Edwin Morgan: Collected Poems

Edwin Morgan: Collected Poems

by Edwin Morgan


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781857541885
Publisher: Carcanet Press, Limited
Publication date: 04/01/1996
Pages: 608
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Edwin Morgan was a professor of English at Glasgow University and retired in 1980. He has since been a visiting professor at Strathclyde University and at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Read an Excerpt

Collected Poems

By Edwin Morgan

Carcanet Press Ltd

Copyright © 2012 The Estate of Edwin Morgan
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84777-965-6


Dies Irae

    Dies Irae

    It was the blaze and maelstrom of God's wrath.
    So frightfully was never islanded
    Mortal voyager in the far flood of the north
    When growling berg became his acre and burgh
    And sheets of freezing grey lay all his world
    As I within the sea of time was lost
    And thrown upon the groaning shores of wrath.
    My ship long since had struck its rock, and sunk,
    My compass the voracious surge had sucked,
    My clothes were sodden, rotting with the wet,
    My pockets void of knife, or fire, or bread,
    My boots kicked off in swimming through despair,
    My feet cut fiercely by the biting beach,
    My eyes half-blinded by the harsh salt spray,
    My throat choked hoarse in the raw haul of the waves.
    Cower among the pebbles I could not for the cold,
    But in my flapping jacket faced the blast
    And set my bloody steps along those rocks
    That did not wince to break my flesh anew.
    So, buffeted by the blustering hosts of the air,
    Shot by sharp batteries of frozen rain
    Whose ice congealed my streaming hair and hailed
    Torrents of pitilessness upon my face,
    Mocking my poor coat threadbare with their lash;
    Whirled in that jealous gale with twigs, and sand,
    Splinters of hissing rock, smashed shells, crabs' husks,
    Thin downlike urchins scooped hollow by the tide,
    And tiny sea-birds with stiff starlike feet
    And eyes of ice, hurled senseless of the storm;
    The boomerang drum-roll doubling and redounding a
    The blistering fulgor fire-runnelling the livid vault,
    The thunder and the blaze of heaven I bore.

    It was the murmur and blame of meditation,
    God's grinding reef of chiding and condemnation,
    His maelstrom threatening for mortal retrogression.
    He cast me from the plunging shiprail, he
    To the boiling welter of waters felled me howling
    And with his billows and fireballs dashed my ship to the
    He bade me fight the wild and beastlike seas,
    Flail with my arms the bodiless froth, and climb
    Up from each slippery trench with failing strength,
    Combing the ungraspable gulf; he flung my flesh
    To crack its lungs for gusts of blessed breath
    Upon these tearing and offensive teeth
    And razorlike sighing shingle of the shore,
    And there I dragged, through rain and hail and wind,
    My terror and my abasement over that ground,
    My legs through stinging bent and bushes forced,
    My feet in blood upon the blade-edged stones;
    He was that blaze and meditation in the sky
    That pierced and scoured the spaces of the air
    And showered and shook those lightnings quick and
    Over my island and the savage waters;
    He was that meditated thunder and thought
    That opened up the clouds and rolled them back
    Far into reverberating wrath
    Ragged with mutters in that hurricane's heaven;
    He was the anger and the blast: he was that heaven.

    How will I tell then how the dark came down
    And in the moaning of the wind I slept,
    Crouched in the shivering refuge of a bush,
    By weariness within that storm to rest?
    Although my eyes were blind to trough and foam,
    My ears no longer sang with the fretted sands,
    I saw and heard in the gazing of a dream
    Within my mind, and tempest there beheld.
    So thought has wave in wave, deep behind deep,
    Sea beyond sea stretched out far over the world,
    Where we set sail, and founder, or to haven tremble,
    A ship of glass among the bluffs to gamble.
    I saw there other seas, and vaster storms,
    Glimmering armadas of a million sails
    Veered in a wake of blood, the confusion of hosts
    Crushed in the slow slumbrous clash of arms,
    Cries rising up like smoke, far, thin, and clear,
    Above the tumult and enormous mass
    Of the imponderable vessels triumphing there.
    Some bugle sadly shook the hanging air,
    And sombre flags I saw to fluttering set,
    Which clung to the masts like just-fledged feeble
    Unstirring in the silence and the space.
    Now such a calm as smooths the frowning dead
    Was laid on the waters, and they shone with light,
    Wide, burnished in the stillness of the sun.
    The heavy ships moved slowly through the glare,
    The sails were mingled with fire, the masts and spars
    Vanished in that dissolving dazzle and hush,
    And flag, hull, bugle, anchor, and hosts,
    Enemy and sea-friend, captain, armourer, boy
    Turned to embrace the tranquil morning gold,
    Leaving the shining sea and sky serene
    One glory, steady, holy,
    One gazing eye, one meditation and blaze.
    It was God's steadfast meditation and peace.
    I wept upon the fading of the ships,
    And shut my eyes against that blazoned grace;
    I feared to see that glory face to face.
    And though the light had crept upon my clothes,
    Gilded my hand and hair, and on my lips
    Diamonds and watery sapphires quivering cast,
    Yet back and farther back I cringed, and shaded
    My lids against the multitudinous flood
    And searing soundless furnace-fall of sunlight,
    Sobbed and cried out, wrung my burning hands,
    Panting in heat too shadowlessly poured,
    My blood set seething in the gentle veins
    And in my body the heart and regiment
    Shrivelling in the dominion of the flame,
    Till terror came, that I might be consumed.
    Niche, angle, cranny, arch, or shade was none,
    Nor tree, nor cloud, nor wall or shelter of stone,
    Nor sign of rain, nor noise, nor any change,
    But where I stood was focussed all the stillness,
    And all the searching glory bent on me,
    A gaze too straight, a silence too severe.
    Yet as I writhed, my chapped lips salt with sweat,
    My coat in singed and charring flakes, there rolled
    Suddenly a voice in splendour all around
    Resounding from the battlements of light
    God, God, God, God;
    And I was taken into the blaze and the recession,
    My flesh forgot to burn in mortal transgression,
    I was not divided from his meditation.
    It was a dream of meditation and grace
    Where we were gazing fearless face to face.

    It was a dream; bitterly then I woke
    With the hoar chill of dawning on the sea
    And shrieking of the wind and savage gulls,
    The shudder of that surge along the cliffs,
    The black and shivering tempest-blasted scrub
    And nodding reed where I had curled and slept,
    All freezing, glistening in the crude daybreak
    With ice, cold dew, hard light, and driven spray.
    And now the hurricane of the wrath has passed,
    And this bare island, the tide and ebb, the sky
    Polished and chased by streamers of the wind,
    Rainbows, auroras, solar haloes dim
    And clouds like the armadas of my dream
    Remain, and I in this place content to be
    As harsh necessity decides, the will of God
    To that end he alone directs and sees.
    Until his time and storm revolve new fate
    A lee of stone I'll have, shellfish my food
    And sea-birds' eggs and crackling tops of weed,
    And fire begin from branch and rock and breath;
    Nor rail against the maelstrom and the blaze
    His anger raised against my voyaging
    Nor loss of ship, and goods, and worldly course,
    His cause in all things being ever best
    And seen in truth when bitterness has ceased.

    So may God bless this meditation and poem.
    I made it to intercede at his murmur and blame,
    And I pray he may gaze upon it in the endless doom.

    Stanzas of the Jeopardy

    It may be at midday, limousines in cities, the groaning
    Derrick and hissing hawser alive at dockyards,
    Liners crawling with heat-baked decks, their élite
    Drinking languid above the hounded turbines,
    Doorways and crossroads thronged with a hundred
    Places low over spire and cupola with screaming
    Jet-streams or soaring inaudible in disembodied calm,
    Plough-teams on headlands in the sweat of noon, the
    Earth up-ruffled swarming for crow and gull,
    Boys whistling and calling at play in the sea-caves,
    Cables humming, telephonists sighing, sirens
    Wailing twelve from workshop and factory, tar
    Bubbling in the skin of the street, shopfronts
    In Times Square, Leicester Square, Red Square – that
      the roar, the labour,
    The onset and the heat, the engine and the flurry and
      the errand,
    The plane and the phone and the plough and the farm,
      the farmer
    And the stoker and the airman and the docker and the
      shopper and the boy
    Shall all be called to a halt:
    In the middle of the day, and in the twinkling of an
    It could be at midnight, braziers smouldering on
    Watchmen dozing by the tar-boiler's hulk, warehouses
    Planted gloomily in bloodless night-idleness,
    Planted gloomily in bloodless night-idleness,
    Desolate siding and shed and circuit littered
    With the truck and trash marooned by ebbing daytime,
    Astronomers at their mirrors in zodiacal quiet, dancers
    Swept through the rosy fantasy of muted waltzes,
    Children speaking to the wind and stars in dream,
    Great lakes of darkness mountain-locked and moonless
    Breaking to the meagre splash of angler's oar,
    Badger and hedgehog rooting among the beech-mast,
    Swirling with scents disessenced by the dawn,
    Lovers lying in the dunes of summer, swimmers
    Flashing like sudden fire in the bay – that the play,
    The sleep and the pleasure, the tryst, the glow, the
    The water and the silence, the fragrance, the vigil and
      the kiss,
    The fishermen and the slumberers and the whisperers
    and the creatures of the wood
    Shall craze to an intolerable blast
    And hear at midnight the very end of the world.

