Over Sir John’s Hill

Over Sir John’s hill,
The hawk on fire hangs still;
In a hoisted cloud, at drop of dusk, he pulls to his claws
And gallows, up the rays of his eyes the small birds of the bay
And the shrill child’s-play
Of the sparrows and such who swansing, dusk, in wrangling
And blithely they squawk
To fiery tyburn over the wrestle of elms until
The flash the noosed hawk
Crashes, and slowly the fishing holy stalking heron
In the river Towy below bows his tilted headstone.

Flash, and the plumes crack,
And a black cap of jack-
Daws Sir John’s just hill dons, and again the gulled birds hare
To the hawk on fire, the halter height, over Towy’s fins,
In a whack of wind.
Where the elegiac fisherbird stabs and paddles
In the pebbly dab-filled
Shallow and sedge, and ‘dilly dilly’ calls the loft hawk,
‘Come and be killed,’
I open the leaves of the water at a passage
Of psalms and shadows among the pincered sandcrabs prancing

And read, in a shell
Death clear as a buoy’s bell;
All praise of the hawk on fire in hawk-eyed dusk be sung,
When his viperish fuse hangs looped with flames under the brand
Wing, and blest shall
Green chickens of the bay and bushes cluck, ‘dilly dilly,
Come let us die.’
We grieve as the green birds, never again, leave shingle and elm,
The heron and I:
I young Aesop fabling to the near night by the dingle
Of eels, saint heron hymning in the shell-hung distant

Crystal harbour vale
Where the sea cobbles sail,
And wharves of water where the walls dance and the white cranes
It is the heron and I, under judging Sir John’s elmed
Hill, tell-tale the knelled
Of the led-astray birds whom God, for their breast of whistles,
Have Mercy on,
God in his whirlwind save, who marks the sparrows hail,
For their souls’ song.
Now the heron grieves in the weeded verge. Through windows
Of dusk and water I see the tilting whispering
Heron, mirrored, go,

As the snapt feathers snow,
Fishing in the tear of the Towy. Only a hoot owl
Hollows, a grassblade blown in cupped hands, in the looted elms,
And no green cocks or hens
Now on Sir John’s hill. The heron, ankling the scaly
Lowlands of the waves,
Makes all the music; and I who hear the tune of the slow,
Near-willow river, grave,
Before the lunge of the night, the notes on this time-shaken
Stone for the sake of the souls of the slain birds sailing.