Hong Kong University, 1950s
After the Bombing was published in 1949. The poems ‘Two Small Elegies’ come from this collection.
The poem ‘A Hong Kong House’ is the title poem for the collection of that name. It contains poems written during the period 1951-1961.
Two Small Elegies
(i) The Hedgehog killed on the Road
Unspeedy friend, poor earth-child, whose sad eyes
Seemed, when I met you creeping past in life,
To expect no luck from giants of other spheres,
I mourn you lying here; and in your shape
Coiled with vain skill for the last time, in your quills
Slackened and puny, see too deep resemblance
To other troubles, other reasonless
Downbursts of death, beyond your now dead brain,
And yet much like your own. Earth-child, these tears.
(ii) The Snail
Under the bus wheel comes the tiny snail
With all the touch of exquisite accord
Which drew it through the showery world, with all
The accomplished painting of that rounded shard.
A child’s eye drooped, so gleamed the ring-bright shell,
And then the time was up, the thing occurred:
Softly the huge car stopped, with wheel as still
As that slain mystery, hardly discernible.
A Hong Kong House
‘And now a dove and now a dragon-fly
Came to the garden; sometimes as we sat
Outdoors in twilight noiseless owl and bat
Flew shadowily by.
It was no garden, – so adust, red-dry
The rock-drift soil was, no kind root or sweet
Scent-subtle flower would house there, but I own
At certain seasons, burning bright,
Some trumpet-purple blooms blazed at the sun’s huge light.’
And then? tell more.
‘The handy lizard and quite nimble toad
Had courage often to explore
Our large abode.
The infant lizard whipped across the wall
To his own objects; how to slide like him
Along the upright plane and never fall,
Ascribe to Eastern whim.
The winged ants flocked to our lamp, and shed
Their petally wings, and walked and crept instead.
‘The palm-tree-top soared into the golden blue
And soaring skyward drew
Its straight stem etched with many rings,
And one broad holm-like tree whose name I never knew
Was decked through all its branches with broidering leaves
Of pattern-loving creepers; fine warblings
And gong-notes thence were sounded at our eaves
By clever birds one very seldom spied,
Except when they, of one tree tired,
Into another new-desired,
Over the lawn and playthings chose to glide.’