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Station Island, Seamus Heaney

XI

As if the prisms of the kaleidoscope
I plunged once in a butt of muddied water
surfaced like a marvellous lightship

And out of its silted crystals a monk’s face
that had spoken years ago from behind a grille
spoke again about the need and chance

to salvage everything, to re-envisage
the zenith and glimpsed jewels of any gift
mistakenly abased. . .

What came to nothing could always be replenished.
‘Read poems as prayers.’ he said, ‘and for your penance
translate me something by Juan de la Cruz.’

Returned from Spain to our chapped wilderness,
his consonants aspirate, his forehead shining,
he had made me feel there was nothing to confess.

Now his sandalled passage stirred me on to this:
How well I know that fountain, filling, running,
although it is the night.

But not its source because it does not have one,
which is all sources’ source and origin
although it is the night.

So pellucid it never can be muddied,
and I know that all light radiates from it
although it is the night.

I know no sounding-line can find its bottom
nobody ford or plumb its deepest fathom
although it is the night.

And its current so in flood it overspills
to water hell and heaven and all peoples
although it is the night.

And from these two a third current proceeds
which neither of these two, I know, precedes
although it is the night.

This eternal fountain hides and splashes
within this living bread that is life to us
although it is the night.

Hear it calling out to every creature.
And they drink these waters, although it is dark here
because it is the night.

I am repining for this living fountain.
Within this bread of life I see it plain
although it is the night.

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