23rd Jun 2014Posted in: Uncategorized 0
The Timeless Forest

SYLVIA BARNARD, born in Greenland, Mass., 1937, graduated from Northfield Massachusetts School with a classical diploma. A scholarship student, she was also and early award winner for poetry in prep school and received two Honourable Mentions in a contest sponsored by Atlantic Monthly. An Honours student in Classics at McGill, she holds the Peterson Memorial Scholarship here and has also received the Chester McNaughton Creative Writing Award. Eliot and Auden, she notes, have been the chief modern influences in her poetry, while classical and medieval sources provide the ground tones. Her poetry shows an interest in experiment with the hexameter line and irregular rhyme schemes. In addition to poetry, she has acted in the summer theatre at McGill and written a play on Tristan and Iseult which was produced by the Players’ Club. She plans to do graduate work in England.

Illustrated by Vera Frenkel
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Editor: Louis Dudek
Anne Westaway
Sally Rayner
Barbara Shulman
Janet Barclay
Vera Frenkel
Leslie Kaye
Isabelle Alter
Rowland Phillipp
Sue Grossman
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The Timeless Forest
by Sylvia Barnard

 McGill Poetry Series
Montreal 1959
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Copyright by Sylvia Barnard, 1959.
Published for the McGill Poetry Series
by Contact Press
28 Mayfield Avenue, Toronto
Printed in Great Britain
by Poets’ and Painters’ Press
146 Bridge Arch, Sutton Walk, London, S.E.1.
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The White Princess 7
The Guidance of Clio 8
Rivers 9
Lacrimae Rerum 10
The Philosopher-King 11
The Monster 12
The Two Cages 13
The World of Perception 14
The Village and the Forest 15
The Lovers 16
The Vows 17
The Fates 18
Sonnet 19
Liberation 20
The Seer 21
Truth and Falsehood 23
Perversion 24
The Pursuit 25
Persephone’s Daughter 26
Paradoxes: Saint John 27
     The Conflict 27
     Epiphany 28
     The Rabbit 28
     The Tortured One 29
     The Prophecy 29
Christ of the Villages 31
The Forest 32
Sir Thomas More 33
The Angel 34
The Acceptance of Evil 35
Ode to a Century 36
The Rebels 37
The Sculptor 38
Symbolism 39
The Unicorn 40
Easter 41
The Five Seasons 42
Buildings 43
Dialectic 44
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On one side flocked the crows and starlings crying
The brownness of the earth and ugliness—
Behind their cry arose the stubborn sighing

Of men who wait upon the white princess,
Whose eyes are blocked by fields and dust and anger
Against her coming in a peasant’s dress.

Across the bridge of all their summer languor
There may be coolness—birds about a tower
Beating with their wings—singing without clangour.

“You are my brothers—singing from this dawn-hour,
But your skin must be black-burned by the hot sun.
You must beware the white princess’s power,

For she will bind you to the earth, till one
Spring night you cease to ask at all for coolness
But lie with laughter in the web she has spun.” [page 7]


The god in me who reads the history books
And turns them into marching Roman armies,
Parched Crusaders dying in a desert,
Hungry Northmen slaying Irish monks
In the green and misted islands fallen
To the sea—
This god commands that I shall dream forever
Of man in three-dimensional disguise—
The past, the present, and what we call future
Imposed upon each child of Babylon
So innocent of any heritage
But death—
This god compels me to say timeless prayers,
Read Bronze Age poems of Asiatic wars,
Cross oceans in my nights and waking dreams,
Adhere to precepts only half-remembered,
Reject the ways that seem marked out for me
By time—
This god betrays me in my efforts to
Comprehend my one-dimensional world,
Painlessly receive and grant my love,
Show similitude of outward poise,
And follow carelessly all inclinations
Of my will.
This god admits that every age was full
Of men who only lived in present moments,
But in each century the slow-willed ones
Viewed in decision all the passing worlds,
Anachronistically clothed, but shedding
Clarity. [page 8]


Man has lived along the rivers
Since the Tigris gave him birth
Close to all the elements,
Water, air, and earth.

Man has lived in want and fear
Since the days of dinosaurs
Crouched unhappy in his dark
Cramped and dirty lairs.

Man has glorified his heroes
Since old Abraham left Ur
Chosen father of a race
Set apart from her.

