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English, Literature, Poem

The Season of Phantasmal Peace: Derek Walcott / Espen Erichsen

Espen Erichsen-Conversation

Espen Erichsen-Conversation

  • Then all the nations of birds
    lifted together
    the huge net of the shadows
    of this earth
    in multitudinous dialects,
    twittering tongues,
    stitching and crossing it.
    They lifted up
    the shadows of long pines
    down trackless slopes,
    the shadows
    of glass-faced towers down evening streets,
    the shadow of a frail plant
    on a city sill—
    the net rising soundless as night, the birds’ cries soundless, until
    there was no longer dusk,
    or season, decline, or weather,
    only this passage of phantasmal light
    that not the narrowest shadow
    dared to sever.And men could not see,
    looking up,
    what the wild geese drew,
    what the ospreys trailed behind them
    in silvery ropes
    that flashed in the icy sunlight;
    they could not hear
    battalions of starlings waging
    peaceful cries,
    bearing the net higher,
    covering this world
    like the vines of an orchard,
    or a mother drawing
    the trembling gauze
    over the trembling eyes
    of a child fluttering to sleep;

    it was the light
    that you will see at evening
    on the side of a hill
    in yellow October,
    and no one hearing knew
    what change had brought into the raven’s cawing,
    the killdeer’s screech,
    the ember-circling chough
    such an immense, soundless,
    and high concern
    for the fields and cities
    where the birds belong,
    except it was
    their seasonal passing, Love,
    made seasonless, or,
    from the high privilege
    of their birth,
    something brighter than pity
    for the wingless ones
    below them
    who shared dark holes
    in windows and in houses,
    and higher they lifted the net
    with soundless voices
    above all change,
    betrayals of falling suns,
    and this season lasted one moment,
    like the pause
    between dusk and darkness,
    between fury and peace,
    but, for such as our earth is now,
    it lasted long.”


Derek Walcott, “The Season of Phantasmal Peace” from Collected Poems: 1948-1984.

Copyright © 1987 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted at the Pietry Foundation website by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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