    'Shall the trumpet sound before the suns have cooled?
    Shall there not be portents of blood, sea-beds laid       bare,
    Concrete and girder like matchwood in earthquake and
    Shall we not see the angels, or the creeping icecap, or the moon
    Falling, or the wandering star, feel veins boiling
    Or fingers freezing or the wind thickening with wings?'
    The earth may spin beyond apocalypse;
    Long before entropy the worlds may stop.
    The heart praises its own intentions, while the
    The neighbour, the need, the face of love and the
    Have passed unseized, as some day they will pass
    Beyond all action, beyond despair and redemption,
    When matter has uttered its last sound, when the eye
    That roved around the universe goes blind, when lips
    To lips are numb, when space is rolled away
    And time is torn from its rings, and the door of life
    Flies open on unimaginable things –
    At noon, at midnight, or at no time,
    As you receive these verses, O Corinthians.

    'What waves have beaten ...'

    What waves have beaten on the glass
    Through darkness rolling such dazed foam
    As now where light should bravely pass
    Blinds the eye of this white room?

    The moon drew up a sea of frost;
    The stars in blackness sparkled back
    From crystal characters embossed
    While midnight drove the polar rack.

    An iris and a rose of ice,
    A wren picked out in diamond rime
    I read in this minute device
    Which gladdens the calm morning-time,

    And as I gaze, I wish the sun
    Would be this day so cool and wan
    That not one claw or vein might run
    From beauty rarely feasted on.

    A Warning of Waters at Evening

    What river-growl appals my flesh?
    Night shakes the hounded streams with fear.
    What waters roaring plunge, burst, crash
    This chafed and shuddering weir?

    Fog has hulled the fruited oak
    Whose leaves and galls fly in the foam;
    Twigs scatter like a starling-flock
    Down to their howling home.

    Dense as hidden Eden's cloud,
    Black as the ravished mine of gold,
    Such air refells the dancing blood
    Back to blindness and cold.

    I see neither tree nor wave;
    The dark is full of tongues that bay
    Their breathing and invisible drove
    Along the glades of prey.

    The hunt is neither pack nor fox.
    The kill is in the seething firth.
    I hear the bell upon the rocks
    Where the sea fills the earth:

    Swinging in the booming main,
    Streaming with the tears of hail,
    Singing like the all-damned man
    That cries through fire's vale.

    What sparkling mountain-spring was there?
    The birth of snow and sun is ended.
    All feeds the welter of the shore,
    To rain-dark gulf descended.

    I fear that tempest and that night,
    I fear this river at my feet.
    I fear the bitter salt far out
    Where sin and wrath must meet.

    The Sleights of Darkness

    One nightmare after cinderfall
    Idiocy in a slumber took me aside
    To see my friend in his golden fell
    Stumble at the handle of fiends'-hovel
    By the feral riverside.

    Blown like a quill to that fell lintel
    He fumbled with bolts to mingle loneliness
    With the waiting loneliness till little by little
    Meeting by his fever the lascivious toll
    He should feel fiend-homeliness.

    And yet if all flesh was standing
    As thick as smoke from wall to wall
    And if love like gold was seen ascending
    Through the valley of the blood and the understanding
    What would suffice of it all

    To my friend in his fleshly desolation?
    Misery strides along my daydream
    Whenever I re-unlatch his destruction.
    His face at the fiends' sill is confusion,
    Pale as the breaking stream.

    Bitter vision, not of wishes!
    Let me not find his heart at bay
    Or laid with innocence in ashes,
    Or if I must, let our lost riches
    Of trust be all we must pay!

    Slates flash out on the tawny gable;
    Windows strain to the sinking sun;
    The mavis drowses on its fable
    Of the glory of day till the last feeble
    Knot of its song is undone.

