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Highgate Easter.

   Snowdrops in the corner of the garden,
   on the earth-filled treads of the cemetery stairs--
   white oval bells ringing tempered changes,
   shaking down the soot-rich London air.

   High overhead, a hawk; in the ground, bones;
   mortality like vines coiled everywhere--
   Old Believers gone, the words lie on the stones:
   No life is true but dying makes it fair.

   Time that cycles on the sun around
   row after row of weatherbeaten haloes
   sinks in the fish-cold bodies underground--
   down, down like light on a sea of shadows.

   Bold men who had to share their cave with bears
   are ghosts along the wall, their carvings glossed
   and, like other stones of death, compared:
   Each graven figure is its own cross.

   The lambs wait. "Fidem servat." The pocked granite stays
   until the woodbine pulls it down, too.
   Then the losers say, "Je vous baille ma rente de Baugee,"
   (The wheel has turned; I've nothing to pass on to you).

   Men in winter let their language go,
   but the mute earth that stores foresaken goods
   bursts in each garden with a mummers' show
   of grace as green leaves overtake the Woods.

F. D. REEVE is professor of letters at Wesleyan University.3

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Author:REEVE, F. D.
Publication:Southwest Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jun 22, 1999
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