All For Show

All for Show

A Mock-Epic Satire

Addressed to the Politicians

 

Invocation

 

Smart Muse, pray, twixt your forefinger and thumb

Hold true, to strike my careful target dumb,

My worded aim as steady as a tree;

Though dumb-struck they before and current be;

And with that thumb and finger posed sublime,

Squeeze out my song! As you’d some spot divine.

 

Prologue

 

 

Politicians, they that grow the state:

What should we mortals know of their famed fate?

The highest office to which we might aspire,

It soon begs need of funeral attire.

So we might dream to be a Senator;

But, no: they speak not well, and lack an editor.

I do not think that many would be Mayor:

Small towns keep not the Judicious or the Fair;

Large towns smother them ‘neath crooked decay,

And City’s pleasures keep the Mayor from visiting the day.

Reason is lost when in the Seat, it seems:

The House objects, some few reject, and reams

The Speaker on to stall, while the Candidate schemes.

What the use, then, shows for all this show?

The Drama’s there, but the purpose all is low.

We’d best displace our eyes: quick! Look away!

The show must soon be stopped! This could not last a day!

Yet, while they live, the Politicians play;

And we cannot avoid at least to hear the things they say.

 

 

Book I

 

 

Take for my purpose now the Faerie’s Land:

Great nation, that; but oft’ by dischord manned.

Once, it knew ideal Cooperation;

But ideals have drowned that lost vocation,

Torn the habit off young Democracy,

Then drowned her too, and dressed deceptively

In soiled second hand her sibling dread,

Corrupt, by whom Decision’s brought to bed.

Up past towers of gold, this wets her wits:

‘Twixt two rivers, opposèd firm, she sits.

The river “Tell” moves straight, unruly fast,

Down some way to a waterfall it blasts.

That cataract is called “The Great Mistake”,

For Titan once did a full mountain break,

Not looking where he tread, and let the flood

Of “Tell” erupt. There Titan washed in blood:

His hulking frame, now fleshed away to bone,

Can still be seen, among his ruins of stone.

The other river, “Echo in the Ear”,

Runs firm but slow; its waters are quite clear.

It moves out to a sighing breadth of Sea,

Where no one goes: some say it may not be.

These rivers, two, surround a mountain high,

A mighty mountain, “Justice”, rules the sky.

And at the summit of Mount Justice lies

The “Speak-Hall”, goal of govern-minded eyes.

There the “Grand Faerie-Head Elect” resides,

And represents the gen’ral cares and prides:

All complaints of the lower crowd are told

By him to the “Deciders”, they who mould

The State in voting by majority:

This way knows not inferiority.

Say that a faerie’s silken wings be torn:

Let him straight appeal; by the “Hall” be bourn

His piteous case, debated left and right,

Whether help be given, or not, the injured sprite.

Let us hear, now, one such spate half moved,

And view the grounds where government is proved:

When to the “Speak-Hall’s” inner dens we reach,

We hear the echo of this scorching speech:

“It’s told us he has made, of Faerie’s gold,

Enough to pay his needs: therefore, too bold!

That he has asked us to his aide is scandal,

When he has enough for his own needs to handle.

Let him hold a changeling boy at ransom,

And it should catch him fortune, if it’s handsome.

But we should refuse, by state-earned resource,

To fix the fool. So the Hall should set its course.”

This spoken from “The Grand Old Wings” at court:

Foremost to cry the claim: “The Little Faeries We Support!”

Foremost, as well, to uphold Faerie law,

(Unless it shouldn’t be upheld. They saw

So clearly then: “it should be torn apart!”:

But, then, they’d search through all the shredded bits,

When the letter their design well fits.)

And for “The Grand Old Wings”, as represent,

The fiery-spoken Shock most oft’ is sent.

Sure it was he now spoke “The Grand’s” consent:

From his pulpit on the right his rhetoric is spent.

Next, in retort, “The Faeries for Faeries” speak:

They for the gen’ral good of Faeries seek.

For the “Left-Wings” (as such they’re often named)

There spoke young Temper back, and thus he claimed:

“The law allows all Faeries find their way,

In their own way, ‘tis true. But a moment stay.

We and the Elect have drawn a thought,

The which, if you’ll be patient, you’ll be taught.”

Here Temper paused, a great effect to make:

Allow the “Grands” a moment’s breath to take.

Shock flourished mocking hands, small purpose there,

But to remind, his presence full to share.

Temper puffed ripe red at that duress.

Oft’ had he warmed at Shock’s facetiousness.

But Temper managed his anger’s disrepair.

He puffed, but kept his choicèd words with care.

“Here is our “Thought”,” continued Temper, waving

Thick-bound sheaves (in which words found no saving).

“In this you’ll find what saves our state from wreck;

And once you read it,” (here he threw the stack to Speck;

Speck rushed about on tiny wings of fleet,

Dispersed the “Thought”, then flit back to his seat,)

“You must agree: our counsel take the course,

As set by what is writ. We will not force

You, though, to fill full straight hours at seat,

Without adjournment met to take to feet,

And work the restless matter so the mind

May full recuperate, and recourse find.

I offer the “Speak-Hall” break, repose to seek;

Sep’rate reflect for the turn of a week.

That’s time enough to thorough read our scrip,

From felt form thought; opinions take, those censure for the lip,

Thereby, complacent, argue, not to slip

The tongue to dagger at our ears, or flip

The tables for unreasoned fears. Clip

Your wings of fancy, and prune your locks of the grand:

Lest we lose this Hall’s careful command.”

So Temper spoke, and then good Temper sat.

Up now Speck who started “That is that,”

His little eyes appealed, with nervous motion,

The swelling hall to pay him one moment’s devotion.

In Speck’s hands appear his little book and pen.

With tip to blank uncovered page, said he then:

“We shall call it straight into a vote.

Those in favour, say favour, those not, say not; I’ll note.

Well. First I’ll ask the ones in favour speak.”

They spoke a not resounding “I”, but not a weak.

“That’s noted,” noted Speck, regarding his own note,

Which read: “Hundred “I” – that’s favour,” this he wrote.

“Next, after favour, comes “not”: those “not”, speak “not”,

As I had rendered before in my first plot.”

There followed, then, some uneasy silence:

Speck noted; silent counted with some violence;

The whole hall waited, Speck scratched the guiltless page

With his furious pen, as if the ink were in a rage

To mark the surface of that thoughtless spectre,

Whether with senseless blot, or character;

Then Speck flew his tables to the “Elect”,

Who read Speck’s notes while Speck stood by direct.

Th’Elect was silent set above the court;

He gazed his half-lid eyes with dread import:

His great grey locks, held tight unto his skull,

Shook terribly ‘cross coarse-wove robes and dull.

He moved- lethargic- if at all he lift

That aged wrist wilst sandy garments sift.

Or else he stayed: remote for long whiles keeps;

That few can tell he ponders or he sleeps.

Speck was at, and quick he came aright,

That massive seat; upon a heavy shoulder light:

Speck’s paper to that parchment hand he took,

Th’Elect; to that did ponderously look.

That serious Fay; grave of necessity;

Read out such tables as if a recipe,

And seeing Speck’s results held not the yield

Elect desired, his lips he slowly peeled

Apart, and frowned out these frowning words to Speck:

“Methinks, good Speck, you needs again take check

Of what is here writ in your voting book-

It says you’ve counted hundred “I” – but look:

Naught have said “not”, and it surprises me

Such number lack a vote as sixty-three.

Check again, Speck, check again: check close.”

So slight Speck pinched a pair, upon his nose,

Of golden spectacles, and scanned the page

With wide attention, then said wise and sage:

“Elect, I see that you are right; right fool

Am I! I’ll fix in sixty with the tool

Of reason straight! Don’t move! I’ll take the vote

A second time, but here I’ve clearly wrote:

“Remind them all to vote,” for, as you’ve clearly

Pointed out – how observant you! – Some number

Sixty-three we’ve missed! A funny blunder!”

Speck flew to the center of the floor again:

“All the blame on me by myself is rightly lain;

But gentlemen and ladies, I’ll explain

The problem – that there were none, I would fain,

But there is one! Some sixty-three in vain,

When asked to vote for “not”, they voted “naught”,

That is, they did not vote! The hands of the lot

That voted not, may I see? I’ll measure…

Ah! Sixty-three exact! Now, by your pleasure,

I’ll take again the vote, as previous;

But when I say: ‘Vote “not” for “not”, understand us,

We mean you to say “not”, the very word,

Not to not say a word. Let’s hope a third

Vote is not needed. If understood, your hands –

An hundred-sixty-three! Heavenly bands

To my quick-counting eyes – Now! The second.

Those agreed to quit the Hall, as reckoned

Before, I’ll hear an “I” again. I’ll keep

The record straight as you shall several speak.”

So spoke again the “I”, just as the first,

The same in number, though some now mildly cursed.

Speck counted these and scrawled: “Second Record:

Hundred “I” – (some fifty cursed ‘By th’ Lord!’)”

So; and then, “Now, those who disagree;

Who think to quit the Hall abuse of Liberty;

Rather believe to keep us all oppressed,

To dreary seats another moment pressed,

Speak now the very word – aloud – “NOT” –

And have your record cast – I’ll count the lot.”

