Stop listening to that music
and hear instead
what the dead are saying
who were buried on this day
seven years or sixteen or,
if you insist on entering
the hypostyle court
to count the pillars,
a silent dynasty ago.

There is an absent
zodiac where the shifted
tropic once looked down
but one can imagine
the figures unless you
believe only in measurable
stars and cannot behold
even, say, the Southern
Cross with delight.

Now think of the day
a story that has been quietly
boring travellers to Syene
reaches north at last
through stacks and scrolls
to Eratosthenes, who sees
the sun-shaft in that well
and hears the Music of the
Earth start playing.

John Greening has published more than a dozen collections (notably To the War Poets, Carcanet, 2013), and several studies of poetry and poets. His edition of Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War (OUP) appeared in 2015, along with a classical music anthology, Accompanied Voices. Following the pamphlet Nebamun’s Tomb (Rack Press, 2016), he has this year published a major collaboration with Penelope Shuttle, Heath (Nine Arches) and is now working on a long poem about Sibelius. TLS reviewer and Eric Gregory judge, John Greening’s awards include the Bridport Prize and a Cholmondeley. He is RLF Writing Fellow at Newnham College.

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