Man has prayed by his great rivers
Since the gods were nature-sprites,
Moving worlds by supplication,
Moved by wrongs and rights.

Man has died or rotted living
Since the lepers first began
Populating river valleys
Where brown waters ran. [page 9]


Proud Hector knew the ultimate of hells
When he went out to fight a hopeless war
In horse-hair plume and armour—this his day,
Tomorrow ever-changeless night, for all
The charms Cassandra knew could not allay

The fear of death. His wife Andromache
To bite her chains and share a Danean bed—
And nothing left but brightness of the sun
Now setting, warmth of earth, and flow of blood,
And the morning it will all be done.

The pride of weapons and the strength of arms
Still grant no pride to men—hubris is stifled—
The gods have brought us to our frightened knees,
Athene claims our garments and our cattle,
But makes no answer to our voiceless pleas. [page 10]


The gaunt philosopher could stand before
The people of his deme and tear their souls
To wizened shreds—forbid them to adore
The idols who breathed from their incense-bowls.

The craven want of power would not move
Him nor the lips of prostitutes, but peace
Would be his dream and his desire—to prove
His love, he would command the snows to cease.

But in his fullness he would know the fury
Of reawakened devils in the night
And at his trial the damned would form the jury,
Twelve strong, vowed to obliterate his light.

Down to the vortex of the human stream
Go to components of his vital dream. [page 11]


The monster stirs and struggles from the depths
Of ocean when he hears a lighthouse horn.
The last of all his coiled and heavy race,
He thinks another calls—a mate is born.

He rises and the bricks that form the tower
Topple beside him in the green sea’s heart
Where nothing once concealed is ever told
He and his lover learn that they must part.

A curious story and without a point
For Cinderella and the Sleeping Beauty
Found princes fit to rescue them from death—
Was this not then the low-voiced lighthouse’ duty?

Then must a prince or monster rise again
Obtaining faultless flesh by sacrifice
Or must he reconcile himself to know
The emptiness of love, the thirst of vice?

Oh, monster, how you must regret the day
That knowledge placed you in the depths of sea!
Had you died gasping on the island’s shore
You would not be a source of guilt for me. [page 12]


The lion dreams in fury of his pray,
The antelopes that he has town and sown,
Making them rise again as living beasts
As Jason made the dragon’s teeth become
Hard warriors—the slayers and the slain.

The lion dreams of how he walked the grass
Of Africa—the proud, the swart, the king,
With glory in the blood that flecked his mouth
And glory in the ripping of his claws,
The acting of a saga in disguise.

So too the woman dreams in torment of
The battles fought by Brunhilde bearing arms
And winning Seigfried of the golden beard,
The poems wrought by Sappho in the light
Of torches kindled by Alcaeus’ hand.

The lion stretches writhing in his cage
Object of small boy’s mockery and taunts,
The woman paces in her furnished room
Lost in the loneliness of victory,
Defeated by the glory that she sought. [page 13]


There is a strange, acute, and darkened world
Where every minute act or sight or word
Assumes importance far beyond its worth,
Where every injured blade of grass is dead,
Destroyed, object of our human pity,
Recipient of the weeping Virgin’s prayers.
And yet conversely all the sorrows that
We hoarded in a mere discriminate
Day become ridiculous and we
Can laugh uncouthly at the ways that once
Were precious to us in our act of hope—
The gardens and the castles of our dreams.
And then the Virgin who could pity birds
And flowers seems remote from us—veiled in
The grey obliqueness of a driving rain,
The yellow half-light of a clouded sun,
A vision of the Sunday morning sky
That yields itself to earth by ten o’clock. [page 14]

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I stand upon the porch between two lives—
The mountain forest and the village fair—
And in my mind I slowly picture each.

In one are booths of candy and sweet punch,
Strung with the coloured lights that I can see.
The gala music must be from a band
Playing the country brands of pops and jazz
Or from a travelling carousel where all
The children of the neighbourhood can ride
Clasping the horses’ necks with sticky hands
And dreaming of their prowess on the plains.

