[ilds] DG Bitter Lemons -- A WATER-COLOUR OF VENICE

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Thu Jul 5 20:14:15 PDT 2007

Has anyone ever put forward a claim that Durrell's poetry from the 
1950s--/The Tree of Idleness/ &c.--is his strongest verse?


            Durrell, Lawrence:  A WATER-COLOUR OF VENICE [from Collected
            Poems: 1931-1974 (1985), Faber and Faber]

            Zarian was saying: Florence is youth,
            And after it Ravenna, age,
            Then Venice, second-childhood.

            The pools of burning stone where time
            And water, the old siege-masters,
            Have run their saps beneath
            A thousand saddle-bridges,
            Puffed up by marble griffins drinking,

            [Page 214 ]

            And all set free to float on loops
            Of her canals like great intestines
            Now snapped off like a berg to float,
            Where now, like others, you have come alone,
            To trap your sunset in a yellow glass,
            And watch the silversmith at work
            Chasing the famous salver of the bay ...

            Here sense dissolves, combines to print only
            These bitten choirs of stone on water,
            To the rumble of old cloth bells,
            The cadging of confetti pigeons,
            A boatman singing from his long black coffin ...

            To all that has been said before
            You can add nothing, only that here,
            Thick as a brushstroke sleep has laid
            Its fleecy unconcern on every visage,

            At the bottom of every soul a spoonful of sleep.


Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu

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