So spoke a weak and spotted “not” the few

Lesser, and these – “Some sixty-three “NOT” do

Vote”- did speck record into his notes

Filled with various votes, and votes on votes.

Again did Speck engage in his fierce mode

Of calculation; to arithmetically load

Himself with mundane facts and figures his daily treasure:

Then Speck flew the Elect again his measure

Of the vote recounted; quick conversed;

Then returned to center to present:

“The vote proper: ‘gainst sixty-three were sent

An hundred here to favour quitting court;

To leave and in one week again report.”

So the vote: cast, measured, and decided.

The “Hall” was quit; one week unpresided -

But no! Just at the tail of Speck’s short speech

Protestment swelled out from the right’s far reach;

Like if some adolescent frog, mid learning

How to ‘croak’, decides, with young throat burning

To be noiseful, to fill the swamp up full

With his unwieldy sound, though all do pull

Their ears tight shut against his prideful call;

The young Shock rose, and puffed up and boiled, all gall.

He raised his voice up such as all referred,

Though they consented not, did hear Shock’s word:
“I raise my exception to this distasteful “Thought” proposed,”

Shock shouted, (fist, upheld in air, tight-closed).

All faeries sev’ral sighed, turned eyes away,

All wearied, to where Shock and his small crowd did stay.

Temper turned roused with indignation; he thus derided:

“Shock! The vote’s been cast and all decided!

Move yourself, like all the rest, without.

There’ll be no exceptions, even you mewl and pout!

I’ve known your sudden ways before, you wrench!

You disagree with what your fancy drench

With some unfounded disalignment to your morals,

Then you drown the “Hall” in dreary chorals

Of speech, full hours long, and run to days,

And manage never once to speak of ways

You’d speak against the thing you’d speak against!

You only ill-use time and leave us sleep-entranced.

Not now to rant, you penny-gazing flit,

Do not rise now, lest you will I would spit

Down your words, and pluck out slow each feather

Of your wings, so you’ll not fly at weather

That you know not purpose of or reason!

Tis not the time; no, tis not yet your season!”

So ran Temper’s speech without a breath,

To bring Shock’s protest to an early death.

But Shock would not let his opinions die;

Up to the Elect he quick did fly;

The Elect turned round and granted audience

To Shock, who wasted no time with his witted parlance:

“Grand Faerie-Head Elect, I beg you stay,

But for a moment more the Hall not fly away:

Grant me warrant: moment’s last remark,

Else, be sure, I’ll plague you with the Tyrant’s mark:

I’ve no recourse left to me but extreme,

For otherwise you’d say: ‘Twas obscene,

That Shock, and better we had let him rant

Alone.’ I realize you wish my words more scant,

That you think I am a prodigal in discourse,

But ‘tis my way to be heard. If I must force

My words upon you, so; do not believe

But I’ll speak. Grant a moment’s word, I’ll leave.”

As he spoke, all sighed exasperation,

It seemed no faerie wished for Shock’s placation.

Young Temper’s huffs were loudest of them all,

But as he started to protest was stalled:

The Elect; still; silent; motioned him to hush

(The quicker Faerie complied with bloodred blush);

Then motioned that Shock speak his moment’s word:

And this incendiary was by the whole “Hall” heard:

“I represent not only my own mind,

But of my colleagues too, in whom I find

A like agreeance to my thoughts on this,

The “Thought” that you propose we read: you miss

The mark in most of what you say, but now,

With this hateful creed in ink, you ill endow

Yourselves with power to variate the very law!

No such perversion in this Hall I saw,

Until just now! To alter our foundation!

The bedrock, the very rock! Of our proud nation!

Indeed, I represent the very sustenance

Of Faery kind in this my remonstrance!

It assaults my senses sore that this government

Which I adored, with belief of a better sense in it,

Would think it a wise thing to change what ages,

Ages of prosperity, of sages

Old the work, in pain and passion pure,

Has shown to do but good. This I’ll not endure!

Reject the perversion that inconstant change applies!

A thing, unknown in deed, is equal to lies!”

So spoke Shock, a verbal-edged attack.

Some ten behind played his assenting pack.

Now Old John; of Shock’s own right-side kind;

Attendant to the Hall an age, resigned

In his declining years to heed the youth,

Wanton and untactful, communed truth,

As seemed to him, the slower truth, and careful:

More so far than the sharp and oft’ resentful

Truth of preening youth: presented thus

To Shock a fellowship’s advice (to us):

“Young Shock! Of such unbound tenacity,

We lack! I champion your alacrity!

You will be such an Atlas to our world,

And part Achilles! Braced beneath the furled

Leaves of over-weighty legislation,

Indeed! A planet’s-worth weighs down our nation!

Whilst fighting hard and best of all; unequaled;

You’ll guard which keeps our nation hap’ly peopled.

Ten times a god, or godly mortal, you;

Who’ll tell what greatness, in future, you will do?

Mind, then: the verdict is retired;

No more should we but what has been transpired.

There is the promise of a future day,

But now may we be tongueless, and not say

What, in a week’s fine fermentation pure,

We may say better far. So let’s endure!

A week of silence, what is it but naught?

In light of our long-agèd lives, we’ve time enough for thought.”

So said Old John his uprobation mild,

To his young friend’s rash activism wild.

And saith Shock to his kin adversary

This rasher, rushèd, sharper polemicary:

“Old John, that vanguard of a baser front;

Be silent, thou! Be washed by my high tide

Of purpose, and in the idle lobby there abide.

I speak the power of our latest kind!

Of ours, I the clearer and the purer mind!

Be not illusioned in old age’s dim:

Mine is the more recent, more relevant whim!”

Hence Old John back to the elder crowd,

Thus bullied by the younger frenzied rowd.

Then Temper: “Ah! This is the very thing!

Unthinking words this fay, unthought, does bring!

Elect! I pray you: call this broiling tempest

With a conscious, proper vote, to rest!”

The Elect; a wise and prudent mind he owned;

Did give consent to what Temper bemoaned.

So up again the tiny Speck did rise,

And called up “Vote”, thought dormant, to reprise:

“Well, one more vote! Rash Shock, the upstart wild,

Of “The Grands” at Hall, contests the previous mild

On grounds that the “For Faerie’s” meek proposal

Is unjust – and wants a quick (unjust) disposal.

So we decide: the “I” consents to condescend

This Shock; that on fruitless efforts his time does spend;

The “nots” will want an ear to Shock and crew,

And greater time spent here in Hall do hew –

So to – the “I’s” first call, and I’ll record.

(We’ll settle soon, I hope, this vote implored.)”

The Hall resounded with a shocking “I”.

Speck recorded (by ear, not by his eye.)

“The “nots” next speak” – and these were some eleven;

Their thoughts unprecedented yield no leaven.

Up flew Speck to the Faery-Head Elect.

There from his notes all accuracy checked.

Old John: “So shameful fayhood is denied,

And younger Faeries older, purposeless, deride.”

Then Speck, down from the Elect’s high seat to call

The vote as proper; saith he to faeries all:

“The vote is set: ill Shock has been ill met

By the gen’ral choir: Shock! No more will fret

The Hall: we still retire one whole week.

I hope, to Shock, some counsel he will seek.”

So stood result. All faeries quit their post

One week; and emptied all the Hall its host.

But as it emptied Shock, a moment more:

His cause, the “Faeries for” proposal to deplore:

“I will not work but to dismantle you,

Who shirk shameless the Law: you know now that I’ll do.”

The Hall slow emptied; Shock’s words seemed ignored.

Shock left the last; his eyes were all a-sword!

End Book I

Jezebel: Canto I

Canto I

 

I

Wicked Queen of infamy and sin!

Zidonian daughter, wed to Israel,

And fated to bring the fruits of slaughter in;

To feed those biblic dogs of Jezreel well

On guiltless blood; Yes! Thou, Queen Jezebel,

Oppressor of prophets and men: Samarian witch!

Each act thus deigning thou governess of Hell:

Of Ahab’s passive brawn the witted pitch;

The pagan pall: thou, who cast proud Israel to the ditch.

 

II

Of thee I sing a song of darker subject,

Far darker than I am used or want to sing,

Though for, perhaps, a somewhat brighter object

Do I rhyme of Naboth’s vineyard, and the King;

And thou, Queen Jezebel; thou who bring

That interest and that purpose to the tale;

Who draws me towards it like a glowing ring

Midst darkness of much hate: and thou I hail:

For thee I’ll craft a brighter and a purer veil.

 

III

For was not Baalim another god?

Was not Belial subject of human dream?

The Greeks, in days now ancient which we laud,

Had their own idols, pagan as these seem;

Yet Christians do not frown on Jove’s old beam;

Nor charge the shrouded Oracle of Delphi

With Satan’s work. Why, then, must scripture deem

You heretic, and paint you most unhealthy?

Sweet pagan, why is not your memory grown wealthy?

 

IV

Because you worked against Jerusalem

In helping shirk her Lord? This will not do!

