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

October Casuistry

We have come to the latter season of the year
when kingdoms tremble.
The triumphs go through the town
cohorted with the day-stubbled multitudes
with the old leaf's rusting,
to lay the summer's last dust apt, aquarially.

We have come to the time
when princes fold away their youth
and look to winter.
The bronze congeals, municipal, statuesque,
the rust is long sleep now
and who shall say whether we stir again
before the swallow dares.
All this dark winter now no leaf
only the slowly-shaken bough
stirs the deep pools of the wind
we, being old, remember only the wheel
remember the wheel
and the triple sun,
the tight focus of faith
now ground to nebulae and casual haloes.
stand in the squares and are afraid at night.
Let us be patient, that have no certainty
but of the end, and steady fetlocks treading.
Keep us from fear
turn us to this last penance
we are dry we are brittle crackling brass:
let us retire from the public streets
and pray in winter

Source: personal communication from Edward Wiltshire. Poetry first published by the Hogarth Press, 1929

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski

Copyright © 2000 by Stephen Moss. All rights reserved.