Three Poems

Seamus Heaney

Rilke: The Apple Orchard

Come just after the sun has gone down, watch
This deepening of green in the evening sward:
Is it not as if we’d long since garnered
And stored within ourselves a something which

From feeling and from feeling recollected,
From new hope and half-forgotten joys
And from an inner dark infused with these,
Issues in thoughts as ripe as windfalls scattered

Under trees here like trees in a Dürer woodcut –
Pendent, pruned, the husbandry of years
Gravid in them until the fruit appears –
Ready to serve, replete with patience, rooted

In the knowledge that no matter how above
Measure or expectation, all must be
Harvested and yielded, when a long life willingly
Cleaves to what’s willed and grows in quiet resolve.

Rilke: After the Fire

Early autumn morning hesitated,
Shying at newness, an emptiness behind
Scorched linden trees still crowding in around
The moorland house, now just one more wallstead

Where youngsters in a pack from god knows where
Went rip-roaring wild and yelled and wrecked.
Yet all of them fell silent when he appeared,
The son of the place, and with a long forked stick

Dragged an out of shape old can or kettle
From under hot, charred, half-consumed house-beams;
And then, like one with a doubtful tale to tell,
Turned to the others present, at great pains

To make them realise what had stood so.
For now that it was gone, it all seemed
Far stranger: more fantastical than Pharaoh.
And he was changed: as from a far-off land.

Rilke: Roman Campagna

Out of the sluggish, clogged-up city, which
Would rather sleep on, undisturbed, and dream
Of its soaring baths, the road to the fever marsh –
The Appian tomb-road – heads past each last farm

And farmhouse, out under the malign
Gaze of windows that fasten on its back,
Unnerving it, driving it, ram-stam, on
Until, imploring, out of breath, in panic

And with a quick look backwards, to make sure
The windows have stopped watching, it entrusts
Its emptiness to the skies. And as the far

Aqueducts come striding up, alerted,
The skies that have absorbed its emptiness
Now substitute their own. Which will outlast it.