By Clive James

Your manifest perfections never cease
To drive the day-long terrors out of mind
They are the lights the darkness hides behind
Allowing satisfaction its increase
Beyond the petty boundaries designed
To keep us well aware the world’s unkind
And still your eyes proclaim a reign of peace

A ruined man falls sideways far away
And too far gone to see my lady’s hair
Supposing he was here or she was there
My lover’s mouth has not a word to say
To stanch the flow or slow him on his way
It sends a smile to me across the air
And still I feel that fortune smiles today

Between the breaking of your morning bread
And the final pretty speeches of the night
A million destinies drop out of sight
A million people get it in the head
You join the silks and perfumes of your bed
Like a long delightful insult to the dead
And still your breast is where I’d lay my head

Forgive, forget the rest of what I said
And still your breast is where I’d lay my head


From Clive James's Collected Poems 1958 - 2015

Clive James made his name as a critic, broadcaster, essayist, novelist and poet. Collected Poems is James’s own selection from over fifty years' work in verse: from his early satires to his recent poems looking back over his extraordinarily rich life with a clear-eyed and unflinching honesty.
In celebration of his Collected Poems, we’ve selected some of Clive James’s best quotes from across his long career. Read Clive's thoughts on poetry, fame and dying here


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