‘In the Mountains of the Monédières, by the Green Waters of the Vienne’ – a poem by Hilary Davies

© Hilary Davies


    In the Mountains of the Monédières, by the Green Waters of the Vienne


In the mountains of the Monédières
I sat by the brook and waited for you.
The young goats came to see
And the pipits dipped all along the watercourses.
On a sudden I thought:
This is how it will be when he never returns.

The silver birch shook her glory over the garden.
Then I saw the book of your thinking
Fresh at the window and heard your voice speaking
The proof of God to me in the early morning
And how we lay talking many hours in his arms.
Your words stepped out of the hills and the foreign houses:
Love is the compact of the art of living,
The art of dying is the art of learning how to love.




Now I sit by the green waters of the Vienne.
The chalk dust rises as on horsemen long ago.
Waiting for you is past.
It is impossible for me now to rekindle
The desolation of imagining my own desolation.
My love’s going was beyond all imaginings.

Suffering changes fears.
The search becomes different,
The road more extraordinary.
In the grapple with time in the clearing
I learnt the wrong questions bring no disclosures.
But she has grown civiller since I assented
To the disciplines of extremity.

Now by the waters she gestures.
Upon the other bank I see
A dark thing, angular, silhouetted,
With obscene attachments hanging
From it like bits of bone.
It is the place where mercy is spent into the sand,
Where our hearts inhabit the delay
Between event and understanding,
The time in which we have to wait
For time’s reply.

Discerning at dusk is not easy –
A generality, a ghost –
To fancy a scaffold’s become a rooting tree
Is facile assurance:
How can we trust what we cannot see?
Time is a wraith transforming by the waters:
Not what she was, for we can no longer be:
Things change, are wrought in silence,
And come to sit within our soul.
In the shadow where she moves, a white scent grows.




Evening has come. The green waters of the Vienne
Flow slow as honey; the turtle doves call
As they called long ago. A rhythm
That is stillness sinks, and fills the waiting air.
O my ear open. Over the breeze
Come voices, not athwart
But bound in harmonies
Secret, complex as pomegranates.
Voices that are the heart’s tug and fall
Of recognition; love’s work
The notes that make this music
Into what we shall become.
Only time mothers this chance,
Only time the freedom
To make what we’ve received
Into a healing for eternity.

By the green waters of the Vienne
Your voice in the night comes to me.
I hear the hymn of the heart sing to me.
Love is the compact of the art of living,
The art of dying is the art of learning how to love.


Hilary Davies

About Hilary Davies

Hilary Davies has published four collections of poetry from Enitharmon: the latest, Exile and the Kingdom, was published in 2016. She is also a translator and critic. Hilary won an Eric Gregory award and has been a Hawthornden Fellow and Chairman of the Poetry Society. She was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at King’s College London, 2012-16, and at the British Library, 2018-19. She was married to the poet, Sebastian Barker.