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IN THE WARD

Old women come here to die. Nurses

Tend them with a sort of callous zest That keeps their youthful patience, guarantees it

In face of all they do not wish to be: Shrunk limbs, shrunk lives, the incontinence.

A woodland scene is hanging on the wall. To rectify some lost connection

With a universe that goes on shepherding its flock Of fogs out there, its unkillable seasons.

Dying, these old have for an ally still That world of repetitions, for, once gone.

They are replaced incessantly. In the ward The picture-glass gives back the outlines

Of both old and young, in a painted Sunlight and among the twines of trees.

HYPHENS ‘The country’s loveliness,’ it said: what I read was ‘the country’s lovelines’—the unnecessary ‘s’ passed over by the mind’s blindly discriminating eye: but what I saw was a whole scene restored: the lovelines drawing together the list ‘loveliness’ capped and yet left vague, unloved; lawns, gardens, houses, the encircling trees.

CHARLES TOMLINSON

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