Translation – Sean O’Brien



No, we were never introduced,
Yet she and I were long acquainted.
I know all her ways and all
The tunes this pale usurper sings
To those she has seduced
Beneath the blanching mays
And left, like her, demented.
So eminently natural
That even nature must defer
Before her instinct to conserve,
In leopard shoes and silver rings	
The maenad roves out now
To see into the life of things
And sow her poison at the root,
To claim the earth, to claim the air,
To rid the world of witnesses
Until, in her divine enclosure,
She alone is there.
No, we were never introduced.
What purpose could I serve?
I am no one she’d remember,
Being the merest subject, left –
Far more than I deserve -
To wander in her private grove
Until her work was done. 
Now, in the aftermath of love,
The world is all December:
This is trespass: I must go,
And may the heartless, witless 
Creature neither care nor know.

A re-casting of A E Housman

Sean O'Brien

About Sean O'Brien

Sean O’Brien's collection The Drowned Book (2007) won the Forward and T. S. Eliot prizes. Cousin Coat: Selected Poems 1976–2001 appeared in 2002. His other work includes the book of essays The Deregulated Muse (1998), the verse plays The Birds (2002) and Keepers of the Flame (2003) and a verse translation of Dante’s Inferno (2006). In 2008 his collection of short stories, The Silence Room, was published, followed in 2009 by his novel Afterlife. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University.