JB: I wrote a book called the Identity of Man. I never saw the cover of the English edition until the book reached me in print. And yet the artist had understood exactly what was in my mind, by putting on the cover a drawing of the brain and the Mona Lisa, one on top of the other

Spain 1939: Four Poems

Andrew Marvell Press, 1939

Of these poems, this is the most often anthologized:

Take your Gun

Man, take your gun: and put to shame
earthquake and plague, the acts of God.
You maim the crazy and the lame.

Terror is their palsy, the knees
of men buckle for fear of man.
You are the God whom frenzy pleases.

You are the gas-man, and the flier
who drops his bomb; the man in tanks.
You wire mines and fear the fire.

And dig the hollow street with trenches
the gas-main and the sewer cross.
The stench of dead men makes you flinch.

But if the dying whimper, pain
pricks you like courage, like delight.
The vein sings to the cruel brain.

What are you, man, that gun in hand
with savagery and pity go,
and face to face with madness stand;

and acid-drenched and poison-sprayed
see flame run lovely like a wake
from raiders; and the burning lake
shake overhead? You are afraid.

The shadow flickers on the wall
like morse, like gun-shot. Terror walks
the tall roofs where the snipers hawk.
He stalks you, man. And, man, you fall.

from Church, R. et al., eds, Poems of Our Time 1900 - 1960, Everyman, 1959. p.41.

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

Copyright © 1998 by Stephen Moss. All rights reserved.