The Soldier Addresses his Body
I shall be mad if you get smashed about,
we’ve had good times together, you and I;
although you groused a bit when luck was out,
say a girl turned us down, or we went dry.
But there’s a world of things we haven’t done,
countries not seen, where people do strange things;
eat fish alive, and mimic in the sun
the solemn gestures of their stone-grey kings.
I’ve heard of forests that are dim at noon
where snakes and creepers wrestle all day long;
where vivid beasts grow pale with the full moon,
gibber and cry, and wail a mad old song,
because at the full moon the Hippogriff
with wrinkled ivory snout and agate feet,
with his green eye will glare them cold and stiff
for the coward Wyvern to come down and eat.
Vodka, kvass or bitter mountain wines
we’ve never drunk; nor snatched the bursting grapes
to pelt slim girls among Sicilian vines,
who’d flicker through the leaves, faint frolic shapes.
Yes, there’s a world of things we’ve never done,
but it’s a sweat to knock them into rhyme,
let’s have a drink, and give the cards a run
and leave dull verse to the dull peaceful time.
from Collected Poems (Carcanet 1991), copyright © Edgell Rickword 1991, by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd. Recording used by permission of the BBC