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Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967).  Picture-Show.  1920.

32. Limitations


IF you could crowd them into forty lines! 
Yes; you can do it, once you get a start; 
All that you want is waiting in your head, 
For long-ago you’ve learnt it off by heart.
    .    .    .    .
 
Begin: your mind’s the room where you have slept,         5
(Don’t pause for rhymes), till twilight woke you early. 
The window stands wide-open, as it stood 
When tree-tops loomed enchanted for a child 
Hearing the dawn’s first thrushes through the wood 
Warbling (you know the words) serene and wild.  10
  
You’ve said it all before: you dreamed of Death, 
A dim Apollo in the bird-voiced breeze 
That drifts across the morning veiled with showers, 
While golden weather shines among dark trees. 
  
You’ve got your limitations; let them sing,  15
And all your life will waken with a cry: 
Why should you halt when rapture’s on the wing 
And you’ve no limit but the cloud-flocked sky?... 
  
But some chap shouts, ‘Here, stop it; that’s been done!’— 
As God might holloa to the rising sun,  20
And then relent, because the glorying rays 
Remind Him of green-glinting Eden days, 
And Adam’s trustful eyes as he looks up 
From carving eagles on his beechwood cup. 
  
Young Adam knew his job; he could condense  25
Life to an eagle from the unknown immense.... 
Go on, whoever you are; your lines can be 
A whisper in the music from the weirs 
Of song that plunge and tumble toward the sea 
That is the uncharted mercy of our tears.
    .    .    .    .
  30
I told you it was easy! ... Words are fools 
Who follow blindly, once they get a lead. 
But thoughts are kingfishers that haunt the pools 
Of quiet; seldom-seen: and all you need 
Is just that flash of joy above your dream.  35
So, when those forty platitudes are done, 
You’ll hear a bird-note calling from the stream 
That wandered through your childhood; and the sun 
Will strike the old flaming wonder from the waters.... 
And there’ll be forty lines not yet begun.  40


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