David Constantine was born in 1944 in Salford, Lancashire. He read Modern Languages at Wadham College, Oxford, and lectured in German at Durham from 1969 to 1981 and at Oxford from 1981 to 2000. He is a freelance writer and translator, a Fellow of the Queen’s College, Oxford, and was co-editor of Modern Poetry in Translation from 2004 to 2013. He lives in Oxford and on Scilly.
Of all works …
Of all works the dearest
To me are the used.
Copper vessels with dents and flattened rims
Knives and forks whose wooden handles
Many hands have abraded: such forms
Seemed to me the noblest. Likewise the flagstones around old houses
Trodden by many feet, worn down
And tufts of grass growing between them, these
Are happy works.
Gone into use by the many
Often altered, they improve their shapes and forms, becoming tasteful
By being often tasted. Even the fragments of statues
With their smashed-off hands are dear to me. They also
Were alive for me. Though let fall, once they were carried.
Though overrun, they never stood too tall.
Have again the appearance of those not yet completed
Planned large: their beautiful proportions
Can already be sensed; but they still need
Our understanding. On the other hand
They have already served, indeed are already superseded. All this
Brecht, translated by David Constantine.