Wednesday, April 28, 2010
I sit restless as the wind, unsatisfied,
Winter's days garnered in an old grey hide,
Puckered and tucked up in a wrinkled rind,
The oldest and the wisest of my kind.
Floating and listing after every thought,
Not weaving or dancing as I ought, caught
In love's webs, spun from Arachne's mind.
Pain of birth, joy of love, fear of dying.
Rain of water, flame of fire, clod of earth.
But of the free air I was born, flying
On dragon's quintessant wings without sound,
Adviser of kings, no subject of Earth's round
Of sufferings, I had a virgin birth,
In past days when of gods there was no dearth.
I wander among the trees, no sapling
Now, as when I first learned their alphabet.
Beth, Luis Nion; Birch, Rowan, Ash; yet
Now I know them all, like fingers on my hand,
The meaning of dog, roebuck and lapwing
Escapes me, like leaves blown in the wind,
Or souls drawn to heaven, having never sinned.
The last of winter's frost lies on the tree,
White fingers pointing to the wind and snow,
As quietly I sit within life's lee,
Warming myself with thoughts of coming spring,
Wrapped in black cares and robe, a winter crow,
Dark winged with only a harsh song to sing.
I wait for her to come again to me.
I thought that I had learned of all her ways:
Of winking eye, of rounded thigh, of lips
Parted, arms raised, dancing with swaying hips,
Of nimble girls running with little skips,
Of full-blown maids, wide eyed with loosened stays.
To each enticement I had become inured
But in her ancient web still lie ensnared.
These new priests with belted knout, dressed in grey,
Told me their new god had a better way
To deal with the baneful bliss of woman's kiss.
But, it seems to me, he was another Atys,
Who, had kept his balls intact (unlike me),
Crowned with thorns and whipped on the pillory,
And killed after the ides of Hilary.
My first love was a kind of Cybele
And I too hung upon a sacrificial tree,
Swinging, with my head hanging upside down.
The lady of life and death came to me.
The harvest of true love she reaped away,
And with the man in red I went to stay,
Until in the Druid's lore I was full-grown.
When I think of later days my heart grows cold,
Of songs and laughter floating on the breeze,
Of times past remembering for one so old.
Those times have become as fabulous as Troy,
When I was middle aged and Arthur but a boy;
Days of love, riding through the apple trees,
Sighing after ladies, hearts full of ease:
Too many stories never to be told.
So, I wait here for her to come to me,
Wrapt in icy wood by her sorcery.
I see in the dull mirror of my mind
Her fair but fickle face and subtle charms,
Unbind the spell and take me in her arms,
A lover at last loved by his lady,
When she glides through the trees to set me free.
What poor fool has hopeless dreams of this kind?
Filling up the empty cave of his mind
With fleeting phantoms of long lost love,
Waiting expectantly for some sweet dove
To come at last and soothe away his cares.
That fool is me, the oldest fool of all,
I sit and wait release from lover's thrall.
Little gods of love there have always been,
Cosseted and loved by their mother queen.
Venus' naughty boy was known to trample
On lovers' bleeding hearts, for example.
Jealous of his psyche, this goddess ample,
Locked her up in dim halls of jewelled gold,
Hoping that her boy's love would soon grow cold.
She should have known that he could never flee
From his own darts of burning ecstasy.
No more could she give up her lover shared
With dark Proserpine, in that yearly round,
When she took Adonis with her underground.
Nor can I expect to escape the bonds
Of loves dark spell and burning lover's wounds.
When gold mates with lead and silver with tin,
Iron and copper in love bind and leave twin
Mercury behind lay within the twain.
God or man who understands this quatrain?
Saturn falls below bright Sol rides above,
Chaste Diana is hunted by great Jove.
Mars with Venus lies; Hermes dies of love.
Lost in the weeds and briars of my mind,
I stumble hither and thither, half blind,
Searching round for another of my kind.
Why do I waste my time with this and that?
Looking in the still mirror of this pool,
I see, staring at me, another fool,
White beard tangled beneath a wizard's hat.
Now, at the end of all my wandering,
Counting the sacred trees on my fingers,
I know when winter comes, why spring lingers.
Waiting for her return, flowers bringing,
Painting the face of the beloved earth,
Stirring the air with shouts of youthful mirth,
Filling the land with the boon of birth.
Once, by the sea, I rode to Cornwall's wife,
In the body of another nobleman,
And filled her up with seeds of golden rain.
I remember now her wild face and clan,
She was Arthur's mother, the fair Ygraine.
And I his magical father now remain,
Tangled up in this web of kingly strife.
There, too, I met swarthy Morgane, my fate.
A little girl she was then, full of hate,
When I came to take away her brother
And replace her father with another.
In a year or two, this father was dead,
Against the Dane in battle Uther led
His men, and dying from the field had fled.
When Arthur was near full grown, with no beard,
I saw her again, this woman; she came
To me for instruction in all things weird.
Morgane the raven; wide mouthed, squint eyed and lame.
I took her in and taught her well my craft,
Of bird, bush and tree, and the secret name,
But when she'd learned it all she left and laughed.
With pallid Christian priests she did consort,
And plotted with the knights of Arthur's court
To adopt this dead Saviour as their own.
Forsaking her allegiance to old gods,
She accepted the rules of their synods
And persuaded Arthur to wear Christ's crown,
To love the Saxon and not put him down.
She knew I loved her but opposed her plan.
With spell and deadly counter spell we fought,
This black lady of death, sweet Morrigan,
Who became the Magdalen of Camelot.
