As great and ebon pillars frame
The vaulted granite and nurture the
Bell-watcher, so do overarching
Branches bower all I feel
From this bough-strung, airy cot.
Ah! God’s world! Yes, He made it for us
And lives astride it; and by prayer
And right living, from within
The forest grove we may yet
See him in our minds; crouched
Heavily on his gilt-leaden throne,
Dizzying white to even most-exalted
Human brain. O! Lord of lords!
Highest of the high! Thou art First
And Last, Means and Measure of ev’ry
Plastic, fallible thing of thy creation.
O! To live and be with Thee
Above this dreary world of decay.
To shine forever with the unfalt’ring
Blaze of motionless stars,
Ne’er to feel the pangs of love lost
Or unrequited; ne’er to see the last
Embers of a brother’s once-flaring
Vitality slowly fade into engulfing
Darkness; O! The mere hint of a thought
From thy most Perfect Intellect
Instantly manifests infinitudes of worlds,
Inhabited with creatures of Purity and Grace:
Great winged lions Pneuma-lifted,
Reconnoitre and pounce on the Imperfect:
Twisted, knotting flesh succumbs to
Tooth and claw; the loveliest of womankind
Stroll through fields of primrose, fine garments
Flowing about their bosoms; they help
One another out of their twisted tangles
Of fabric and one by one dive
Into wat’ry ablution, singing
“Hail Mary, full of Grace!
Turn to us thy Perfect Face!
When thou seest what we have done,
Thy wrath shall fall’st upon thy Son!”
O! were the base and lower creatures
Of this sticky, fragile valley grand
As that pinion’d enforcer of Heavenly Law!
Were men and women Heavenward lifted
And purged of whimsical carnal desires!
O! were the very ground upon
Which we standeth steadfast
As thy Word, O Lord! Through me
Sing thy empowering songs of creation!
Atop the precipice of this enchanted rock
I survey the confused maze of human
Order, god-like; from darkness beneath
My forward-looking eyes emerges
A pure, sinuous drone to which beats
The rhythm of my heart and synchronously
The receding ripples of hill and dale.
Obscuring a nearer peak, mists hover
And all signs of life smother:
Thick cloud of acid rain casts
Sheets of death over all it darkens;
But as it passes to a succeeding vale
The light of my seeing beholds a peak
Recreated: bright with new-budding flowers’
Open invitations to free-roaming bees;
New-branching trees reach out
To embrace and enfold the very reaches
Of Heaven; river trout play and burst
The dancing and splashy surface of bubbly
Bourne, drunk on crispy post-shower
Air. Spots of such cloud obscure
Variously among my vista, carried upon
Viewless, inconstant winds that now billow
Up from below, now beat me from beside,
Now tease nape-hairs in subtle desultory tugs.
O! Enchanted rock! Still
And silent forever in thy massive permanence!
Though divine breeze buffet thy barren slopes,
Though soft rain pound thy granite shores,
Though warming sun bake thy stressless crevices,
Still dost thou stand, irresponsive, silent
But for the moaning blasts that gust amain
Through thy mysterious caves and crags;
Still dost thy sheer mass and impenetrability
Impress upon this mutable earth
Thy imposing form, stamping thy design
Upon this world of immediate sensation.
* * *
Down into the hallows of the rock
We travel, disembodied and borne
Aloft by the selfsame wind that carries
The Word from its berth among inner caverns
Out into the world and now back again,
Having deposited in that soddy vale
The heavy crudities of its broadest meaning.
As we delve deeper into the ancient darkness,
The air loses its warmth and likewise
The caverns slow-shine of an alien light
Of unknown yet steady hue,
Like the chill, eternal night
Of arctic borea. Here are frozen
In perfect magnitude beauties in essence:
I reach to touch upon first sight
A band of pure gold inlaid with dazzling diamonds–
My hand flinches in quick retreat
From inhuman cold. Borne now
To a deeper, vaulted chamber
Which roof is crystalline to sight
Even at this impossibly eternal height,
Cistene figures imag’d of most brilliant
Shapes and colours caught mid-step–:
Beautiful serpent coyly coiled
Upon that cursed apple tree,
Fruit of Knowledge yet upon
The lips of ambitious Eve;
Damned, lonely Adam ever
Reaching, tantalised by God’s closeness,
The sight of whose Infinite Being upwells
In him an ever more aching hunger.
My heart cries out for the guiltless souls
Of physical First Man and Woman,
And though in Heaven ripe fruit ne’er falls,
On earth it does, and when it lands
In the lazy lap of a dozing poet,
The dreamer wakes and the hungry eat.