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The Devil’s Advice

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“Nice contradiction between fact and fact

Will make the whole seem human, and exact.”

The Devil’s Advice to Storytellers; Robert Graves

A thousand voices

Of singing frogs take flight like

A flock of starlings.


I heard the gulls beneath the ice

Only when winter ended

When the furry frost had glassed

Then their cries ascended

I looked to the skies, expectant,

But not a speck did I see

And I knew the cries were not the cries

Of a flock that was flying free.

“Ice,” I said, “you speak like a bird,

And stream you speak like me.”

Said they, “If you gull folks they will be impressed,

But if you babble they’ll let you be.”


Wise little sparrow

Sing your nonsense songs

Full of meaning, silly.

Perched on a twig

Don’t give a fig

For the analysis of strangers

Who look at your song

Like staring at a pond

Which reflects the face of the starer

And hides the beauty

That lies beneath: sweet

Wells of marvellous truths

That flash and gleam like

Shoals of golden fishes.

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