Splendour of metal, frozen out of light
and fire, was hidden in mysterious salt:
in water, as suspended fluid caught,
all colour’s as if drained and lost from sight;
till sacred world-law’s rhythm can unfold,
and in the glass a springtime starts to dawn:
in gleaming resurrection it’s reborn,
as silver poplar and as beech of gold.
In what are tiny grains of memory
graces of sound and line are fixed and stacked
unseen in crystal form own laws impose:
dissolving them in its mobility,
the mind waits for its deepest force to act –
quietly a wood of gleaming sonnets grows.
For this poem certain background information is helpful. First published in De Amsterdammer, 3 August 1918, with the title ‘Metaalboom’ (Metal Tree).
Certain metallic salts are invisible when they dissolve, but they can subsequently crystallise out in the form of slowly branching, colourful trees. Similarly, the images of memory are stored unseen in the mind of the poet until they acquire their gleaming form in his poems.