The other forest life is dark and still,
The calling of an owl or wild-cat’s wail,
Leaves falling over one-time wells and rabbits
Cowering in deserted house-spots where
A hundred Christmases ago the dead
Exchanged whatever seemed to them most rare,
For they too knew the preciousness of time,
The almost momentary bond of love. [page 15]


In summer’s midnight dusk a rattling car
Came up the driver, silenced the watching dog
And went behind the buildings, down the hill.
An hour later but less rattling now,
The car returned and vanished through the columned trees.

How much did these two people love each other
To come like this into the summer night
Or were they following the laws of seasons,
The pulses known to men since Stonehenge was
A place of prayer and sacrifice in summer solstice?

Were they restrained in reverence or bold
In want and pain? Do they exchange shy looks
At Mass or share a Baptist hymnal? Will
Tonight be sweet in retrospect or will
It finds its bitter way to the confessional?

These are omnipresent alternatives—
To give in white-burnt offering or kill
The thing one loves in one’s own ego-flame,
In this most delicate of all the arts,
The understanding of two isolated hearts. [page 16]


Fragility is the binding thread
Of the promise that cannot be bound,
As earthliness is the breaking-load
That casts unbroken vows to the ground.

Men and women, young or grey,
Pass like shadows in a street—
If a hand touches a hand,
It is to bless and not to greet.

Children come, the shadows of
Shadows falling across each other.
They join the passage in the street—
Their father never touched their mother.

These strangers cry, each from his own
Strait-bounded world—they try to make
Ephemerals take earthly forms—
They press frail vows until they break. [page 17]


Some children walk the hills and see the Fates
In every bush and spider-web. They read
The epitaphs on fallen tombs and cry
At Thomas Hardy and the Theban plays.

Such children are the moulders of their lives
And when against a background of red hills
The Oedipus-like blow is bound to fall
Yet they can weep in bitter vast surprise

As if they’d spent their lives at football games
And known the pain-joy of the Senior Prom,
And this, the tragedy expected from
Their births, were strange and unfamiliar doom.

Unreasoning they mourn what they have made
And asked for often and cannot evade. [page 18]


Unholy prevalence of bronze desire
Striking the placid waters of the sea,
Encircle hungry animals with fire,
Betray the blessed beasts, but still spare me!

The keen embarrassments of sterile pride,
The loneliness of wine and love-making,
The stirrings of the worship that has died
Pervert the weak and leave the strong quaking.

The nights and winds and rain upon the mouth
Are memories of still half-conscious dreams,
Though in the after-months of summer drouth
The world sometimes reverts to what it seems,

For in the forests of the hidden mind
The ghostly dogs will chase a slender hind. [page 19]


Small boys have always looked across the seas,
Beyond the mountains, and far up the rivers
To where the known world ends and life begins.

The camel caravans, the dragon-ships
Have all led to this same far monument,
This obelisk engraved in ninety tongues.

The clipper-ships and covered wagons form
Twin symbols of an epoch and the tales
Of their exploits have passed from son to son.

The first unwieldy railroad train gave way
To long black hounds whose nightly calls have touched
A thousand children shut in boarding-schools.

And then the probing of the sky in young
White planes made man yet freer and
Even the planets less remote to him.

But still upon the every threshold of
The moon the inward struggle lasts—the heart
Cries out to gain its perfect freedom there. [page 20]


The seer watches power-hungry men
Betraying saints who died unbloodied deaths—
The matchless curve of evil magnifying
Good—the strait bewilderment it knows
Upon its failure—Seer, you are more
Than saint—you lead the unanticipated
Dance and bind the world within your silver
Chain—but you did not create the chain,
For even you are marked by time, and time
Is but the fondest figment of imagination.

.   .   .

By months we measure out the progress of the land,
The beating of the snow upon the grass,
The dying of the winds with hopeless cries,
And all the estimates of time’s rebirth—
Astutely mapped by clocks, by water, and by sand.

Sometimes we come to have belief in these oblique
Methods of following the parched events,
Forgetting how their life was once imbibed
Within the centre and without the range
Of seasons—in the solitude we glibly seek.

When we, the children of the never-silent voice,
Speak of retreat and loneliness, we mean
A conjured picture of a forest home
So ringed with water and the fruits of light
That Milton’s singing spheres would hasten to rejoice.

We do not mean the silence of a vision’s pain—
We were not burned with strength at Ostia
Or blinded faring the Damascus road.
The centre of the world is closed to us—
We search its thin periphery with this refrain. [page 21]

“We are the crust of earth—the puppets of the gods
We dance in tune to their inaudible songs.
However much we sift the earth and chart
The stars, swift death and violence return
And these our friends betray us with their scourging rods.”