Each people’s prophet teaches truth to them:

Raised in conviction, we each claim a “True”;

(So Canaan, then, must own her true god too).

That claim is grimly passed in holy war:

Pit claim ‘gainst claim, the sword divines, thrust through.

So Joshua; so Samuel; and Jezebel not more.

Thus, you were a woman; not Ahab’s pagan whore.

 

V

Thus! You were, as well, a taken wife;

No mistress’ gaze, yours, aimed too far above.

Thus, too, a princess; then a Queen in life;

So woman, wife, and Queen; oh, slandered dove!

And not a word to tell you did not love!

How, then, is Jezebel so marked the villain?

Ancient authors, I do beg you of

A reason. But here: your very ghosts are lain

In nameless tombs; so I’ll reply: one man she’d slain.

 

VI

One man, thus slain by Jezebel, and she;

First Ahab’s Queen; now Abram’s ghostly dread;

Was vulture: Queen of death, and deathly foe

To suffering Israel. So ‘twas said

By th’ wand’ring prophet; crows about his head.

Murderer. I cannot sanction such.

Yet, having all this haunted story read,

I’ve bent myself to prove it was too much

To demonize this girl; and so my pen I clutch.

 

VII

And may I clutch thus not in vain, O Muse:

Pray, move this stubborn tip to ink the page.

Though so many would this task abuse,

I feel this woman lacks a voice of sage;

And, though no prophet’s (a poet’s, young of age),

I feel this nascent rhyme is just the thing

To turn detested character from rage.

For Jezebel’s strange sake I will this sing,

That she, if not a good, yet not an evil bring.

 

VIII

So will I move now to the urgent scene:

Deep in a palace den, no candle lit,

A royal chamber dark, still, and serene;

Find we King Ahab, prostrate as in a fit,

Moaning; with some unknown grievance hit.

Upon his royal bed, full soft and fine,

To the core King Ahab moaned, and would not sit,

Or stand, or walk about, but stay supine,

And grieve a Kingly grievance. Moaning did he pine.

 

IX

And Ahab turned from bread or any food,

Nor took of water or of wine; his spirit

Thus full set in a most suppressèd mood;

Nor seemed to move himself from death, nor fear it.

Ahab’s once kingly chamber now became

A Dungeon; windowless and dark; the floors

Of unforgiving stone naked remain

To comfort less Ahab; whom self-pain pours,

He subject and subjector behind his tight-shut doors.

 

X

Without those same grave doors a hall of stone

Was bright; great lofty torches lined the walls.

There, in full dress of subdued purple tone,

Trod fifty women, silently, the halls;

Held fifty candles lit; wore fifty shawls

About the neck and shoulders, coloured violent

Crimson. All crimson clad; as red as falls

The sun farewell to river’s brink; was our bent,

Queen Jezebel: foremost of all, and proud, and silent.

 

XI

Queen Jezebel, full draped in red; thick locks

Of shining jet; her eastern-sun bronzed skin;

Blent dark and bright in harmony which shocks

And man and woman alike: no sight her kin

For beauty; no match for thoughtful pride within.

She held her head with waving hair full high,

And tilted up so slight that daunting chin;

Her lips: soft, but tight-pressed; and beamed her eye!

All wanton grace; as mazy-patterned butterfly.

 

XII

Thus she moved, the foremost of her train,

To the long-shut doors of Ahab’s pouting cell.

The promontory’s march was sweetly slain

By Jezebel: up and down it fell;

As music’s swell and sigh, or graceful spell;

Proud Jezebel’s slender and fluid, moving hand.

So the fifty servants stood. Jezebel

Alone moved on, miraculously grand,

Toward her husband’s chamber doors, and there did stand.

 

XIII

Three times her delicate knuckles met the door;

Each strike came long after the last was struck,

And sure so strong to shake thick oak its core.

On the last strike came the chamber-lock un-stuck,

And the door did open enough to tuck

The slightest body through its slightest port:

Such was Jezebel, though she had to duck

Her jewel-strewn head in passing, for not short

Was she, but tall in stature, as in mindful sort.

 

XIV

The doors then shut the hall from that within:

Now Jezebel’s rich and bright-clad body was

Swallowed up into her husband’s din

Of Kingly mourning; her energetic cause

(For so she seemed, the actor with no pause,

But purpose ever-flowing) as on some wing

Divine transported from the hall, where thus

Her women waited, to her bed-rid king.

So the hall, and maids, and lights, all cease to glow and sing.

 

XV

The chamber was a very box of dim:

Silent and still, but for Ahab’s mute groans.

Two servants waited, dusk and silent, on him.

Queen Jezebel, intruding, from her bones,

It seemed, exhaled bright energy in zones

Of radiant emotion felt for th’ sake

Of Ahab, who never failed to feel those tones

Of Jezebel, who well could touch and re-make

His heart but by the remembrance of her fragrance smelt.

 

XVI

But Ahab only turned himself away

From Jezebel, his fast-approaching wife;

He shifted in the shrouded bed he lay

Upon, while she, whose very moving life

Breathed comfort on his sorrow, knelt, and rife

With pity, in accents of gentle love, fast by

Ahab prostrate, spoke thus: “My husband, ‘tis a knife

To this very breast that thus I see you; oh, my

Joy, in such an agony! Oh, tell me: why?”

 

XVII

“Why so have you forsaken that proud face

To bless me daily with its mannish vigour?

Why lock yourself as in a dead-man’s case:

That time is not for you; death holds no rigour

As in you could be! What is this for?

Why, men (that I have known) do walk the ground;

Eat bread; grow strong; waste not behind their door!

Tell me love, now, speak; your griefs unbound:

Why is your spirit thus so sad it rests unsound?”

 

XVIII

And as she spoke, she crept and herself lay,

As soft and fresh as any summer wind

Blown to woman’s form from the porch of day,

Beside her grieving king; slight body behind

Ahab’s great frame, pressed tight. Her arms she twined

About him as most pleasing vines would hold

Fast to the sturdy post to quiet climb;

She tender kissed his neck. So fled his hold:

In the darkness thus to Jezebel his grief consoled:

 

XIX

“There is a man,” said Ahab, “A Jezreelite

Whose vineyard, generations old, stands not

But a short distance from this place; ‘tis bright

To me as any jewel unable to be bought:

It is a bright and spacious, luscious lot;

Ah! Choicest in Samaria; nor I doubt

The world! I’d own it knows no peer: I thought

I’d own it for my pleasure. Straight I rode out

To Naboth’s house, who held it. Naboth was without.”

 

XX

“And I approached Naboth, the Jezreelite,

Who tended then unto his plants, and said

I: ‘Give me your vineyard, as is my Kingly right

To own all that I will. I’ll have it paid

For by a better yard, or will have laid

Before you well its worth in minted gold;

For it is close to me, and shall be made

A place of pleasure for our Kingly household,’

But Jezebel, Naboth’s reply was unruly bold!”

 

XXI

“He said to us (even to Ahab!) these things:

‘Ahab, my King, whom I respect, The Lord

Our God, who is above all (even Kings)

Forbids that I; even for all your hoard

Of minted gold, although you were to pour

It in my very lap just now as pay;

That I should give to you this vineyard o’er,

For it is my inheritance: who’d play

Here years and years ago now does in peace, near, lay.’”

 

XXII

“‘And every father of my house, from prime

To final, thus to me, Naboth, the living

Inheritor of this, my father’s time

Thus spent, his vineyard; generations giving

It has known, and will know more, God willing:

For I will leave it to my sons when I,

Life lived, begin to feel that slower chilling

Of happy life’s own end; no one may buy

The yard: I say, it is for my children when I die.’”

 

XXIII

“And thus spoke Naboth, to reject his King!

I eat no bread, nor suffer light above

To break my pall, because Naboth would bring

No reverence to Ahab, nor show a love;

I mourn in bed because he’d rather shove

Ahab away, his King! For sake of greed.

Oh! Could I crack his neck like any dove!

I do want what I do not indeed

Possess: the vineyard held by Naboth and his seed!”

 

XXIV

Thus finished, Ahab fell into a fever

Dream, and lay in moaning fits and sweat.

Jezebel did softly sigh upon her

Husband’s heated brow; swept back his wet

And mangled hair from off his face, and met

His lips with a sweet kiss; he seemed enchanted

By her touch, for he breathed calm, and set

Himself to laying still, whilst his Queen chanted

A strange, low tune, by which rhythm Ahab panted.

 

XXV

Ahab’s eyes opened but a bit in calm;

He gazed as drugged upon his wife, and smiled.

Jezebel; who’s touch, it seemed, was balm

Universal to Ahab’s every ill, the mild

Or strong; embraced her King. Her eyes were wild

With perplexing joy. She said: “Are you

Not King?” And spoke as to a little child:

“Do you not govern Israel? And do

You not command her? ‘Tis no guess; I thought I knew.”

 

XXVI

“I know Ahab is King of Israel.

Therefore, rise up oh Lord of this, your nation:

Eat bread, that you may be as strong and well

As Kings should be! And, as approves your station,

Let your heart show merry animation!

I will give to you the vineyard of

The Jezreelite; of Naboth; for his ration

Of the land of Israel is giv’n in love

By his own King who may take it back. I’ll break this dove.”

