The Transfiguration by Edwin Muir - Poem as Friend to Margaret


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Welcome to The Poetry Exchange. We have conversations with individuals about a poem that has been a friend to them. In exchange we make them a gift: a unique recording of their chosen poem, inspired by the conversation and their thoughts and feelings about the poem. The Poetry Exchange takes place in a range of venues and settings, featuring public visitors and special guests. In this episode of our podcast, you will hear Margaret talking about the poem that has been a friend to her: ’The Transfiguration' by Edwin Muir. Margaret visited The Poetry Exchange at The Chapel in St Chad's College as part of Durham Book Festival in October 2015. We’re very grateful to Durham Book Festival, New Writing North and St Chad’s College for hosting The Poetry Exchange. Do visit them for further inspiration! Margaret is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Fiona Lesley Bennett and Michael Shaeffer. 'The Transfiguration' is read by Fiona Lesley Bennett. ***** The Transfiguration by Edwin Muir So from the ground we felt that virtue branch Through all our veins till we were whole, our wrists As fresh and pure as water from a well, Our hands made new to handle holy things, The source of all our seeing rinsed and cleansed Till earth and light and water entering there Gave back to us the clear unfallen world. We would have thrown our clothes away for lightness, But that even they, though sour and travel stained, Seemed, like our flesh, made of immortal substance, And the soiled flax and wool lay light upon us Like friendly wonders, flower and flock entwined As in a morning field. Was it a vision? Or did we see that day the unseeable One glory of the everlasting world Perpetually at work, though never seen Since Eden locked the gate that’s everywhere And nowhere? Was the change in us alone, And the enormous earth still left forlorn, An exile or a prisoner? Yet the world We saw that day made this unreal, for all Was in its place. The painted animals Assembled there in gentle congregations, Or sought apart their leafy oratories, Or walked in peace, the wild and tame together, As if, also for them, the day had come. The shepherds’ hovels shone, for underneath The soot we saw the stone clean at the heart As on the starting-day. The refuse heaps Were grained with that fine dust that made the world; For he had said, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’ And when we went into the town, he with us, The lurkers under doorways, murderers, With rags tied round their feet for silence, came Out of themselves to us and were with us, And those who hide within the labyrinth Of their own loneliness and greatness came, And those entangled in their own devices, The silent and the garrulous liars, all Stepped out of their dungeons and were free. Reality or vision, this we have seen. If it had lasted but another moment It might have held for ever! But the world Rolled back into its place, and we are here, And all that radiant kingdom lies forlorn, As if it had never stirred; no human voice Is heard among its meadows, but it speaks To itself alone, alone it flowers and shines And blossoms for itself while time runs on. But he will come again, it’s said, though not Unwanted and unsummoned; for all things, Beasts of the field, and woods, and rocks, and seas, And all mankind from end to end of the earth Will call him with one voice. In our own time, Some say, or at a time when time is ripe. Then he will come, Christ the uncrucified, Christ the discrucified, his death undone, His agony unmade, his cross dismantled— Glad to be so—and the tormented wood Will cure its hurt and grow into a tree In a green springing corner of young Eden, And Judas damned take his long journey backward From darkness into light and be a child Beside his mother’s knee, and the betrayal Be quite undone and never more be done.

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