Keith Douglas

Encounter with a God (1936)

Ono-no-komache the poetess
sat on the ground among her flowers,
sat in her delicate-patterned dress
thinking of the rowers,
thinking of the god Daikoku.

Thinking of the rock pool
and carp in the waterfall at night.
Daikoku in accordance with the rule
is beautiful, she said, with a slight
tendency to angles.

But Daikoku came
who had been drinking all night
with the greenish gods of chance and fame.
He was rotund standing in the moonlight,
with a round, white paunch.

Who said
I am not beautiful,
I do not wish to be wonderfully made,
I am intoxicated dutiful daughter,
and I will not be in a poem.

But the poetess sat still
holding her head and making verses:
‘How intricate and peculiarly well-
arranged the symmetrical belly-purses
of lord Daikoku.’

Keith Douglas was born in 1920 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and died 9 June 1944 at Tilly-sur-Seulles, France, during the Allied invasion of Normandy. He was largely unknown at the time of his death, but has come to be considered among the foremost English poets of the Second World War. ‘Encounter with a God’, written when Douglas was sixteen, appears in the standard edition of his verse, the Complete Poems, edited by Desmond Graham, available in the UK here and the US here. Other Douglas titles in print include Graham’s editions of The Letters of Keith Douglas (available in the UK here) and Alamein to Zem Zem (here).

Home | Top | Previous | Next