 

XXVII

And Ahab did rise up, and eat, and he

Was merry in his heart, because he knew

Whatever Jezebel did say would be;

Whatever said was done; and he felt true

She’d never fail; meanwhile Jezebel flew

Back to her chambers with her scarlet train

Behind, and she the crimson of her crew:

The very essence of that bloodred stain;

All motive cause condensed, of ecstasy or pain.

 

End of Canto I

Cadence: Invocation, Response, and Prayers

Cadence: Invocation, Response, and Prayers

Byron N.M. Kappes

A Poetical Dramatization

 

Dramatis Personae:

 

- The Prologue

- Chorus (of Children)

- Chorus (of Elders)

- (The Voice of) Cadence

- Child I

- Child II

- Child III

- Child IV

 

Scene: An ancient glade on Mt. Helicon. A congregation of the worshipers of Cadence solemnly assemble at an altar of stone.

 

The Prologue: Once, when people lived and died with ever words upon their tongues;

When words had grown so shallow then that all word’s meaning was all lost;

The people gathered on a little hill,

Reached up tip-toe to the Mountain-top,

With hands all reverend-evangelic,

And gave away this prayer to Cadence,

Youngest Lord of all inspired songs:

 

Children:         Cadence, sing! and we will hear;

Your pretty words have been too dear!

 

Elders:                  O Child of the fragrant Hippocrene!

The greenest stems do bend, with a modest sound,

Their bloss’ming heads, dew-lip’d, to touch the ground

And kiss your fading footsteps. O child serene

Of the shrouded Mount, and last of all there sprung

From out those shady boughs – sweet seldom sage

Of lilting grace, and wisdom’s ageless age!

What would you sing, of all that you have sung,

In restful dens and coverts lushful green,

To bless our tired memories; to send

Our recollections all to well-bought end?

Child of the verdant voice, you’ve been:

Abreast of Beauty; seen and sought all charms

Alive – all past – now sing us to your arms.

 

(Figureless, the Voice of Cadence is heard about the place).

 

Cadenc:                My wretched siblings, there is nothing I

Could sing to sound salvation. I have known

Too little, and you have learned so much! Blown

About these wav’ring hills with a solemn, aching sigh,

I am removed from you, and all your show

Defines you. Lost in the echoing reeds

Of my antique wilderness I cast seeds

Which catch the rustic earth but do not grow.

The gnarled oaks betray their age, and young

Roots live, but do not grow. What I have laid

In verse was false, for you have only made

Away. You have outgrown each song I’ve sung.

Yet – there will always be words left in me,

And though in doubt, I’ll sing them – timidly.

 

Children:         Too long! To long! We’ve grown too long!

Who’ll heal us save Cadence, with his healing song?

 

Cadence:         (The song of Cadence; known as “The Roundings”)

                        See there!

Across the Earth’s wide brim

The Great Bright Rounding’s broad, sinking rim

Streaks a playful colour across the sky:

Rich orange, which dries to a dark-blue die;

Coupled notes of vague rose and soft salmon also settle in,

Drifting gently groundward to burn – subtle incense – cloud – against the fierce horizon.                                                  It glows now at the climax of vision, as melted gold and glass;

A blinding berth of molten mass

That seems as if it would touch with flame and sweetly singe

The autumn trees which line the dusking fringe;

As if a delicate bulb filled full with light

Were shattered along the wide edge of sight,

So each haphazard, jagged piece,

Violently illuminates that very marginal crease

And, melting, slides down the wide Earth’s gentle grade,

Drips from the southernmost point, and pools where light is made.

Ah! These colours! This light! This immaculate display

Is her farewell; her splendid way

Of bringing to a close her bright gift of day:

With a final fond wink, she has gone away.

What remains of her slender arms in the twilight;

Stretching gracefully, as a mother’s might,

To warm the tender faces of adoring children who but breathlessly fawn;

Throws great shadows across a tree-spotted law:

A spectered sprawl of intangible lace

Her spindled fingers lay where fresh new things have taken place:

Nights past, little yellow pips of light would race

Loftily about the night-green space

With joy; underneath the star-spilt glow

Nocturnal creatures sang and danced to show

Their beauty from tree-branches, wild-grass,

Or pools that shivered or stood still, like pondering glass

Reflecting the Earth’s climactic chords of rounded resolution:

Latest contrast and response to morning’s crisp, staccato-dew profusion.

Now far past, the morning,

And broadly, slowly, sweeps the night, with bracing chill, the tree-tops that shiver and sway.

The Rounding Moon is set in drapes of mist which lay

Across his reclusive glow like hushing cloth, ‘till his distinguished ray

Of modest shine bursts out from its sweetly dissolving cover;

Glides, quick and quiet, slips between the sighing hills and meets the fertile Earth, Moon’s secret

Quivering lakes observe the Earth’s responding moan –

Soft-winded sigh – and mid the drone

Of midnight’s secret stirrings do repeat a gentle rasping

Of the surface-skin: slick-wet and moment hills out-grasping –

Shiv’ring joy – slow-fading in the wider circlet’s reach; pointing in toward the murk –

The dread-night deepening lurk –

Just underneath the thin disturbance of the night-time air;

And still the Earth and Moon’s celestial beams in pleasure share

Each other’s graces: the Moon its sun-empowered light;

The familiar Round its swelling breath; its sweeping sight;

The various sprawl of life – now lived; then had –

(End of Cadence’s Song)

                        Could you look on such a vibrant scene and not be glad?

 

Full Chorus:    Oh, we would be saved! We fly as your winged words are flown!

 

Cadence:         Oh, but would you see these things I’ve said by sight alone?

 

Full Chorus:    Yes, we wold! Your happy words would fill our hollow soul!

 

Cadence:         Ah, but happy words, though glad at times, do ill reflect a thing as it is whole:

. . . For all of life is in its writing,

At the time that it is writ;

And you must learn to write yourself

Those things as you see fit . . .

(A passage of time spent in silence)

 

Elders:             If your voice break upon our ears as stone,

We will endure us to be broke upon;

If as a thrashing sea to th’ shore rakes foam,

We will suffer so to worship; as never shone

The sun to harsh the too-close peering eye;

Your song, though it be dreadful! We will shout:

“Break, voice, break!” though for moment peace we sigh;

“Break, voice, break! Break, voice, break!” For so

We love you! So we worship! So we want

Your love returned! We are set very low

Without your voice to charm the morn and flaunt

The drear from day; the dread from sightless night!

“Break, voice, break!” with all unearthly might!

 

(Four Children Aside)

 

Child I:            A pen! A pen! Find out a Pen!

 

Child II:           I’ve plucked a hollow-tipped feather

From that caged song-bird that my father

Keeps, hung from the coat-rack peg!

Oh! How she sang, as not like before,

When I rent from her left wing th’allowance she owed

Us, her keepers: this feather, which, well may you see,

Has a curious thing shaped there,

Full center, a blotch not unlike spilt ink.

 

Child I:            The feather! The feather! Where dip the feather?

 

Child III:         I’ve found, what luck! Some berries red,

Of a bush near at hand to my home,

And crushed their pure bright juice into

This cup I took of my mother’s things,

Well prized by her for the beauty it brings.

 

Child I:            Now dip the pen!

 

Child II & III:  The pen is dipped!

 

Child I:            Ah! But where to mark? And what?

 

Child IV:         The smooth flesh of a broad-grown tree

Full in root at my grandfather’s yard

Not a five minute’s wandering from here

Would serve, I think, as well as any

For our musings near at hand!

 

Child I:            Then we will go! Where is the pen?

 

Child II:           Here is the feather dipped in red!

 

Child I:            And do we have the cup of juice?

 

Child III:         The cup! Here, full of staining stuff!

 

Child I:            Then we are ready! Will you lead?

 

Child IV:         With pleasure, and great anticipation, I’ll proceed!

(They go)

 

Elders:             The valleys twixt your mountains brim with night,

And being fearful folk, we must to home

Quick tread our ways by ground, for, not as light

Are we as deities, who free may roam

From clime to clime – but first, a closing prayer:

Oh! Cadence. Sing us sound our ways returned

To Joy! For long have we not known that’s fair,

And for that passion sweet we ‘ere have yearned.

If you could. But muting patience wanes;

Nor waxes, nor can it constant remain,

As Cadence, with his forward vision, claims:

We are not met; you cannot: it is vain.

Our love be yours, sweet youth, forever long,

Even though this be your funeral song.

(Exit Chorus)

 

Epilogue

 

Cadence:         Where, oh, where the faith I once had known?

Dread speaks me: more than wind has forced it flown.

Have I not done my godly best?

Or have these mortals been unblessed?

No: ‘tis th’ advent of the modern hymn:

Gods, all, are someday rendered obsolete,

When their suppliant’s needs they fail to meet.

I fade now; leaving life unlived to them.

 

End

The Fair Sisters Three

The Fair Sisters Three

 

Part I

I

There lived Three Sisters; fairest Three:

Fair Cynthia, Dian, and fair Phoebe.

