On a rainy day, switching CDs, from a Handel opera to a Tippett one

Wring the Swan’s Neck

Wring the swan’s neck who with deceiving plumage
inscribes his whiteness on the azure stream;
he merely vaunts his grace and nothing feels
of nature’s voice or the soul of things.

Every form eschew and every language
whose processes with deep life’s inner rhythm
are out of harmony . . . and greatly worship
life, and let life understand your homage.

See the sapient owl who from Olympus
spreads his wings, leaving Athene’s lap,
and stays his silent flight on yonder tree.

His grace is not the swan’s, but his unquiet
pupil, boring into the gloom, interprets
the secret book of the nocturnal still.

—Enrique González Martínez (1871-1952),
trans. Samuel Beckett

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