Under the Volcano (opening detail)

by Malcolm Lowry

Malcolm Lowry

To Margerie, my wife

Many things are formidable,
and yet nothing is quite so formidable as man.
Over the gray sea
and the storming south wind,
Through the foam and welling of the waves,
he makes his perilous way;
The Earth also, highest of the deities, who
never shows fatigue, nor exhaustion, nor decay,
Ever he furrows and ploughs, year on year,
with his ploughshare, muzzles and horses.

The light-seeking birds of the air
he stalks and traps, the wild beasts of
the forest, and the salty brood of the sea,
he catches with his richly woven net–
He, the cunning one, and by his arts he achieves
mastery of the savage game, of the creatures who
wind their way upon the heights,
tamed through his wondrous art,
And the defiant steed
he bends to his will under the bit.

Speech and wind-driven thoughts and emotions
form the foundation upon which he builds the city,
All of this he has taught himself; and to take
shelter before the inhospitable torrents
of the heavens, and the freeze of the winter sky.
He is prepared for everything; against nothing
does he want for protection. Even against once
perplexing ailments he has developed an escape.
Only against death has he at last no refuge.

Last updated September 29, 2022