Across The Red Sky
Across the red sky two birds flying,
Flying with drooping wings.
Silent and solitary their ominous flight.
All day the triumphant sun with yellow banners
Warred and warred with the earth, and when she yielded
Stabbed her heart, gathered her blood in a chalice,
Spilling it over the evening sky.
When the dark plumaged birds go flying, flying,
Quiet lies the earth wrapt in her mournful shadow,
Her sightless eyes turned to the red sky
And the restlessly seeking birds.
Modernist writer Katherine Mansfield (1888 –1923) did not consider herself a poet, and the few poems she published during her lifetime often appeared under a pseudonym.
She generally penned poetry in her notebooks, privately, and dealt with her personal emotions.
The year of the composition of “Across The Red Sky” (1916) she wrote in her journal : “I feel always trembling on the brink of poetry”.
She had had been ill with pleurisy rheumatic fever and arthritis for some years and in 1917 she was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis of which she died in 1923.
Her declining health and impending death heightened her perceptions and allowed her to achieve artistic perfection and receive international attention.
The main metaphor in the poem “Across the Red Sky” are the birds whose restless, ominous flight may be seen as grief, suffering, and a presage of death. The idea is reinforced by the chilling image of blood caught in a chalice and spilled over the sky.
Only by yielding as the earth wounded by the rays of the sun does, can a little peace be found.
Nel cielo rosso volano due uccelli,
volano senza requie con ali curve.
Silenzioso e solitario è quel sinistro volo.
Il sole trionfante con i suoi gialli vessilli per l’intero giorno
ha combattuto con la terra, e quando lei si è arresa
ne ha pugnalato il cuore e raccolto il sangue in un calice,
per spargerlo nel cielo della sera.
Quando gli uccelli dal piumaggio scuro si levano in volo,
quieta giace la terra avvolta nella sua ombra desolata,
volgendo gli occhi ciechi al rosso cielo
a agli uccelli che cercano, inesausti.
Image: William Turner (circa 1830-35) – Sunset – (National Gallery.