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Boy with a Mouth-Organ

James Kirkup

Lips hardened by winter’s dumb duress

Part on this other, broader smile of youth

That masks deep shyness in its shallow kiss,

While silently behind its music laughs the mouth

Of Pan, and mourns the skull of a severer myth.


The keen and thick-fringed eyes denote

Languor, delight, astonishment or grief,

Interpretors expressive of the heart

That makes the lake dance, and the leaf.


Boy, in cupped hands hold whatever passion time invents:

Fire your tiny forges with gigantic sound, and fill

Heaven with your fierce harmonics! Inspire those instruments,

Acolus, lyre and grove-hung harp, that now miraculously thrill

Our childhood, the toy that trembles to an ancient will!


From Poetry Review Vol 42 No 3 (May - June 1951)