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Personal Choice 84

Sunlight on the Garden

The sunlight on the garden

Hardens and grows cold,

We cannot cage the minute

Within its nets of gold;

When all is told

We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances

Advances towards its end;

The earth compels, upon it

Sonnets and birds descend;

And soon, my friend,

We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying

Defying the church bells

And every evil iron

Siren and what it tells:

The earth compels,

We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,

Hardened in heart anew,

But glad to have sat under

Thunder and rain with you,

And grateful too

For sunlight on the garden.

Louis MacNeice

Louis MacNeice (1907 - 1963) was an Irish poet and playwright, and a member of the Auden Group, which also included W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis. MacNeice's body of work was widely appreciated by the public during his lifetime, due in part to his relaxed but socially and emotionally aware style. Never as overtly or simplistically political as some of his contemporaries, he expressed a humane opposition to totalitarianism as well as an acute awareness of his roots.

The Sunlight on the Garden was written in late 1936 and was entitled Song at its first appearance in print. The poem explores themes of time and loss, along with anxiety about the darkening political situation in Europe following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. MacNeice also wrote The Sunlight on the Garden as a ‘love-song’ for his first wife, Mary Ezra, shortly after their divorce was finalised in November 1936. They are amongst MacNeice's saddest and most beautiful lyrics.


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