We fear the centre lest the Pauline fishing-net
Enclose us in its fine-wrought meshes and
Make every cross-bar pole a crucifix
A warning and a challenge in one sign
A place where unbent will and changeless patterns met.

We may dismiss the traitor as a man condemned
By all these patterns; pre-commanded by
A god whose means are less than ends or by
Psycho-heredity as iron master.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, this ancient trend.

Greece saw the opposition of man and the fates,
Who spin in darkness. The Anglo-Saxon thane
Could sing the bee-wolf’s striking at the serpent
His mangling of the monster Grendel and
His weakness before Wyrd who firmly smiles and waits.

Time is the culprit—measuring how stars are hurried
And seeing each occurrence as an act
Apart, denying from our feared and willed
Responsibility the winter web
Of loves, desires, passions, violences forming World. [page 22]


Truth is the strongest of the wills of God
A seven-fold citadel of pure philosophy,
The arch of physics, arrow of astronomy,
Scourge of the foul, defender of the odd.

The masters of deceit are masters in
Negation—holding back the terrible from fear
And mouthing platitudes so barren, coarse, and sere
That shame may seem a virtue, love a sin.

For shame is self-concerned, self-reproduced,
With its religion cinemas and sexual sports,
A fear of love and truth pervades all its reports.
Fear of its own destruction is deduced.

Freedom is serfdom’s cherished middle name,
Wisdom the slogan of agnosticism’s void.
Lies make a rectangle into a trapezoid
And swear at oath both figures are the same.

Yet truth is latent in the works of man,
Truth is a cry that echoes through the wilderness
Of filth it will absolve and scars it will redress,
Itself the product and itself the plan. [page 23]


Blood is the food that marks release
From all the cabinets of stone—
The blood is followed by a peace
That lets the spirit be alone.

This is why people eat their gods
Expose their children on a hill
Defy their criminals with rods
And spur with whips a flagging will,

The peace is temporal and vain,
You fight with guns for abstract truth
And wonder why the concrete pain
Is so unabstract and uncouth.

For to the victims of the night
A pity comes for you who kill—
Their bodies’ injury is less
Than your perversion of the will. [page 24]


The ghostly huntsman of my dream
Pursuing ghostly golden wolves
Is part of that recurrent theme
The slaying of intangibles.

In that green-brooding landscape there
Was all the mystery of death—
I did not ask the man to spare
Either my vision or my breath.

I sat upon a throne of snow
In that expanse of grass and stone,
The tower above, the earth below,
And I in whiteness quite alone.

Raising my arms in penitence
I bade the huntsman have his way.
He turned aside in impotence,
I stripped him of his power to slay.

And still I sat upon my throne,
Filled with a savage, holy peace.
Sweetness of grass and strength of stone
Would stay forever and increase. [page 25]


Let me tell you the birth of Persephone’s daughter,
Child of Pluto, princess of the dead,
No one prepared any linen for swaddling
When Dis and Persephone sadly were wed.

After killing barren heifers,
Golden calves in Semite lands,
Barren because birth was hateful
To Baal-Pluto’s blood-stained hands.

Hear a child’s crying, disturbing the shades,
Listen in wonder, such weeping is wild,
An omen of light that is springing from darkness,
Persephone’s daughter shall bear a child. [page 26]

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Saint John

Thin, shrunken, infinitely old, he came
To Patmos, followed in all his dreams
by linking words, life and death, darkness
and light, paradox in paradox
and by the faces of the living dead
and those who died to life.
   These memories
and linking words he placed on parchment scrolls—
giving strange meanings to familiar nouns,
wine and blood, shepherd and sheep, bread that
is never consumed and wine that never fails,
the vine that grows forever.
   Then he dreamed
of dragons, angels, and the Lamb of God.
But since we do not live on ancient Patmos
these books are closed to us far more than all
the hieroglyphics solvable by science,
for they are literal or lies, we kill
each other to determine which.

