Bill Milner

Remembering Bill Milner, poet missed in Market Drayton

I came across this poem, treasured and kept safe for years, as I was trying to clear my office of assorted junk.  It’s a beautiful poem, which I think was written as a response to another poet writing in a different language. Bill Milner was translating La Fontaine just before he died, and was familiar with German, Latin and Greek texts, as well as Arabic and Indian poets. He was a fantastic tutor, too, encouraging and learned – a great combination. Here’s his poem:

Only when the war years have receded;
Only when the world around is silent;
Only when you start as a believer;
Only if you make your way alone;

Only when you have the elders’ blessing;
Only when you’re footsore from the journey;
Only when the moon is at its fullest;
Only when it is exactly midnight;

Only when you step into the boat so lightly
It hardly seems to settle in the water;
Only when you dip the oars so slowly
To leave the silver surface undisturbed;

Only when your hearing is near perfect;
Only when you show an endless patience;
Only sometimes, then, you’ll be rewarded:
The fish will sing and give you rare delight.

Bill Milner

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