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Poem of the week: Matsushima by Laurence Binyon


A sensual description of the natural beauties of the eponymous group of Japanese islands, this is also a vision of earthly paradise


O paradise of waters and of isles that gleam,
Dark pines on scarps that flame white in a mirrored sky,
A hundred isles that change like a dissolving dream
From shape to shape for them that with the wind glide by!
Many celestial palaces, gardens of scented song,
Have hearts of men imagined for lost happiness;
But merely around these isles, the live sea streams among
Salt with a pulsing tide, no languid lake’s caress,
To sail and ever sail, with not a sound to feel
In the clean blue, but silence vivid with delight,
A silence winged with rush of the dividing keel,
As if the world’s sorrow and folly had taken flight,
Suspended pale as that faint circle far-away
Of mountain, and remote as ocean’s murmuring miles,
This, only this, for me were paradise to-day,
O paradise of waters, paradise of isles.

Related: Poem of the week: My Mother’s Language by Abdellatif Laâbi

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