By the River I was Sitting

By the River I was sitting

By the River I was sitting
Watching barges floating by
Like the clouds so full of promise
In the blue and burning sky

Bearing jewels, bearing silver
From the mountains crowned with snow
Bearing spices, sweet and fiery
From the jungles down below

By the River I was waiting
For a boat to pick me up
Till the oars were folded inward
And the city-gates were shut

On my roof-top I was watching
Night like lapis-lazuli
While the stars were slowly rolling
Round the tiny lonely me

By Two Rivers I was dwelling
In a house of golden bricks
In my dress of snow and silver
Waving to intrepid ships

When the stars had come full circle
Strangers broke my city-gate
And my boat lay by the palm-trees
Finest date-wine was its freight

And it flew against the current
And it floated with the storm
Till I climbed the purple mountains
Where the River Twins are born

Christina Egan © 2011

Jar, elegantly curved, with brown and blue glaze.

 

This song of the woman by the river is taken
from my stage play The Bricks of Ur  (© 2011).

Place: City of Ur, Mesopotamia — Time: 2000 B.C.

Photograph: Assyrian jar (9th to 7th c. BC).
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

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Milder Mai

Milder Mai

I.

In der weißen Marmorwanne
wartet schon ein warmes Bad:
So steht weiche Luft im Marktplatz,
füllt ihn bis zur feinsten Naht,

nimmt die Jacken von den Schultern,
von den Gliedern das Gewicht,
taucht das graue Reich des Nordens
in ein weingetöntes Licht.

II.

Lavender with fresh and wilted blossom, next to pale-golden grass.Wieder wuchert der Lavendel
halbwegs übern Gartenpfad,
birgt in prallen grünen Stengeln
seine süße lila Saat,

säumt die amethystnen Rispen
noch mit Lapislazuli,
jubiliert mit frischer Stimme
in der Sechsten Symphonie!

III.

Little tree with bright-blue blossom, next to pink and blue flowers.Wieder naht die Sonnenwende,
milder, üppiger denn je;
niemals tat so wohl das Leben,
niemals tat es mir so weh.

Selbst die losen Rosenblätter
leuchten wie ein Wolkensaum…
Und ich pflanze unter Tränen
einen himmelblauen Baum.

Christina Egan © 2014


I was thinking of sunlight like golden wine, but it might also a dusk like rosé…

The blue-blossoming tree is a ceanothus; the Sixth Symphony is Beethoven’s Pastoral.

Lavender; ceanothus. Photographs:  Christina Egan © 2016 /© 2017.

 

City Made of Dreams / Stadt aus Träumen

City Made of Dreams

This is the city made of dreams: it knows
no end. Its splendid roads roll on and round
the bristling castles and across the mound
and down across the squares. Its fabric glows.
But right below this net of rugged ground
a second net of ample pathways flows:
the rivers and canals in sparkling bows;
below the bridges, barges go around.
I stand astounded, lost amongst the towers
and giant spires, and walk on for hours…
This is the ancient city without end.
A steep and green embankment is resounding
with laughter and guitars, with life abounding.
This is the Queen of Flanders: this is Ghent.

Christina Egan © 2018

Castle with turrets directly on high street, with life-size statues of historical figures in front.

Stadt aus Träumen

Dies ist die Stadt aus Träumen. Ihr Gehege
ist grenzenlos. Die stolzen Straßen klimmen
empor den Hügel, strömen um die Zinnen
und über Plätze, leuchtendes Gewebe.
Doch unter jenem rauhen Netz der Wege
sieht man ein zweites weites Netz sich krümmen,
Kanäle oder Flüsse glitzernd rinnen,
und Boote gleiten unter breite Stege.
Ich steh verwundert, wandere verloren
im riesenhaften Wald von Türmen, Toren…
Dies ist die Altstadt, die kein Ende kennt.
Die steile grüne Böschung hallt mir wider
vom frohen Rhythmus der Gitarrenlieder.
Dies ist die Königin von Flandern: Ghent.

Christina Egan © 2018

Bridge over river lined by ancient stone and brick buildings with steep gables.

In both languages, the poem follows the same strict sonnet form.

There are only five rhymes, placed as: abba – baab – cce – dde. The final line is linked to one other line, with both of them carrying the main message together: “This is the ancient city without end. / This is the Queen of Flanders: this is Ghent.”

There are also enjambments, particularly “it knows / no end”: unusually, a very short sentence is cut in half so that the vastness of the place is felt in the pause at the end of the line.

The verse are also full of assonances and alliterations and other sound clusters, e.g. “verwundert, wandere” and the corresponding “stand astounded”. In this way, the form of the poem corresponds to the content, a description of a web of roads and rivers and a forest of towers and battlements.

Form and content cannot be separated. This is an essay; the above is a poem!

Photographs of Ghent: Christina Egan © 2018.

Chandelier

Chandelier

At last, the air is warm again; the sky
at last gets gradually infused with light,
the clouds are dusty blue and creamy white:
the colours, too, warm up, warming the eye.
And that pale cliff of buildings, sheer and high,
gets saturated with the same delight
and holds it up against the sinking night:
this half-forgotten gentle golden dye.
And here, above the square of glittering grass,
above the blossom bursting on the trees
which trembles when the wilful spring winds pass,
there floats another sparkling tree, it seems:
a thousand particles of precious glass
struck by the grand piano’s swelling breeze.

Christina Egan © 2013