The Face

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When I close my eyes, I can see it,
That bare hill with the man ploughing,
Corrugating that brown roof
Under a hard sky. Under him is the farm,
Anchored in its grass harbour;
And below that the valley
Sheltering its few folk,
With the school and the inn and the church,
The beginning, middle and end
Of their slow journey above ground.

He is never absent, but like a slave
Answers to the mind’s bidding,
Endlessly ploughing, as though autumn
Were the one season he knew.
Sometimes he pauses to look down,
To the grey farmhouse, but no signals
Cheers him; there is no applause
For his long wrestling with the angel
Of no name. I can see his eye
That expects nothing, that has the rain’s
Colourlessness. His hands are broken
But not his spirit. He is like bark
Weathering on the tree of his kind.

He will go on; that much is certain.
Beneath him tenancies of the fields
Will change; machinery turn
All to noise. But on the walls
Of the mind’s gallery that face
With the hills framing it will hang
Unglorified, but stern like the soil.

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