She, with Arthur's foul enemies did plot,
To remove king and queen from Albion's throne.
So that her bastard son could rule alone.
Lancelot to Guinevere she did bring,
Estranging this knight from his lawful king,
Sowing discord among all and everything
Bound up in the lore of the table round.
Agrevane betrayed the Queen's courtly love,
With faithless knights he hunted her to ground
And closed the trap to catch Lance with his dove.
I had seen this foretold in wayward stars,
When the moon eclipsed Jupiter and Mars
In Orion's wake: the scorpion brings war
And famine to the land where Venus' Law
No longer holds sway over kingly might,
Where Mars rules beneath Moon's deluding light,
and brother with brother contend and fight.
Half mad and sick from the loss of his queen,
Arthur lay down, until a vision seen
Of his new god's glory, shaped like a bowl,
Appeared, shining before his weary eyes.
He called upon all his brave knights and squires
To go on a quest and find out who stole
This reliquary, bright with holy fires.
Once there was another bright sacred bowl,
A womb of poison brimmed with all things fowl,
That stained the fingers of a youthful bard
When to his lips the poison he transferred.
It sent him mad with the moons delusion,
He ran amok inspired by the confusion
Between what is seen and what is heard.
When love dies, in its place rise awful sighs,
Rending the heart and filling it with lies.
The sadness in Arthur's breast filled his bowl,
Which overflowed into his sickly soul,
Flooding it with this Saviour's bloody rain,
Poisoning the old world with Christian bane,
Replacing queenly love with nails and pain.
And so they all rode out to look, in vain,
For love's source and the cause of Arthur's pain.
When coin beats club and cup replaces sword,
Old gods become deaf to the wise man's word.
No longer does the bard persuade the king
But priests bend his ear about everything,
And force the world to kiss the Pontiffs ring.
I stand alone, arms stretched between two worlds.
Crystal spheres, singing their eternal song,
Impose on the sublunary whorls
Refrains of good and evil, right and wrong.
With supernatural might I set the scene,
In between what is and what might have been,
And stick my head right through the starry screen.
What I saw was a place of emptiness,
Holding in its embrace the firmament
On which we stand and bear unhappiness
Or joy, depending on our bent.
No god or saviour I found out there,
Beyond the Scorpion and the Bear,
Only utter darkness without compare.
And in this dark womb of Earth I lie, caught
Like a fly in amber, or a ship in port,
No longer free to sail on life's adventure,
Or to believe there is a joyful shore,
A land where youth, love and beauty endure;
Unhampered by the ravages of time
Or the moans of priests in God's pantomime.
When young, the world shows us the face of youth,
When old its face is lined with snaggle tooth
And each day becomes a weary winter
Drying out the bones until they splinter.
Here, in the dark labyrinth of the Earth,
Where roots hang down and body worms inter,
I wait alone for my release from birth.
I lie uncared for by the goddess wild,
My cleverness with cleverness beguiled.
Arthur too lies Wrapt up in dreams of yore,
Buried on some imaginary shore
Or drifting forever to apple Isles,
Tended by triple queens whose wily smiles
Trouble the hearts of poets evermore.
The quiet water drips and builds with lime
Cold cathedrals of iridescent time.
Stalactite and stalagmite bear the load,
Where dwell hanging bats and squatting toad,
Worshiping the dark demons of eternity,
Before light tripping gods with bells did climb
From the ogdoad of Hell's paternity.
Saturn begot her by Harpe's timely slash,
Sister of furies, giants and nymphs of ash,
With shells and bells she came, down with the rain
Of Uranus' blood, born foaming from his pain.
And where she trod and in the air flowers
Rose and fell, roses and primroses; showers
Of love and joy filled heaven and Earth again.
What need have I now for such a fantasy?
Seeking rest in the arms of ecstasy
Or in the tangled webs of poesy;
Woven by desire to trap the lover
In nets of gold, where we soon discover
That love and freedom cannot be sundered:
Love soon leaving when its fruit is plundered.
The sword has done its work; Arthur is dead
Or lies in limbo, struck down by Mordred.
Father with incestuous son entwined
In an embrace of hate, eternal bind,
Signed in blood and the movement of the stars
They turn yearly with Sol and Luna's cars
Until born again to fight in future wars.
On Snowdon's peaks and in valleys of the Dee
I wandered terrified, a broken man,
Fleeing death, from the Battle of Camlan.
Taking refuge in these woods and caves
I live with wolves and crows, thinking of she
Who will come to me, like Venus from the waves,
To wake again my passion, if she can.
She came to Arthur's court from Orkney's Isles
And beguiled us all with simpering smiles.
The daughter of a petty king was she,
Too young to outsmart a demi-god like me.
With secret sighs she promised her favours
To none but me, an old fool who savours
Soon enough the rapture of a woman's wiles.
Once, from oak and apple, mistletoe I fetched,
Out of Diana's woods, to wield my power,
But now in Saturn's wintry grip I cower,
Like a broken tree, with arms outstretched:
Its trunk Hollowed out by Thor's thunder cracks,
So long protected by the Roman Pax,
Now felled from sacred groves by Saxon's axe.
Now I must go where none can follow,
Bound up in this hollow log I will stay,
Staring at the sky, waiting for Nimue
To fly to me, like summer's first swallow
Or wisdom's queen, piecing her king's body
Together from bits buried in that hollow
Tree, told about in Egypt's prosody.
A Poem by Tony Thomas