Skip to content

Love ends, death approaches

January 3, 2012

The Sunlight on the Garden

Written in 1936, soon after his first wife, Mary Beazley, had left him for their student lodger, “sat under thunder and rain” probably had her in mind.  But McNeice remained on good terms with both lovers, and soon went off to the Hebrides, to write the poem Bagpipe Music and have a short-lived affair of his own. The resulting travelogue I Crossed the Minch, was illustrated by his new squeeze, Nancy Coldstream.

Some think the sense of doom refers to the impending war, but I doubt it – MacNeice put most of that into his masterpiece Autumn Journal. This is lost love and impending mortality – the end of verse 3 is from Anthony to Cleopatra, as he dies in her arms.

The Sunlight on the Garden by Louis MacNeice

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: