The poetic brilliance of Clive James: Japanese Maple

This blog loves the poetry of Clive James. He hasn’t been the the snarky TV host for years, which was probably always a bit of a front. He is a quite wonderful poet, but things have been beyond Autumnal for a while – he’s close to death. Even at this late stage he’s produced a full new poetry translation of the Divine Comedy (see here), which is genuinely fresh and at times startlingly beautiful.

Here is his recent magnificent valedictory, from the New Yorker.

Japanese Maple

 

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.

So slow a fading out brings no real pain.

Breath growing short

Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain

Of energy, but thought and sight remain

 
Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see

So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls

On that small tree

And saturates your brick back garden walls,

So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

 

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends

This glistening illuminates the air.

It never ends.

Whenever the rain comes it will be there,

Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

 

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.

Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.

What I must do

Is live to see that. That will end the game

For me, though life continues all the same:

 

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,

A final flood of colours will live on

As my mind dies,

Burned by my vision of a world that shone

So brightly at the last, and then was gone.

 

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