Poetry: Sunset Hails a Rising | clivejames.com
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Sunset Hails a Rising

O lente, lente currite noctis equi!
— Marlowe, after Ovid

La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée.
— Valéry

Dying by inches, I can hear the sound
Of all the fine words for the flow of things
The poets and philosophers have used
To mark the path into the killing ground.
Perhaps their one aim was to give words wings,
Or even just to keep themselves amused,
With no thought that they might not be around
To see the rising sun:
But still they found a measure for our plight
As we prepare to leave the world of men.
Run slowly, slowly, horses of the night.
The sea, the sea, always begun again.

In English of due tact, the great lines gain
More than they lose. The grandeur that they keep
From being born in other tongues than ours
Suggests we will have time to taste the rain
As we are drawn into the dreamless sleep
That lasts so long. No supernatural powers
Need be invoked by us to help explain
How we will see the world
Dissolve into the mutability
That feeds the future with our fading past:
The sea, the always self-renewing sea.
The horses of the night that run so fast.

Note (from Collected Poems)

The title started life as a line in a poem by Francis Webb, an Australian poet of the previous generation who spent much of his life as a mental patient. His poems rarely cohered but some of them contained fragments too beautiful to forget. In the same poem, the line from Doctor Faustus about the horses of the night was taken from Ovid by Marlowe, who left it in the Latin, changing only the word order. The line from Valéry can be found in Le Cimetière marin, best translated by Derek Mahon: although the two translations here, like the two translations from Marlowe’s Latin, are both my own.