Gazing

I have finished – for the time being – with Edward Thomas, and am now reading Rilke, who wrote, in a letter to his wife:Gazing is such a wonderful thing, and one that we know so little about. In gazing we are turned completely outwards, but at the very moment when we are most outward-turned things appear to happen within us that have waited longingly until they are unobserved…

There is more, but that is enough for the moment. That letter was dated March 8th 1907, so today – March the 8th 2016 – is a good day to think about gazing; is in fact a good day to gaze. Gazing is such a wonderful thing.

This is called Gazing (it’s by me; not Rilke)

          “On a clear day you can see the coast of France.”

          I take his word, and on this clear day gaze

          At shapes of low hills, blue-grey shadows,

          That look uninhabited; a desert.

In front of these the shipping-lanes appear

A darker blue than the rest of the sea.

Ships appear hardly to be moving

Until you look away; and then they move.

          Then there is nothing but sea, and the broken

          Light on the sea, and then, much closer but

          Far enough to seem but licks of a brush

          On a canvas, a black boat and a black buoy.

And then the end of the sea, unbothered

Today to be spectacular or grand-

An old-age sea, with its trousers rolled,

Doing no more than paddling on the sand.

          And then the beach and people throwing balls

          For dogs and letting their children romp;

          And then a line of unused chimney-pots

          Atop the off-white crescent of beach hotels.

Above them and shoulder-to-shoulder with me

A pine tree with straight, bare trunk; leaves

That are needles, sharp against the sky;

And then the railing that I lean against.

          And then my eyes, looking outward and sealed

          From the gazer beside the tree;

          Leaving the coast of France, the ships, the sea,

          My gaze returns to something unrevealed.

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