in the bright host of her companions,

Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space.

 

She feels it close now, the appointed season:

The invisible thread is broken as she flies;

Suddenly, without warning, without reason,

The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies.

 

Try as she will the trackless world delivers

No way, the wilderness of light no sign,

The immense and complex map of hills and rivers

Mocks her small wisdom with its vast design.

 

And darkness rises from the eastern valleys,

And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,

And the great earth, with neither grief not malice,

Receives the tiny burden of her death.

 

          A.D. Hope

 

 

Return to FAVOURITE POEMS