Hilda Doolittle


He said, I’m just out of hospital,
but I’m still flying.

I answered, of course,
angry, prescient, knowing

what fire lay behind his wide stare,
what fury of desire

impelled him,
pretending not to notice

his stammer 
and that now, in his agony to express himself

his speech failed

and his eyes seemed to gather
in their white-heat,

all the fires of the wind,
fire of sleet,

snow like white-fire pellets,
congealed radium planets

like snow-flakes:
and I thought,

the sun 
is only a round platform

for his feet 
to rest upon.

So I knew his name,
the coming-one

from a far star,
I knew he would come again,

though I did not knw
he would come so soon;

he stood by my desk
in my room

where I write this;
he did not wear

his blue tunic with the wings,
nor his cap with the crown;

his flying-helmet,
and his cumbersome trappings

were unfamiliar,
like a deep-sea diver.

I had said,
I want to thank you,

he had said,
for what?

I had said,
it is very difficult

to say what I want,
I mean—I want

personally to thank you
for what you have done;

he had said,
I did nothing,

it was the others;
I went on,

for a moment infected with his stammer
but persistent,

I will think of you
when they come over,

I mean—I understand—I know—
I was there the whole time

in the Battle
of Britain.

He came again,
he did not speak;

I thought; he stands by my desk
in the dark,

he is emissary,
maybe he will speak later,

(does he still stammer?)
I remembered

how I had thought
this field, that meadow

is branded for eternity
(whatever becomes of our earth)

with the mark
of the new cross,

the flying shadow
of high wings,

over the grass.

Fortunately, there was no time
for lesser intimacy
than this—
instantaneous flash,

recognition, premonition, vision;
fortunately, there was no time,

for the two-edged drawn-swords
of our two separate twin-beings

to dull; no danger of rust;
the Archangel’s own fine blade

so neatly divided us,
in the beginning.

He was huddled
in the opposite corner,

bare-headed, curiously slumped forward
as if he were about to fall over;

the compartment was crowded,
I was facing forward;

I said, put your feet up here
and I wedged myself tighter

and dozed off in the roar
and the train rumble.
In the train jolt
our knees brushed

and he murmured, sorry:
he was there;

I knew in the half-daze,
in the drug and drift,

the hypnotic sway
of the train, that we were very near;

we could not have been nearer,
and my mind winged away;

our minds are winged,
though our feet are clay.

True, I had travelled the world over,
but I had found no beauty, no wonder

to equal the cliff-edge,
the line of a river

we had just passed,
no picture nor colour in glass

to equal the fervour
of sea-blue, emerald, violet,

the stone-walls, prehistoric circles
and dolmens

that I had just left
in Cornwall.

True, we are cold, shivering,
and we ponder on many things,

waiting for the war to be over;
and I wonder,

has he come for me?
is this my particular winged messenger?

or was it tact,
a code of behaviour,

was it only a sort of politeness,
did he “drop in,” as it were,

to explain
why he had not come sooner?

My thoughts in the train,
rushed forward, backward,

I was in the lush tall grass
by the burning beeches,

I followed the avenue, out of Tregonning,
across the fields to the other house,

where friends were staying;

there was the camellia-bush,
the stone-basin with the tiny lilies

and the pink snails; I remembered
the Scilly Islands off the coast,

and other islands,
the isles of Greece

whose stone thresholds (nor Karnak)
were older

thank the sun-circles I had just left;
I thought of Stonehenge,

I thought,
we will be saved yet.

He could not know my thoughts,
but between us,

the shuttle sped,
passed back,

the invisible web,
bound us;

whatever we thought or said,
we were people who had crossed over,

we had already crashed,
we were already dead.

If I dare recall
his last swift grave smile,

I award myself
some inch of ribbon

for valour,
such as he wore,

for I am stricken
as never before,

by the thought
of ineptitude, sloth, evil

that prosper,
while such as he all.

17th September, 1941