The Conflict

The stones are shaped as loaves of bread
On which the children bit and fed—
The view upon the pinnacle
Showed dreams wherein the children bled
From which the hungry foxes fled
Material and clerical.
Of what can we make wine and bread
Except the dreams of those who led
The war against the Oracle?
For though you see where men have sped
Fleeing the gardens of the dead
This fight is but the versicle.
Respond that where a stream is red [page 27]
There more than stones have washed its bed
There love which sought no miracle.


I stood at Ephrata within the wood
And watched the bridge above the wide ravine.
The trucks were passing, and each trailer could
Carry a drop more oil, a bit more food
Than could the last as homage to the ego queen.

I saw below a golden-bodied fox
A rabbit dancing figure-eights of death.
Twisting his way among the sticks and rocks,
He, spared this long from the assaults of hawks,
Remembers someone’s garden with his painting breath.

But I have lived beneath a different law
Within these walls. The Kings of Tarshish and
The Isles shall bring their gifts. Arabia
And Saba shall bring presents—and I saw
Unstolen homage borne by an ungrasping hand.

The Rabbit

This is the rabbit—this is the hypocrite
The weak, the innocent, who could not live
Except by hiding in some bramble pit
And foraging for what the meadows give.

This, too, has stolen and not known the theft,
The woman sitting in a rocking-chair
Has never known the mountain-side, the cleft,
Of rock surveying realms of air.

And yet there too is death—there too are fears,
The sin of Pilate was to wash his hands
And gain the venom of a thousand years
For what we all will do if life demands.
But even here is hope—to stand alone
To live and bleed and not to feed on stone. [page 28]

The tortured one

This is the tortured one—the one who keeps
A vigil with blue candles at the shrine
Of some veiled saint while all the forest sleeps
Not knowing it is thirsty for red wine.

The oracle is strong and will defeat
The one who fights him—it is a strange
Enchanted forest where the birds entreat,
The foxes hunger, rabbits change and change.

But when the tortured one has made his sure
Reply, the oracle demands him crucified.
Foxes despair, the birds do not endure,
The rabbits kill one whom they deified.

Have mercy, you who have been tortured twice,
In your own name and at their painful price.

The Prophecy

I have not promised such a bitter love
As blood may signify. The rocks may look
Upon a fertile field one day—the brook
Will run with wine in earnest and a dove
Will lead the birds and foxes from each mountain-nook.

Perhaps then pleasure will give way to pain
Entirely, and boredom will be dead—by grace
Will all the rocking-chairs be splintered—space
Must not be granted them, for cleansing rain
Must wash the pious souls of rabbits from that place.

The gifts will then be offered timidly
The gold and myrrh and frankincense of prayer,
The stones which belong to the realms of air,
These will be given too, but ignorantly, [page 29]
For who believes in worlds where stones may have no share?

The foxes too will bring their gifts—before
They are aware, they will be sceptred kings—
They knew themselves, and transformation clings
To knowledge. True adorers shall adore
The crucified in the womb of the mornings.

The doors will open in a curious way
Before the shrine, before the candlesticks,
It is not long before it will be day—
The forest does not sleep in its old way,
Even the nervous candles tighten on their wicks. [page 30]

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The wanderer went through white villages,
His loneliness apparent and unsheathed
By circumstance—he watched the silent homes,
He passed the woman standing on her steps,
The churches’ squat and earthbound towers.

He went through trees where warning signs couched in
Mysterious language forced the mind to feel
The same unsubtle horror that a prince
In a mediaeval forest felt for dwarfs
And wolves and thin barbaric peoples.

However much he wished to stop, he knew
Time’s pressure and the emptiness of each
Closed door—more perfectly he knew the walls
That rose within each house—what was concealed
By the tranquility of gardens.

And still he waited, locked in love as no
Man ever could be locked in hatred’s known,
Communal nature—he must wait until,
His exile sealed, his presence might be met
By hatred’s well-trained emissaries.

Then three days later may redemption come
For all the dead, the witches, and the thieves.
May suffering be poetry and may art
Display the gaunt and tortured traveller
Still dying on his cross of silence. [page 31]


My lovers, do not seek to drive away
Enchanted birds from an enchanted forest—
They will fly up with flash of blue-black wings
And meet you with no fear and no surprise.
Some tempt the unicorn to virgin laps
To take his blood and tear away his horn,
But there are more who let him go at last
In pity for his barren forest home.
He will traverse a bitter mountain road,
The way of pain and childbirth, flood and fire,
But you will shrink in terror from its rocks,
You will succumb again to senseless fears.
But why do you watch images, chained in
Your cave, the swaying forms of market-women
Or ranks of stolid soldiers marching on
To death? I shall show you the daylight’s wonders,
The cries and calls of forest animals,
The angry rush of rivers and the endless quest
For food, undying water and unending bread
Contained in the seed of the white snow-flower. [page 32]


Creator of the country parchment where
Contented people lived mediaeval lives
With modern justice and Hellenic care
For wisdom and that which its art contrives.

