Poetry: Too Much Light | clivejames.com
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Too Much Light

My cataracts invest the bright spring day
With extra glory, with a glow that stings.
The shimmering shields above the college gates —
Heraldic remnants of the queens and kings —
Flaunt liquid paint here at the end of things
When my vitality at last abates,
And all these forms bleed, spread and make a blur
Of what, to second sight, they are and were.

And now I slowly pace, a stricken beast,
Across a lawn which must be half immersed
In crocuses and daffodils, but I
Can only see for sure the colours burst
And coalesce as if they were the first
Flowers I ever saw. Thus, should I die,
I’ll go back through the gate I entered when
My eyes were stunned, as now they are again.


— TLS October 5, 2012

Note (from Collected Poems)

The title was not meant as a contradiction of Goethe’s supposed dying demand for more light: ‘Mehr Licht! Mehr Licht!’ It’s a translation of a remark in Eugenio Montale’s criticism, where he contends that a work of art can suffer from too much study. Since Montale himself was a supreme student of poetry in several languages, it was a generous statement. Montale was the poet who defined the poem as ‘a dream in the presence of reason’, still the best definition I have ever heard.