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Cover for The First Four Books of Poems

The First Four Books of Poems

W. S. Merwin


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Half Roundel

I make no prayer
For the spoilt season,
The weed of Eden.
I make no prayer.
Save us the green
In the weed of time.

Now is November;
In night uneasy
Nothing I say.
I make no prayer.
Save us from the water
That washes us away.

What do I ponder?
All smiled disguise,
Lights in cold places,
I make no prayer.
Save us from air
That wears us loosely.

The leaf of summer
To cold has come
In little time.
I make no prayer.
From earth deliver
And the dark therein.

Now is no whisper
Through all the living.
I speak to nothing.
I make no prayer.
Save us from fire
Consuming up and down.

Evening with Lee Shore and Cliffs

Sea-shimmer, faint haze, and far out a bird
Dipping for flies or fish. Then, when over
That wide silk suddenly the shadow
Spread skating, who turned with a shiver
High in the rocks? And knew, then only, the waves'
Layering patience: how they would follow after,
After, dogged as sleep, to his inland
Dreams, oh beyond the one lamb that cried
In the olives, past the pines' derision. And heard
Behind him not the sea's gaiety but its laughter.

The Fishermen

When you think how big their feet are in black rubber
And it slippery underfoot always, it is clever
How they thread and manage among the sprawled nets, lines,
Hooks, spidery cages with small entrances.
But they are used to it. We do not know their names.
They know our needs, and live by them, lending them wiles
And beguilements we could never have fashioned for them;
They carry the ends of our hungers out to drop them
To wait swaying in a dark place we could never have chosen.
By motions we have never learned they feed us.
We lay wreaths on the sea when it has drowned them.

Copper Canyon Press, 9781556591396, 256pp.

Publication Date: April 1, 2000

About the Author

W.S. Merwin is one of America's leading poets. His prizes include the 2005 National Book Award for his collected poems, Migration, the Pulitzer Prize, the Stevens Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and Lannan Foundation. He is the author of dozens of books of poetry and translations. He lives in Hawaii, where he cultivates endangered palm trees.