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Basil Bunting

At Briggflatts meetinghouse (1975)

If your browser has the "RealAudio" plug-in you can listen now to a recording of Bunting reading this poem. If you'd like to obtain the free RealAudio plug-in for your browser, go to http://www.real.com/ and follow the instructions to download the basic model.

A translation of the first sentence into (standard southern) English is provided below.


Boasts time mocks cumber Rome. Wren
set up his own monument.
Others watch fells dwindle, think
the sun's fires sink.

Stones indeed sift to sand, oak
blends with saints' bones.
Yet for a little longer here
stone and oak shelter

silence while we ask nothing
but silence. Look how clouds dance
under the wind's wing, and leaves
delight in transience.



Note from Jacket's Editor: If you find the first sentence incomprehensible, you're not alone. A translation into standard southern English has kindly been provided by Richard Caddel, a Director of the Basil Bunting Poetry Centre at Durham University:

— "Boasts (noun, plural) [at which] time mocks [en]cumber Rome"; or,
— "The boasts which Rome [metonymically, the culture of ancient Rome, or perhaps the Roman Catholic Church] once made about its permanence now encumber it, and are mocked by the passage of time."
"Wren" is Sir Christopher Wren, 16321723, English architect and professor of astronomy at Oxford, who after the Great Fire of London in 1666 was commissioned to design fifty-one City churches in London including St Paul's Cathedral, the largest (Protestant) church in Britain.


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