They lived in fairest sisterhood

In a cottage by the Sea:

They lived remote, in the shady wood,

The Sisters Three.

 

II

What simple life beneath the trees!

Mid mindless chirp and choir of bees

The Sisters happ’ly sing their days;

Or sport in the beach-Sea breeze.

Jack-rabbit’s all who ever sees

The Sister’s ways.

 

III

In the mornings Dian combs her hair;

For breakfast, Cynthia plucks the pear,

Whilst Phoebe sings a pleasing song

Of Knight’s and Fay-girl’s air;

Forgotten half to who or where

Such chimes belong.

 

IV

Afternoons are spent in walking;

Nereid laughs and bashful talking;

Through spring trees out into the Sea

To bathe, and meanwhile mock-sing

Old nonsense songs about a box-ring

Gift from He.

 

V

The evening sisters dance alway

Through a copse of yews that shiver and sway;

The yew-trees shiver, though no breeze

Upsets their leafy spray.

The Three soon cease their dance and say:

“The daylight leaves!”

 

VI

Then to the fast-appearing Moon

The Sisters give religious boon

Of sweet ripe pears; each bows her head

Of pretty curls, and soon

In prayer each hums a Moon-song tune.

Then to bed.

 

VII

To bed they tread their naked feet;

In the Moon-light laugh they, skip they fleet;

Doff they their dresses to the floor:

Their dresses pilèd neat.

Aloft: in the sound-soft nest they meet,

And whisper more.

 

VIII

All dusks; they whisper in their nest,

And coo like pigeons close to rest:

Three Sisters, huddled breast to beast,

They whispered ‘till they slept.

Three Sisters deepest souls confessed

Until they slept.

 

IX

Such a life the Sisters Three,

Unchanged by season, faithfully

They kept in sacred sisterhood

In a cottage by the Sea.

Three Sisters in the shady wood

Lived solitary.

End of Part I

 

 

Part II

I

‘Twas on a misty April morn

Came up the sands, great distance bourne

Upon his feet, a handsome youth

Who stopped, from travel worn,

Upon the Sister’s beach; forlorne

In mirthless ruth.

 

II

The youth had traveled far from home,

And now was lost and all alone.

So rested He, there by the Sea,

On a rock embraced with foam;

He rested there his ceaseless roam,

Subject of Pity!

 

III

Phoebe, on a whim of chance,

The more her pleasure to enhance

In the dew-rich air of waning day;

Its mist-enfolded trance

And charms; same evening fed her glance

‘Mong mazèd way.

 

IV

Through the trees, in Absent Mind,

She made a lazy path to wind

Down easily to that fringe of bush

With sand and rocks all lined;

And looking to the Sea did find

That youth in hush.

 

V

Phoebe, hid in the nearby green,

There spied the youth; did, pining, lean

Upon a thick-hung bough. She sighed:

“What Beauty have I seen . . .”

She saw, and approached the youth who, keen,

The Sea peered wide.

 

VI

The gentle waves; the sand-raked tide;

The youth peered, weary, the Sea-ward wide.

Phoebe approached the youth behind:

“Strange youth, whom for you bide?”

She spoke; the youth, thus startled, cried

“What do I find?”

 

VII

The youth, thus startled, faced about

So quick he tumbled off and out

From his rock to the briny foam and wet.

He stuffed a weary shout

And splashed ashore, as some late devout

Sea-baptized hermit.

 

VIII

Phoebe grasped the youth ashore:

“Oh, must such things sweet men endure?

And are you lost? Oh sweet but poor!”

She pitied prettily.

She smiled in kind, a thing that’s sure

Most sweet to see.

 

IX

The youth was breathless; deep he sighed;

Drenched in the Sea, to the sister replied:

“Yes, I am lost: for three days or more

To make sense of this Sea I have tried

In vain, for I find not home, but wide

And endless shore.”

 

X

He gazed on Phoebe, as in thrall,

And seemed consumed by waters all,

Or cast in some Romantic spell.

Said she: “A shame to fall

Into the Sea. Come, take my shawl,

And dry you well.”

 

XI

“And follow me,” continued she,

“Up to my house and Sisters Three.

For you are tired and need to rest,

So drenched in this old Sea!”

She took His hand and past each tree

They quick progressed.

 

XII

They quick progressed, and passed each tree;

To the bough-shade home of the Sisters Three

Athwart the bowers thick, near by

The silent, breathy Sea

Which list, with slow-dissolving sigh;

That youth and she.

 

End of part II

 

Part III

 

I

The youth and Phoebe, just e’re night,

Had reached the cottage; dim the light

That dusked the vent of shady green

Which copsed the pretty sight

Of cot and Sisters two which, right,

Had man ne’r  seen.

 

II

The Sisters two wait for the third,

To end the rights of day; like bird

To kindred nest she joyful ran:

But who is this, fair bird?

Not like our own; no sister third:

But youth; a man.

 

III

Dian and Cynthia gazed on him,

And Phoebe said: “Oh, joyful whim

To make a Seaward walk so late!

I found this he by some slim

Chance, alone and lost; at swim

Through cruelest fate!”

 

IV

And Dian: “Why, in such a dread

Of state is he! Almost half fled

From life; a wonder he has come!

And straight to slumb’rest bed

Should he at once, or he’ll fall dead!”

The youth was dumb.

 

V

But Cynthia: “First, he must be fed;

For strife breeds hunger, I’ve heard said.

We’ll banquet him; and then to sleep.

Poor youth; that but a shred

Of gorgeous life holds your sweet head.”

The youth was weak.

 

VI

The youth was weak; he spoke no word.

Three Sister’s song he distant heard,

But spoke no word; nor speak could he:

As if he were demurred;

And sure, it scarce can be endured,

Such melody.

 

VII

The Sisters Three sung their sweet guest

Through doors and halls, and down to rest

Before a spacious oaken table;

The youth there sat for fear lest

He should standing slumber, blessed

In such sweet fable.

 

VIII

The Sisters busily prepared

A meal; and nothing then was spared:

But, sumptuous, Cynthia set a bowl

Ornate and large, which shared

Forth pilèd pears, all heaped and layered;

Sweet and whole.

 

IX

Phoebe filled, with pure and purple

Wine, a cup of fluid crystal.

Wine gently broke upon the brim

To stream sweet fragrance, full

As fruit down the silvered stem; which all

Would cheer all grim.

 

X

Dian, meanwhile, soothed the thick

And heavy mass of curls which stick

About, all crust with salted Sea.

Her pretty fingers quick

Upon his head; her voice did lick

Pure melody.

 

XI

So Dian sang and combed the hair

Whilst Cynthia fed the sumptuous pear,

And Phoebe offered liquid boon:

He ate and drank; did stare

The while: the Sisters sang a fair

And drowsing tune.

 

XII

His eyes did cloud; began to close;

His head to tilt: could Sleep compose

A work more masterful than this?

He hath a king’s repose:

Right hand a pear, in left there rose

That cup of bliss.

End of Part III

 

 

Part IV

I

So, unto softest sleep he fell,

And soundly slept: his sleep was well.

The Sister’s choral felt slow death;

That tuneful thrice-wrought spell.

Each bent to taste the youth’s soft swell

Of sweet-lipped breath.

 

II

Then they gazed, each Sister Three,

Onto that pretty sleep-bound He.

“I love him more than eyes can peer,”

So moaned the fawning Phoebe;

And Dian wept in love to see

That He so near.

 

III

Cynthia spoke, her eyes all wet:

“I fear upon us he has set

The dread of love; upon each one

An aching need, ill-met

By Sisters Three. If love be let

We are undone.”

 

IV

“Sisters, one must win this youth,

For greed forebears we share, in truth.

But if one loves, then two are left

Alone, with none to soothe;

Torn with jealousy uncouth

When Three are cleft.

 

V

“So love and misery are found

In the promised band, which heaven round

About a sealèd love does bless.

This thing is never sound

For Sisters Three: we must confound

This gorgeous mess.”

 

VI

Phoebe and Dian felt the same,

Though they wept and trembled for shame

That sudden love so sudden fled.

But one could bear no claim

Without the two unless the name

Of Three be dead.

 

VII

The Sisters Three were all resolved:

The question, then, was rightly solved,

Thought they, although it pained them much.

So, the Three revolved

About him once, with care involved

In loving touch.

 

VIII

Now fetched the dread device of deed

Fair Cynthia from its drawer. She freed

From the folds of a crimson cloth a blade;

Such as has made men bleed

Before; ‘twas cruel and sharp of greed,

That point displayed.

 

IX

Slightly did the youth up-start

As Cynthia slid into his heart

That little death; the Three all cried

Aloud: the youth’s white lips just part

Enough to sigh; then straight the dart

Drank life; he died.

 

X

He died; the Three wept bitterly:

“So, sleep love, and live us Three

In Sisterhood hence happily.”

Bitterly they wept.

That night sad visions did they see

When first they slept.

 

XI

But morning shines upon the Three:

Fair Cynthia, Dian, and fair Phoebe.

Still, in fairest sisterhood,

In a cottage by the Sea,

They lived remote in the shady wood,

The Sisters Three.