You, the great lawyer and the Latinist
Wise in how economic systems fail,
Host of Erasmus, England’s humanist,
The learned reader of Vespucci’s tale

They say you died for blind authority
Or lingering tradition in your blood,
Who do not know the Civitas Dei,
Eternal city dedicate to Good.

They only see the evils of the land
And not the blessings of the unpraised hand. [page 33]


This is the angel who will sing forever
Bearing its burdens on its gold-tipped wings—
This is the child who laments by the river
Weeping to hear how low the angel sings.

Have we not met the angel in the mornings
Under the elm-trees and beneath the clocks?
Have we not turned away from him with spurning
And barred our doors to him with curious locks?

Behind the priest he hovers with a “Kyrie”
Upon his lips—over the bed he bends
And waits in consolation till the day
Of strange beginnings and too-final ends

Wait for the angel—listen to his song,
The day is pitiless and the weeping long. [page 34]


The flagrant intermingling of good
And evil in our breasts is far too strong—
An ever-present Zoroastrian flood—
The elements of water and of mud—
A deluge wild and turbulent and long.

The bearded rebels and the powdered wives
Have made their vows and cleave unto their oath.
They lightly and directly spend their lives
With patterned pleasures and well-ordered drives.
They spend their energies extolling both.

In us there are two visions—one of night—
The throbbing and the terror of despair,
Of revelations made by candlelight—
And one of day—a day so veiled in white
That it is more aerial than air.

Who could accept what is ethereal
And live perpetually in troubled search
For unsymbolic rocks corporeal
For dreams that are more than ephemeral
For idols holier than any church?

Between despair and dreamland find a mean,
Between the brave romantic life and that
Which is the spirit’s death, and I have seen
The verge of both and neither, for the queen
Of my dominion still may watch a cat. [page 35]


Here come the people, surging over the earth—
Have the Fertile Crescents ceased to feed them?
In tents and roadways women will give birth
Blaming God and locusts for the nipples
Which give no milk. Will you create a brave
New world, dreaming poet, on your faith in
Man? Man begets himself nor can free love,
Chemistry, or new religion give him
Life. You, Pinocchio, will not become
Flesh and bone until you know a reason
To desire bones and flesh, for not a crumb
Under any table falls to sad-eyed puppets.

I utterly scorn your mock despair
And wave my pencil in the air,
Follow me laughing if you dare,
It is you who have strangled life and love. [page 36]


And those who cry against their world grow old
Bald, senile, and a bit ridiculous.
They find their early ardour growing cold,
And when they wish to be most beautiful
They are most hampered by the commonplace.
Who wants to say “I love you” may but say
“Lend me your pen” for earth presents its face
Of ugliness and this is all the heart
Resplendent in its inner rooms reveals.
A friend once said, “It is a dreadful thing
When one is never thought of as one feels.”
My child, be thankful you have secret strength.


Still there are people fighting with the rain
Who want imaginary summer in the earth,
Who have not learned the lesson of their pain
But dream discordant music and strange violent birth.

They are not rebels—they are swift to love,
Swift to accept the water and the Latin word.
Unconscious of their height they rise above
The vision of the free that has become absurd.

But yet they are the movers of the world
Who change the actual abyss to what they will.
By vivid burning hands the stones are hurled
Away that built the walls, the prison, and the mill. [page 37]


From the impersonal body that he did not love
The sculptor made a mould of classic beauty—
Blank eyes and Roman nose preside above
The large erotic breasts he felt his duty

To provide her. In her arms and legs
The indolence of harems is implicit,
And her plumb out-stretched hand astutely begs
Whatever alms its softness can elicit.