    I strain and flash and fable too,
    From the valid twilight before surrender.
    Against the Night that scars the true
    And mocks the lonely two by two,
    Now love be my defender!

    The Sleights of Time

    Memory and phantasmagoria of memory
    Shuffling feet at the love-catafalque
      The sun falls on the choristers
    Through tears who can see the chains
    Through smoke the burning, through spray the waves
      Broken at the rock of the causeway? –

    Brilliant assignations, preparations
    For dance and satiety at the revel-table
      Lust was lifted like a torch
    And rebellious shame in ruffled hair
    Surrendered laughing to the bloodrace ways
      Of hallucinating touch –

    Attachments and enchantments too, the avowals
    In far-off firelight, dreams of arrivals
      Faithful through a thousand snows
    Till the fire is scattered, till the hearth is cold
    Till the winds that sweep the dancing-floor
      Freeze, freeze unliving bones –

    Buried and remembered, heads in happiness
    I shall never know and disinheriting
      My dead may never give:
    Son unborn, never to be born,
    Wail at the back of time unknown
      With longing till longing is life!


    A death in the ditch of libertinism!
    The last ditch is the last discipline.
    The wounded ganymede glows like Gabriel,
    Wolves have fetches that are unferal;
    Put your sickness to mystic school.

    I saw Traherne on a chestnut branch
    Watching the woodsmoke wind and vanish
    From the stamped-out fire, the friends had departed.
    He spread his hands on the finger-patterned
    Chestnut sprays, the candours were partnered.

    Eckhart by the dying well
    Spoke of divining and festival.
    'Dig deep to find the dragon's food
    In a shaft like flesh to a source like blood
    – From the centre how far the stars have soared!'

    They row in the bay, they linger in forests,
    They know of the tempests, they think of the frosts.
    Love is water and betrayal is bread,
    The prison's walls are as vast as the world,
    The sentence is life, let the walls be rolled.

    Trundled before the cold juries
    Hearts are crimes to heart-abjurers.
    May judge and witness sweeten on the apple,
    See through the braille of good and evil,
    And put their sapience to mystic school.

    Harrowing Heaven, 1924

    Tell the archangels in their cells of divinity
    They must levitate like larks, for LENIN is coming.
    Break it to the ogdoad under the bo-tree
    Their parched symposiums exploding in concinnity
    From unity to trinity, with a Second Coming,
    Have come to poverty, lock stock and poetry.

    By candle of Tolstoy he can darken consuls,
    By book of Marx he judges Jonahs,
    And by bell of Blok repeals your lyres.
    Vain to offer him heavenly consols,
    Vain the emption, incredible the bonus;
    On the opium standard beggars are buyers!

    Preaching to sparrows of the fall of man:
    Preaching to man of the fall of a sparrow:
    This he will spare you, as unmanly folly.
    But Dante will be his Caliban
    When the lights are named, and charity may harrow
    Your hell-proof hierarchy to common melancholy.

    'Drill up your multicarated streets!
    Dowse your neon-and-topaz noons!
    My dialectics is mesembrian and sapphirical.
    For dust shall blanch the sainted seats
    And instead of saints iguanodons
    Shall walk on your enormous wall.

    A vision of bread without theophagy,
    A handful of salt in the hands of humanity,
    And wine that makes but is not blood:
    Naked of sacrament, stranger to effigy,
    Food for the Magellans of nature's infinity:
    Such is the substance of my word.'

    Cherubs in ziggurats, watch for Vladímir!
    When world's-dreamer is heaven's undreamer,
    Saints in their chains may murmur 'redeemer'.


Excerpted from Collected Poems by Edwin Morgan. Copyright © 2012 The Estate of Edwin Morgan. Excerpted by permission of Carcanet Press Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Prologue: Sculpture,
Dies Irae (1952),
The Vision of Cathkin Braes (1952),
The Cape of Good Hope (1955),
The Whittrick: a Poem in Eight Dialogues,
from Newspoems (1965–1971),
from Emergent Poems (1967),
from Gnomes (1968),
The Second Life (1968),
The Horseman's Word (1970),
from Instamatic Poems (1972),
Glasgow Sonnets i-x,
The New Divan (1977),
Star Gate: Science Fiction Poems (1979),
Uncollected Poems (1976–1981),
Sonnets from Scotland (1984),
from Selected Poems (1985),
From the Video Box (1986),
from Themes on a Variation (1988),
Uncollected Poems (1949–1982),
Index of Titles,
Index of First Lines,
Also by Edwin Morgan,

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