- Mediterranean Observations, and: Lonely Height, and: Suez Canal
While plastique bombs were exploding in Paris, early one morning, on the sea off Algiers, the graceful sails of yachts were bellying with wind.
War and peace sounded like an utter hoax: the mountain range along the African coast lay all day under a sheet of summer haze;
and a lighthouse on the coast of Tunisia, where another battle had broken out, cast its beam even on that night.
Don’t be surprised: “Portuguese man-of-war” is the name of a jellyfish the size of a mat. The sea was dissolving tints of blue again the next day.
For Mount Pukhan to recover its full height, we have to wait till winter comes.
We have to wait till a winter morning dawns after a night of snow when only such high peaks as Paegundae or Insubong stand covered with light snow as if with thin makeup,
while the rest of the mountain remains the color of cold Indian ink. [End Page 132]
For Mount Pukhan to recover its lonely height which does not reveal itself
in the fresh green or the turning of leaves, or in the fog rising along the valleys,
not even when deep snow covers the whole mountain, but is diminished even at the touch of a rosy sunbeam,
we have to wait till a winter morning dawns when only Paegundae and Insubong stand covered with light snow.
Ship after ship passes slowly, or waits
For others to pass, on this warm stretch Of water, down a summer afternoon. Nothing seems to stir: the brown, dead sands; The sparse, dusty trees on the bank; Not even the moving ships: everything, Dead or asleep, endures the stifling heat Of the sinister sun. The only soothing green in the hushed daylight Is this canal, rather dull, almost Unmoving, stagnant length motionless. Yet how its color stands out in contrast To the scene of monotonous aridness. The blue-veined body of a monstrous moth With vast, dried-up wings which have forgotten To flutter for centuries; Or a fading dream, spent of its original Vividness, the ruthless human interest, Which forced the channel through the hundred miles Of sizzling sands: that is all it means To an idle passenger on the deck of a liner, Whose eyes are delighted at the faraway White feluccas, the little butterflies, Lambent over the breezy Delta.
Originally composed in English, this poem was first published in the Times Literary Supplement in 1961. [End Page 133]
Translations by the author