In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

Short Cuts: Ubu Unchained

August Kleinzahler

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Surplus Sons

Clare Bucknell

Oliver Lee Jackson

Adam Shatz

The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

The Old Bailey

Francis FitzGibbon

Jiggers, Rods and Barleycorns

James Vincent

More Marple than Poirot

J. Robert Lennon

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

Blessed Isles

Mary Wellesley

At the Movies: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’

Michael Wood

Redeeming Winnie

Heribert Adam

Diary: A Friendly Fighting Force

Nick McDonell

Ballad of the Diminished ICarl Rakosi
Vol. 19 No. 13 · 3 July 1997

Ballad of the Diminished I

Carl Rakosi

181 words

‘Tell me, where does fancy breed?’
In the calyx of the crocus
in the springtime, a merry time
when the spirit bounds like a feather.

And a goatherd, two miles out of Oaxaca,
with his flock browsing ahead of him,
approached me and hesitantly,
as a simple man with one more learned,
asked, ‘What’s it like, Señor, in the city?’

And tell me, where does fancy lie?
In a bright star in a Miro.

And how close can we get to quiddity?
As close as a metaphor,

but the jaunty sparrow
skipping around and pecking for seeds
in my garden is its own quiddity,
for does he not sing
when all else cringes?

And compassion, where does it lie?
In a book. O noble book!

And I heard a voice, ‘It’s sad
but let me console thee.
There’s always beauty. ’

And when shall we be safe?
When the crocodile weds with the dove.

And when will fancy die?
When every man is master of his time.

And the design of the universe?
The nature of man? Pending.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences