How to Paint a Water Lily

To Paint a Water Lily
A green level of lily leaves
Roofs the pond’s chamber and paves
The flies’ furious arena: study
These, the two minds of this lady.
First observe the air’s dragonfly
That eats meat, that bullets by
Or stands in space to take aim;
Others as dangerous comb the hum
Under the trees. There are battle—shouts
And death—cries everywhere hereabouts
But inaudible, so the eyes praise
To see the colours of these flies
Rainbow their arcs, spark, or settle
Cooling like beads of molten metal
Through the spectrum. Think what worse
is the pond—bed’s matter of course;
Prehistoric bedragoned times
Crawl that darkness with Latin names,
Have evolved no improvements there,
Jaws for heads, the set stare,
Ignorant of age as of hour—
Now paint the long—necked lily—flower
Which, deep in both worlds, can be still
As a painting, trembling hardly at all
Though the dragonfly alight,
Whatever horror nudge her root.
Other works by Ted Hughes...