 

XII

And evenings dance they through the yews

That shiver, breathless, a silent tune;

‘Mong shady trees; earth’s pagan pews;

They live such as they choose:

And none may see but he who views

The heavy Moon.

End

 

The Absent Muse

The Absent Muse: A Faerie Story

Byron N.M. Kappes

 

I

 

“And who, in this unhappy time, will call the Absent Muse?”

A trembling shook the faerie crowd at the Master’s loud lament:

The Dreaming Hall, that faerie forum built of clouds and hues

Of shimm’ring light; great golden beams, now there, now gone, now bent

And unbent up the windy roof, out to the star-tossed skies;

That grandest home of faerie folk who claim the poet’s grace:

It moved in time unusual, so shot with sharp surprise

Those light-winged spirits, limbs clutched tight; like bits of knotted lace;

Faint gasps held quick, so great they feared the Muse, her mention stilled that oft’-moved place.

 

II

One stood before: his wings close-furled, blue orbs but wav’ring slight

From ‘neath the Master’s sudden gaze; this faerie boy, so proud

And sweet, his cheeks flushed red with self-surprise; his sudden flight

Of spirit, word, resolve, so puzzled even him; so loud

His unexpected words! he found himself now having said

That thing which ev’ry spirit feared, though, too, he was moved strong

To act. So, slow his alban feathers fullest wide he spread,

Up-tilt his soft-lock’d crown, mouth firm, and after silence long:

“Will I, O! Nestor: I to call the Muse! Whatever needs to save our song.”

 

III

“Whatever needs to save our song! We cannot sing without

That wretch, we know: we’ve tried; we’ve failed: we are but pathless wings!

Where Helicon, the lofty verdure? Hippocrene? the spout

Horse-hooved and bubbling fresh? We stop to bathe at misty springs

A few short times, which seldom are; besides we wander wide

The cloudy ways, with dusky light to guide: oft’ short o’th’ cleff

Our wand’rers, all, have dropped to murky waters, drank the tide

In vain. No thing we’ve found to speak or write of: found but Death,

And nothing more to see than that. The Muse has hid all Beauty’s blossomed breath,”

 

IV

“And we are dumb alone to find her out and force return.

So now ‘tis fled and covered fast by her obscuring veil;

And well I know, and you my friends; how well we’ve had to learn!

That it is vain to fight the Muse: our modest powers pale

‘Neath her control: and that she has, and dreadful, yes, but bright!

So I will call the Absent Muse, I rescue poets fair!”

The hall tossed faint an echo ‘round; the brave boy’s voice fell slight

Into a soundless sound blown sweet about fine seraph ears:

Some golden glow whirled warm ‘round those sweetest looks. Two, unseen, glimpsed each

breathless stare.

 

V

“Well!” quoth Quip, perched ‘bove the crowd upon a cloudy beam;

Those called “The Heaven’s Rafters”; “There’s a creature well deserving

Praise for bravery,” and Quoth to Quip quoth: “Those who seem

To know such things say either he is great, or else reserving

Punishment for over-reaching station to grab at greatness;

So that each way he is attempting “good”. What tells? He will

Do something,” while Quip, ill-humoured: “Something more than nothing less

The nothings done by all the rest- I’ve had the glutton’s fill

Of talk!: first choice of all the ever-undecided- talk! ‘Tis but a spill”

 

VI

“Of pretty nothings which amount to little somethings or,

Again, to greater nothigns out-,” quipped Quoth, “Well, surely talk

Is talk for other purpose – other than of talk – now for

Your small something: What? You spew – What of?” and Quip: “o’th’ stock

Of ev’ry hero!, “Eh?”, “Of action! Agent bodies up

To more than idle rumination!”, “Idle? Ha! You soon –

Too soon, and without fault – forget the kettle ‘fore the cup:

Forget what speaks so that the mouth may say. The hanging moon

Is viewed before it can be thought, and only thought can teach us its strange tune!”

 

VII

Those spirits – slightest forms were theirs – defensive postures bore,

Supported our of sight and sound aloft the gen’ral crowd

By those fair Rafters, as their want was oft’ to lightly soar

Above, observe what goes below; the never-noticed shroud

Of wit; the stars which watch astronomers and giggle at

Grave things. Now each frowned at the other, sprightly play forgot,

And took each to a side. “And say,” said Quip, “They only sat

And mulled those things to say within to say them well, though not

To do; for saying said’s not doing done, and doing’s ends are real; the lot”

 

VIII

“Of talk or thought or both is no result –“, Quoth, “No result?

It’s all result! And doing’s done past thought that’s through! My friend,

There is no thing that’s done ‘fore it is said. The only fault

Of pairing’s in a pairing’s lack of talk: The more to send

Sound understanding’s wisest ‘tween a group,” and Quip: “I say

The thinking’s past necessity, but talk spews talk; and talk

On talk; ‘till talking’s all that’s had, and said, and doings lay

Undone: forgotten or thought worth-less; and so we are in shock

To learn the things which, done, would be: all said is nought than that “we say” in mock.”

 

IX

“But wait!” quipped Quoth: “The crowd is stirred about, and now one out

I’ve known before -,” Quip: “Yes! Out-spoken doubter her: who speaks

She speaks upon, and outs and doubts each word -,” Quoth: “She is Doubt –

And right to doubt, for out of doubt springs progress -,” “Progress leaks,”

Quoth Quip, “from doubt; it springs from out brave heads, loose tongues; which throw

The doubters down,” and Quoth: “Down you, and hush yourself my brother.”

The two fell hush; stopped their words; and to the scene below

Turned their attention: There from out the faerie crowd one other:

A graceful girl, well known for wisdom, who disdained reliance on another.

 

X

She bore herself before the crowd with pride and steady eyes

Which glanced a moment at the boy (a slighting smile there

He recognized) then turned on Nestor, oldest faerie; wise

Beyond all else; and to him she said this: “Old Nestor, fair

In judgement, will you listen to clean reason? This young thing

Suggests we call the Muse; nor call in firm, but set us each

Suppliant to her will and hope her mercy. He would bring

Proud faeries; songsters of the sky; the architects who reach

All powers of Fair Lady Poesy; in favour of an ancient leech,”

 

XI

“A witch much worse than the Bard’s whole crew; and lovely; yes, a Venus;

But dangerously so: for she will plot, as a goddess plots,

Against some thoughtless mate; and she will strike out full against us

And our youngest song, in th’ heart of its waxing wild; shots

Of apoplectic rage: as if all th’ weapons of old war-Greeks

In verse would bend to part the sinews of our rhyme, and slow

Our finely tunèd rhythm to silence. The Muse! She ardent seeks

To loft the genius of her gift beyond our reach, and low

We’ll be, and she all in hysterics! Not a thing, all done, will we to show.”

 

XII

“We mustn’t call the Muse: we cannot, and we do not need

Her; we have sketched the frame of life and of its many forms

Full countless times: we are the gift of Poesy, and we lead

Her in our design; as she would drift like wanton storms

Influenced by each whimsied gust if it were otherwise.

Let us work without Muse: we have Ethic overplus,

So why not fill the frame with substance we ourselves devise

And be the more industrious for it? We do naught but fuss

Over the wretch: the Muse is over-fancied, and has over-tested us.”

 

 

XIII

A rustle of finely feathered wings in the soft-hushed crowd;

That seraph attendance so refined to well respond;

Played daggers ‘bout each ear, each pricked and ready for some loud

Reply: the boy’s offended speech, perhaps (and, often, fond

He was to make a matter turn an issue), or old Master

Of assembly; Nestor’s talk, thick laden with grand wisdom,

And full charged of all concerns; the both of these set faster

Ears than any to the words which, lilting, issued out from

The glinting she-sprite: Nestor’s face was constant grave, and th’ young boy’s own played the

sum

 

XIV

Of fierce concern; such harshed expressions sharpened finer features

‘Till that struggling brow seemed bound to break and spew its thoughts;

Like th’ spatt’ring purple gore upon some fellow warring creatures

On a distant, deathless shore; fast-spouting acrid shots

Of polemic-hot disdain to scald the over-smug disproving

Girl. But, fast as this seemed sure to be, his eyes winked light.

Then, slowly, with a hushèd sigh – his tightened brow now smoothing;

He calmed himself to placidness, then turned his settled sight

To the faerie she opposing him. That she did look in all her might.

 

XV

Next, Nestor called the crowd’s attention with a drawing inward

Of his ancient form, which drew the gravity from heaven

That he focused in his gaze and gravely pressed toward

Each of the opposèd; first one and next the other: seven

Times the weight which shoulder-heavy Atlas bore on back

His goodly frame the faerie-he and faerie-she felt weighing

In their buzzing brains. Their flutt’ring drunk-light wings did lack

Some strength just then; and then both knew the great weight in saying.

The crowd again was hushed ‘neath Nestor, and all’s thoughts were further pensive laying.

 

XVI

So sat the scene: Old Nestor kept control by known respect

And skill; the rest controlled and freely waiting the Master’s peal.

So. Then: up! Quoth, with laughter bursting: “Ha! I see defect

In talk by this! The she-sprite’s opin’ed outbursts thick congeal

The progress of decisions! See? Just so! There’s nothing done

By all this talk; one’d best to “Do” a thing before there’s more.

