from Odes: 15 ["Nothing"]

By Basil Bunting 1900–1985 Basil Bunting
substance utters or time   
stills and restrains
joins design and

supple measure deftly
as thought’s intricate polyphonic   
score dovetails with the tread   
sensuous things
keep in our consciousness.

Celebrate man’s craft
and the word spoken in shapeless night, the   
sharp tool paring away
waste and the forms
cut out of mystery!

When taut string’s note
passes ears’ reach or red rays or violet   
fade, strong over unseen
forces the word
ranks and enumerates...

mimes clouds condensed
and hewn hills and bristling forests,   
steadfast corn in its season
and the seasons
in their due array,

life of man’s own body
and death...
                  The sound thins into melody,   
discourse narrowing, craft
failing, design
petering out.

Ears heavy to breeze of speech and   
thud of the ictus.

Basil Bunting, “15.” from Complete Poems, edited by Richard Caddel. Reprinted with the permission of Bloodaxe Books Ltd.,

Source: Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 1968)

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Poet Basil Bunting 1900–1985



Subjects Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Architecture & Design, Living

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 Basil  Bunting


Basil Bunting was born in Scotswood-on-Tyne, Northumberland. Despite numerous years abroad in Italy, the Canary Islands, the United States, and current-day Iran, Bunting is known as a poet of Northern England and is closely associated with Northumberland, where he lived during the last years of his life. Bunting attended a Quaker school and was a conscientious objector during World War I. Arrested for his political views, . . .

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SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Arts & Sciences, Architecture & Design, Living



Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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