Sunday, August 29, 2004

Aridity and Consolation

I started this late last night when I should have been sleeping, and finished it this afternoon. The last stanza is a bit weaker than it should be, but for the most part I think it comes together well.

The Flood, the Phoenix, and the Hind

I walked one day, a wanderer amid the trees,
singing out a song, the sun all hid from view
but the air hot, and no whisper in the leaves
nor breeze to blow like balm that heals the wound,
and came I on a course that cut through sandy stone,
once widened by water as it wandered home,
but dry with dust, undamp, like ancient bone,
remembering ancient mists and moisture long ago.

And it seemed that I could see in the silence of the wood
a phoenix, fireborn, that flew from bough to bough,
that sought the stream long slain by drought of old,
and, coming to the course, did cry so soft and low
the angels would all weep and echo it in dreams,
and hardly had my hearing found heaven in those strains
than dropped the phoenix dead by drought unhealed by stream,
and, finished, lightly fell, its fire stripped of glow.

Then, herald of all hope, a hind of silver-white,
brought with bitter haste by the baying of the hounds,
valiant with the force one feels in moonlit nights,
leaped beneath the laurel whose leaves were on it crowned,
and, taken by the dogs, it died and knew no more,
and, broken in its bone, blood on the forest floor,
it sank like sunset, thrice solemn in its woe,
which had lately been alive, but at last was overthrown.

Then I wept, and from my eyes the water fled in grief;
the salt it bore of sorrow, and sadness in my pain,
in gravest ruining it rained upon the leaves,
and newly did I mourn that marvels as I had seen
should die in death, no dawn at all in sight;
overcome, I greatly cried for the coming of the night,
and breath with sorrow bittered, I broke with sob and sigh:
my love, and it alone, alive did now remain.

But wait! one sole whisper, like the wind amid the trees,
did rise and rush, then roar with living force,
and wave, as in war an army like the seas
will arm and rise, did water again the course,
a pouring-out with power; like spring-kissed clouds of rain,
from furthest foreign-land a fountain broke again,
as though the gods of glory with grace, or even whim,
had compassion on the creek, and carved a living source.

So first there broke a flood; then flame did burst to light,
and, fire all around it, the phoenix, winged in gold,
did rise in ruddy glory with rays that blinded sight,
and winged up to heaven, the highest of high roads,
a scion of the sun, with shining in its wings,
so holy in its egress as to humble one who sins,
bring penitent to prayer, inspire seraphim to sing,
more glory in its going than gests and tales have told.

The pooling of the blood from the bitter death of hind
with flood and flame was mingled, and force imbued
into a flowing fire, enveloping with embrace of kind
the carcass of the conquered, and covering it with blood
did wash like aeviternity its weariness away
and death undid, as night undone by day,
and, leaping into life, as long ago it played,
it sped, a shot, a silver flash, through primal wood.

The flood, I saw, was faith; the phoenix charity;
the hind was hope, the herald of new life;
and, filled with seeing vision, a flux of ecstasy,
I saw that what is saved is what is sundered for to die
and brought to burial, to be born anew;
for all grow old, and, ancient, to death must go,
but cycles may be started, and, from being severed through,
new life may live, and spring to wondrous light.

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