See old man, the Nester up in dingy pulpit? Run

All out of useful words: I swear it! Swear it true! And for

My little sprightly life I too this swear: all talk sans “Do” makes us all sore.”

 

 

XVII

Quoth: “Quip! That silly spirit so convinced that what he says

He knows.” Grave Quoth did gravely “ha” at his dear friend; then, crossing

Seraph arms and feathered wings about himself front-ways

He tilted somber his slight head; and there he so-still sitting

Himself upon the Heaven’s Rafters; Quip all fluttering light

About in mischief’d joy: those two unseen observant things!

And Quoth held tongue in deepest thought as Quip, in windy flight,

Did grin his friend’s so melancholy air. ‘Gain Quip: “Your wings

Obscure offence against my “ignorance”: the which beratement often brings!”

 

XVIII

And Quoth: “Beratement’s best achieved in hush, so I’ll no more

With Quip. A silly thing’s a wild fool, and so are you

To be so flippant flapping ‘bout this serious business for

A game,” and so, and Quip, mock-injured: “What, then, should I do?

Well, friend? The table’s set, the guests’ve met, and now we wait

A feast of –  O! Forbid! – of talk! I’ll have my verb as cooked

As rare as made decisions, I’ll, and fork it from my plate

With old Prosper’s snappèd wand, all blunt and charm forsook’d;

For it is used to, now, the which which, broken once, does not e’r more, unlooked,”

 

XIX

“Regarded well enough for: ‘it was said,’ Ah! Failing me,”

And here did Quip a swooning posture make aflight the air

Before Quoth’s stony face: one hand of Quip’s draped back-hand limply

Across his own o’er strainèd brow; and in such posture there,

Mocking agony, he cried: “Oh! Fainting I! Yes, I’ve

Heard such vast extent of talk! Enough! Enough! Enough!

Three times I say: enough! (and at that four) and, me alive!

There are not enough enoughs to spend and sternly stuff

To fill the mouths of these ones here content! Oh, see! I’ve sixfold spent enough!”

 

XX

At the climax of this speech, and with much thrashing all

Throughout, slight Quip up-threw his splaying hands above his head

So he disheveled his gold-curling hair, and then light fall

Against his back in loud exasperation; his face red

And flushed by his unruly heat; so he lay panting on

A rafter there, almost in swoon. His breaths soon shallowed; slowed

In time with the low crowd’s gentle murmuring. A wild lawn

Of golden hair Quip brushed from his smooth brow; he looked and showed

Quoth pearly teeth in an encharming smile. Quip’s sweet laughter gently flowed

 

 

 

XXI

From out his busy mouth. Quoth slightly shifted towards his friend;

He turned to Quip and said: “You spend however many words

You want; you’ll not prove talk to be but otherwise what lend

The talkers to who do: the doers take that talk in herds;

In flocks of spoken thought and, yes, the doers do, I know:

But what they do; what’s done; is that the talkers talked about.

The topics, full discussed, are passed to labourers; the show

Of thought, its shapely form, the thing that’s seen in grand without,

Is property of thought and spoken word: so we discuss, decide, and out”

 

XXII

“The shape comes afterword,” and, that resolved, Quoth gestured down

To the scene again below, “Now watch you,” Quoth to Quip

Instructed, “Talkers talked, those two, and one with weighty frown

Now weighs those words to find which ones were best. From off his lip

Will come what’s to be done,” and Quip: “I’ll watch for Poesie’s sake,

But mind you: I’ve not seen the Muse about these lofty grounds

Since she has gone and absent been; and much of talk did make

Its circuit ‘bout these halls since then, and we our sprightly rounds,

And ever still I’ve seen no Muse, for decision withholds its final sounds.”

 

XXIII

The hall was wrapt in tight attention; faeries layered all

In silent wait and gazing at old Nestor’s deep-folded

Visage. Some faeries held out ginger hands in nervous thrall,

As if they press’d a tender wound-dress, judging well which fold did

Cover up the mortal gash; then sudden hands sprung back

As Nestor’s brow did stoop and sway with deep-entrenchèd thought.

That foremost faerie-he stood firm: he did not suffer lack

Of bravery (‘least not to any eye). That she, she sought

At sidewise glance to catch a nervous look; but her look was rewarded nought.

 

XXIV

Then Nestor ‘gain drew in attention there at the forefront

Of the assembly; up front he sat there on the grandest seat in

All that lofty cloud-ward land: a grandiose framework; on’t,

Maz’d in curious etching, sprawled a hist’ry closely kin

To antique stories (known as Poet’s fare); of Grecian lords

In purple garb up-thrusting glist’ring spears to cheer and call

The battle-lusty throng; o’th’ World-Sea-Sailor’s whaling-swords

(Harpoons) bed in dread white flesh alive! Or of Love’s am’rous fall

Into that sweetest drunken bliss: sweet Cupid and fair Psyche’s mid-lipped stall

 

 

 

XXV

Or, ‘mid love’s closest ecstasies, their graceful-archèd backs

Artfully captured there past time as known to fading kind;

These things and all else, sketched in finely crafted stuff; in wax

About the choicest timbre artistry could wish; you’d find

There all you know of love, and more than any mind could tell,

All up, all down, and all across old Nestor’s chieftan seat.

And from that venerated throne; that well-regarded shell

Of wise command, old Nestor rose up on his hoary feet:

There stooping on a staff he slow began to speak in a timeless poet’s beat:

 

XXVI

“The Muse has left us in sore need,” he said, in a soft tone;

Deep; arresting; “It is true: our song is dying slow,

Its death in kind with ours, all faerie’s fellow fear: alone

The Lovely-Hated Muse: she the despot of all show

Of thoughtful splendour; alone can she give our young song its life:

As it is now so bare, it would be tenfold then with seed

Of sweetest fruits; these are the sorry truths! The cruelest knife

Imagined could not wound us deeper than as now the greed

Mother of all poet’s dreams, the Muse, has left us in such sorest need.”

 

XXVII

“And it is right that we address our need from every side

Of contemplation: you, my boy, to fix our fate, would bring

The Muse at every cost; and you, my girl, with haughty pride,

Would have us work the harder for her absence, louder sing

Our poet’s song and deal as come the consequences. Two

Solutions, both at cost, and both which bear advantage great

To us and that which is the work of faerie hands, which do

Most artful things. A long time we have welcomed the Muse, as fate

Would butterfly’s on wing to loft about the breeze; but now our time is late,”

 

XXVIII

“And absent is our Muse! How terrible, and of purport

The most extreme, is this decision fallen here to me!

It is at times as this time I desire some support;

Some other faerie eld’ (I know not who) but who would be

An equal in my wisdom’d years; to share such weary things

As burden my sole self with often-patchèd indecision.

A warning to up-lifting youth: a wisdom sought but brings

Most heavy weight collected in all age. A dressed precision

In a thought is nought, though I do try my best in bleary-sighted vision.”

 

 

 

XXIX

The crowd stood stiff, and deep in stiff attention; some but barely

Letting breath past tight-press’d lips; too, every eye was fixed

On Nestor’s reverend posture as his speech moved slowly, fairly

Out with grave resolve. Quoth nodded wise agreement, un-mixed,

While   Quip yawned clownish-loud. He made himself a flippant gesture

Toward the sky above and, rolling eyes, said: “Why, his presence

Is no prophet’s! That cracking face, that temple tone: T’be sure!

A-list’ning to some pilèd rocks; some tomb of ancient Pleasance;

Would much more impress and well-instruct than he; whose voice is a dying peasant’s;”

 

XXX

“Whose words would drown the mellow sea in Boredom’s salted tears;

He folds his too-affected speech in like to likeness’ cloth

When even all the lowest-minded understand! He fears

We’ll miss-step, though he rather smothers intellect- a sloth

Of rhetoric he is! A mazy-minded man un-bold,

So returning e’er to the prior-said: the oft’-spoken phrase

Of his; familiar in comfort; as many do who’re old.

There is no thing t’appreciate in this, no thing to praise,

And though he’s stocked his wisdom, all his wisdom’s lost in this pathetic daze.”

 

XXXI

“His fear’s to cope with separate mind’s abilities to draw

Conclusions. But some things said, while others not, is often better

Than all things spoken much: we’d guess a horse is all we saw

Were a long horse face and nose. So all the rest does but deter

And well confuse the senses.” So. Quip clapped his eyes and shook

His locks in disapproval; Quoth but frowned towards the crowd

Below: the scene of all their thought and busy talk now took

Up a new shape, like as some figures in the busy cloud

Are recognized no sooner than are lost, and some one points, while whisp’ring loud:

 

XXXII

“Oh look! Some new thing now the painted sky, o’ercast, turns out!”

Though what this is is judged by all as different from what

All others do infer; such a metamorphic clout

The faerie crowd did make as each one shuffled, shoved, and butt

Their neighbour ‘side for lack of space. The reason for this change

In the assembly’s usual ordered rank ‘merged far behind,

From the back of the hall, where the sole and lonely shadows creep in strange,

Unsettling shifts of opaque greys and mid-night blues; there find

They Prote; timeless creature of the land; one oft’ as can be (though unkind)

 

 

 

XXXIII

Avoided by faeries as not settling or wholesome.