But from the body he desired profoundly
He formed a twisted, sharp, and harsh design.
The rib-framed breasts unable to flow roundly
Contrast with large eyes and the slender line

Of long gaunt arms. The bony feet express
Searching the world for an aesthetic Grail—
The hungry face and hands tend to distress
Those men who see no glory in the frail. [page 38]


There is a latent symbolism in
Whatever men find necessary to
Their lives—their eating is a shadow of
Their seeking strength—their illness and their sin
Are intertwined mysteriously—they do
The sexual act as outward sign of love.

The private miracles of pain and art
Which men hold hidden in their places of fear
Presage the sharp realities of life,
The twistings and the turnings of the heart,
Eternity unwaning with the year,
The veil of matter torn without a knife.

But men still eat and breathe and copulate
With no regard for stark reality.
They do not see in war a sign of Hell
Nor keep their laughter free of languid hate—
Not seeing life in its totality,
They think the shadow-world is just as well.

The circle of the beautiful is wrought
In stone—more precious than the well of an
Oasis—freer than the hidden song
Of nightingales—the tortured ones have fought
To find this beauty, and its slender span
Embraces all the scourged and makes tem strong.

The beauty which is truth beyond the true
Is built of all the love that sees itself
Rejected but returns to grasp its cross
And abnegate its will—the sum of you
Who meditate the spirit, not the shelf
Of dry despair that feels the body’s loss. [page 39]


The thin proverbial beast of mistranslation
Invoked a legend for the shadow years
Whose holy dreams and fires are most forgotten
In our strange knowledge and new foreign fears.

Its white and transient form is seen throughout
The forests that lie over the old world.
Where women walk by stark secluded lakes,
It shows its horn protuberant and curled.

And all the vanished victims of the plagues,
The guillotines, and nightmares of the past
Rally about the unicorn’s white neck—
The lion and the leopard did not last. [page 40]


This is the day of urban Resurrection
After the darkness of the city’s Lent
When we have gone with scarved heads to confession,
Emotionless and dust-grimed to repent.

I, too, have seen the shattered pane of glass
Have seen it cutting sharply in my breast,
And waited vainly for the freeing grass,
The winds from some far-coasted boundless West.

And now at last the world is dim with incense,
The high procession passes through the church.
We have another spring to make our imprints
Upon some new-born thrusting piece of earth. [page 41]


Within the circle of unhurried moments
There lies a season that is neither spring
Nor autumn—still less the cold extreme
Of winter or the burden of July,
The season that is given not by earth
Nor by the movements of the animals,
The season that is given inwardly to man,
His revelation and his solitude.

During this season of his life he knows
Growth in philosophy as in spring fields,
Passion of summer in his eagerness,
Autumnal peace and angry winter’s fury.
The cravings of the winter-hungry mind
Absorb the mystery of ritual spring,
Mature as do the leaves and birds in summer,
Ripen with all the richness of the fall. [page 42]

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 [illustration, unnumbered page]


The pilgrims going to Jerusalem
Paused every summer at a certain tower
Grey-green with moss and drifted in with leaves.
There were long stories told by travelling bards
Shaping their dusty fingers to their lutes
And singing songs of lion-hearted men.

The pilgrims going to Jerusalem
Would stop in sleepy taverns where the floors
Were strewn with heavy straw and on the board
Were always broth and sour wine to drink,
And in the gabled lofts were always beds
With feather mattresses and fur-lined rugs.

The pilgrims going to Jerusalem
Endowed new churches when they came again
To Europe—their new Gothic towers rose,
Became the home of incense and plainsong,
Refuge of birds and heart of singing bells,
Wind-towers of angels chanting psalms to men. [page 43]


The source of poetry is beyond its reach
For words themselves degrade the height of truth.
However long the poet may beseech
The language he must always be uncouth.

The vastness of the evening death
Is unapproachable by Hebrew chants
Or Latin whispers—every secret breath
Echoes upon the fiercely astral dance.

The passions clothed and carried through the day
Become the fire and hopelessness of heart
Presaging wisdom, while the surface way
Of life is less than real, a work of art.

Enflamed mediaeval symbols fill the sky
Where planets softly sing and white birds fly. [page 44]


 1.   Leonard Cohen, Let Us Compare Mythologies (O.P.)

2.   Daryl Hine, The Carnal and the Crane

3.   George Ellenbogen, Winds of Unreason

 $1.50 each

[page 45]

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