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Royal Festival Hall (Level 5), Southbank Centre, LondonOpen Tuesday – Sunday from 12 noon – 8pm
Artwork by Paul Peter Piech, 1991. Words by Bashō. © the Estate of Paul Peter Piech
Winter is cold-hearted,
Spring is yea and nay,
Autumn is a weathercock
Blown every way.
Summer days for me
When every leaf is on its tree;
When Robin's not a beggar,
And Jenny Wren's a bride,
And larks hang singing, singing, singing,
Over the wheat-fields wide,
And anchored lilies ride,
And the pendulum spider
Swings from side to side;
And blue-black beetles transact business,
And gnats fly in a host,
And furry caterpillars hasten
That no time be lost,
And moths grow fat and thrive,
And ladybirds arrive.
Before green apples blush,
Before green nuts embrown,
Why one day in the country
Is worth a month in town;
Is worth a day and a year
Of the dusty, musty, lag-last fashion
That days drone elsewhere.
Now the swift spring makes our bed uneasy
and bruised earth scents the evening ;
flowers walk beneath the pavements
shaking the city and the street
standards have put out leaves.
The white shoot leans to the light
and the moth courts the weeping candle ;
neighbours are lovers and
the statues discover syllables
to release their tongues.
Later we may remember
a little of their language when
another spring frees the fountain,
but between the seasons lies
the death of flowers, the winter and a bed
cold with the lack of love.
To be articulate was just enough.
I was a breeze on the river's surface
that did not disturb the fish. And in rough
seasons, I scuffed and averted my gaze.
Yes, that is why you forgot. What is lost
is something I never had or wanted
and may have been what comforted me least
when felt vicariously or hinted.
Yet we stop at the river mouth to talk
about a weather station, unnoticed
at sea until this present sky of silk
and an evening wind, blowing south east.
Turning, the past seems so thin that neither
of us can truly say we shared it now.
and we agree, this time, that the weather
station will tell us all we need to know.
Better, I think, to keep our names coded
and committed to memory, our words
in their last glow before being faded
by a dark into which run all the roads.