Randall Jarrell

The Rising Sun (1947)

The card-house over the fault
Was split in a dream; your mother’s terraces
Of hair fell home to hide
The wooden pillow, the sleek dazzled head
That bobbed there, a five-colored cloud.
Above black pines, the last cloud-girdled peak
Was brushed on the starlight like a cone of rice.
The clear flame wavered in the brazier;
The floor, cold under the quilt,
Pressed its cramped ground into your dream.
The great carp, a kite, swam up to you
Along his line; but you were riding there,
A sun in air, the pure sky gazing down
From its six-cornered roof upon the world.
The kettle gave its hissing laugh, you bowed,
The characters of moonlight were your name
Across the bare, old order of the room,
And you awoke. In your rice-marshed, sea-margined plain
The flakes, like petals, blew from peak to peak;
The petals blew from peak to peak, like snow.

Dwarfed and potted cherry, warped
With the sea-wind, frost with moonlight: child,
The hunting ghosts throng here for love
Where water falls, a steady wish;
The ronin stalk by, girded with two swords—
These kill, these kill, and have not died;
You raise, as you have raised, the wooden sword—
The great two-handed sword; and your fat breast
Glows, trembling, in the patched
And patchwork armor of your school. . . .
On this stage even a wall is silk
And quakes according to a will; heads roll
From the gutted, kneeling sons by rule.

So man is pressed into obedience
Till even the eldest, unaccounting wish
Of his bull’s heart, is safe by rote
From his tormentors—who are honorable
In their way: which is your way, child.

The brushed ink of clerks, the abacus
That tells another’s fortune, life by life;
The rice-ball garnished with a shred of flesh
Or plum, or blossom, and thus named—
Are these the commerce of the warrior
Who bowed in blue, a child of four,
To the fathers and their father, Strife?
But War delivers all things—men from men
Into the hope of death: Deliverer,
Who whirled the child’s grey ashes from the West
Into the shrine beside the rocks: O Way
That led the twitching body to the flame,
Bring to this temple of the blind, burnt dead
The mourning who awaken from your dream
Before a lacquered box, and take the last
Dry puff of smoke, in memory
Of this weak ghost.

Among many other works Randall Jarrell (1914-1964) was author of Blood for a Stranger (Harcourt, Brace, 1942), Little Friend, Little Friend (Dial, 1945), Losses (Harcourt, Brace, 1948), The Seven-League Crutches (Harcourt, Brace, 1951), Poetry and the Age ( (Knopf, 1953; Faber, 1955), Pictures from an Institution (Knopf; Faber, 1954), Selected Poems (Knopf, 1955; Faber, 1956), A Sad Heart at the Supermarket (Atheneum, 1962), The Lost World (Macmillan, 1965), The Complete Poems (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969; Faber, 1971), and Kipling, Auden & Co.: Essays and Reviews, 1935-1964 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1980; Carcanet, 1981). ‘The Rising Sun’ appeared in Kenyon Review 9 (1947), pp. 260-61, and Losses.

Jarrell’s work in print includes The Complete Poems (available in the US here, the UK here), Pictures from an Institution (here and here), No Other Book: Selected Essays, edited by Brad Leithauser (here and here), Poetry and the Age (in the UK here), Kipling, Auden & Co. (in the UK here), The Third Book of Criticism (in the UK here), and Randall Jarrell’s Letters: An Autobiographical and Literary Selection (available here and here).

Home | Top | Previous | Next