This aloof existence of awe and neglect Prote embraces gladly,

And the creature spends its time observant while it holds some

Mindfulness in all: unthought of, not forgotten; sadly

Hushed in cruel self-subjected muteness, ‘till some trouble

Finds no other end: then (seldom times) out-steps, in haunting

Vision, Prote, from its dark seclusion: that shadowy bubble;

Out steps Prote, the changèd, changing phantom; th’advent daunting

Ominous; who makes faeries leery of their fate, which feels a vaunting

 

XXXIV

Fear of absolution every time dread Prote makes

Its shifting misty-haunt procession. Now Prote again

Slow quit its cloudy-darkened space. From out the shadows takes

A grand yet deliberately understated progression; lain

Round-scribed the mystic hermits muffled, misty-maskèd feet

Float curious apparitions: formed, then formless – flitting

Too ‘round Prote’s obscured head; body; arms; legs; meet

Prote’s smoke-shifting form: joining, adding, taking, sitting

Atop a cloud-cloaked shoulder; or: hugging close a mist-draped ankle, admitting

 

XXXV

Sin and sainthood in mournful or jubilant Poesy finely metered

To the rhythms of spectral choirs; o’erwhelming tune in tempered timing

As Prote now proceeded grandly; the faerie crowd thus teetered,

Perched upon unease at Protes return each one miming

Interest or concern, while feeling manic horror. The crowd did part

From Prote and those spectral poets: there a movement; floating

Advance of wispy fog. At this approach did Nestor start,

And th’ faery girl and boy were rigid with unsure awe as th’ bloating

Cloud and th’ ghostly choir settled at the fore: dread grand, but never gloating.

 

XXXVI

Then dread-grand great Prote, with a gesture, subtly made

Whisper-silent; still; the cultish chorus laudable.

This having done Prote addressed old Nestor (who’d paled a shade)

And spoke in hushed tones that were unnaturally audible:
“Don’t mind me now so much as now you do my shaken friends,

For shadows such as I will pass no later than the sun

Is covered fast by amiable clouds: day only lends

A moment, brief but lovely, that t’me the moonish ardours run

A fever ‘nough so as to bear my form in air without its crumbling! Done”

 

 

 

XXXVII

“In well-favoured colours, all of that light is not so harsh

As it is beneficent-revealing. Oh, that I could live it!

But such is the sad luck my greater powers’ve mixèd-marsh

With my more pleasant gifts. But here! For darkness I am lit

With an uncanny understanding of the things you now

Conflict with, and I only speak to ease your troubled soul

Of sore distress. So let me say; you’ve heard each of how

You would bring life back to your starvèd song, for the Muse’s coal

Lends light no more to this court’s verse, and all this court has known is the Muse’s role.”

 

XXXVIII

“Though worthy was all that, you must remember, she has gone!

Nestor, I relate: I feel the weight of your decision

‘S if it were my own to make! So do not fear that you’ve, on

Matters worth deciding, lost that touch of youthful vision

Known to move whole worlds by rash, for nascent, inspiration

All alone; I mean to say that, yes, that’s passed in you;

But do not fear its passing. Few have not, of the elder nation,

Felt some dread ‘neath mounting years; I grant that this is true;

Yet have your heart! You have not lost your will: I see it strong in this whole crew!”

 

XXXIX

Here the dread Prote swept broad his drapèd arm about

That lofty hall where all those frightened faeries, fear’d, attended

To th’ shade’s high words. As yet uncomforted were they: in doubt

Of what Prote, too sympathetic, possibly intended

By his kindness and assurances. Oft’ loth are we

To trust in change when it comes as sudden rain to wet the drought

We have long found familiar; oft loth we are to see

What always is not seen without an effort: that the spout

Of highest inspiration, far above the mountain-mists, and there about

 

XL

The ageless legends dear commingling, offers up its whale-

Like gush no “why” which can be measured; opportunity

Is as a god; nay! is a god! Whose methods are of pale,

Well-hidden font full pure. And we must pluck chance mystery

Without a thought towards “Want” or “Need” (the which false brothers are).

‘Tis not to us to choose our chances: ‘Tis to us to chance them.

-Yet! Regard not my but modest thoughts: ‘stead for a far-

Off time removed from my creation, save them: for a tandem

Lock’d the faerie crowd to disregard the sudden chance, the which did stem

 

 

 

XLI

From out Prote’s own charity. The beneficent specter

Sensed this rabbit-like timidity- as when a harm-

Opposèd wanderer does spot – ‘mid lovely-blossomed nectar

And the ageless sounds of chirps and brush breeze-blown (which charm

The sense and calm the manic psyche – as when that peace rev’ling

Wand’rer fairly does spot the over-timorous forest child

Freeze, as dead, among the mixèd border-line which, sev’ring

Boot shod trampled path from the leaved and branchèd forest wild,

Often finds, upon its indistinguished rule, the padded paws of the mild

 

XLII

Creature, curious to view another world. He stills

Himself, all statuesque, (this so as not to frighten). Then

The wanderer, he well-meaning; kneeling slow; (the creature fills

With apprehension); stretches forth a friendly palm in the ken

Of the unsure creature; waits then for that creature’s chancèd choice.

So Prote thought itself the wandering kind: the crowd it saw

As creatures of the o’er-protecting Wild. Then its voice

Within did murmur wise: “I have my hand to offer raw

The rarest chance I can afford them – shall I show them? Yes! I’ll hold my law.”

 

XLIII

And Quoth above to Quip his friend remarked, his mood much lightened:

“All glint-ward sky and mud trod ‘neath ‘n’er guess this apparition!

Prote! Always present he, but ever faeries frightened

Be i’th’ sight of such a ghost!” Quip joinèd: “That condition

Does infect the very soul of ev’ry sprite who was

A one at all! I feel a spark of nerve in myself too

Though, more, I am in great suspense to learn what Prote does.”

So Quip, and Quoth chide mildly: “So now you’ll view your “Do”

As done by Prote I don’t doubt! You’ll wish’ll win because Pote is too”

 

XLIV

“Charitable in its nature, like a clue which gives its own

As solved to better benefit a one or lot in need

Of aid,” and Quip: “A wise soul, I’d conclude, and good to loan

Such charity to us in our distress.” Then Quoth: “You lead

Me to agree with you my brother. A good soul, yes; so kind

Is Prote, that shifted shadow.” So spoke Quoth and Quip

On the matters down below them. There did Prote, as to find

The object of its kindness; reach carefully in a slip

Of cloth ‘neath folds of misty robes; a slender hand: a myst’ry there to grip.

 

 

 

XLV

Forth from those folds brought free that hand, from out its ancient place

Of wait, a plainly bound thin pack of pages whose dimension

Was so slight it seemed not worth a word. A knot of lace

Kept shut this book when out of use. Prote, with great intention,

Pulled away with thumb and finger pall, that easy lock:

That cool deliberate touch did melt the lace to breezy sand.

Prote looked up to Nestor; seemed to smile; not to mock,

But to appear more affable; up-reached the shady hand

Which grasped the tiny diary (or psalter; verse-book; pamphlet; notebook bland

 

XLVI

Of ink – or – what it was it seemed to be – what e’er – and said:

“Does it not seem so laughable! (or, ‘twould, if not so grave)

That what we struggle at is often nought to others fed

Like food and born akin – that almost seem a very pave

Or etch of our own nature? Ah, well; no. Your features frown

At this. Perhap sometime you will confess that you agree.

Not now though – no. I will excuse you circumstance: a crown

To your accomplishments! Is all I wish a’more. I flee

The tragedy, now all my work is o’er. Be kind, and clearly all truth see.”

 

XLVII

So Prote placed the little book at Nestor’s hoary feet,

And with a misty-robèd flourish turned and stalked away,

Like fluid things do, back to Shadow Land.  Those spirits fleet

About the purposed creature swirled as dancing ghosts in sway

Of some celestial music issued from their hidden pipes:

A sight and sound it ever was! Like none before or after

Seen: full thousands swelled the vaunting hall, of varied types,

All gloried in their ghostly forms until dissolved under

Some higher power: Then the swell climaxed and broke! – and naught was heard but laughter,

 

XLVIII

Sole, and fading fast; and naught was seen of shadows ‘cept

What does occur by want of light (this through obstruction ‘mid

Light’s great profusion): even this each faerie’s eyes, light, crept

With hurried superstition (full long time, this, after rid

Of Prote and those spirits). The hall was shocked now – mortified

Each faerie stood, suspended to react. Old Nestor; book

Unknown lain at his feet, looked no confusion. Mystified,

But understanding, Nestor stooped and the small volume took

Into his agèd hands: it seemed both old and new: and ‘neath his frown he look’d

 

 

 

XLIX

The book, and it stayed from ‘neath his orbs. The ginger tips

Of his cracked fingers explored the bare front carefully; lingered

At some unknown int’rest. A breath from ‘tween his tight-kept lips

Betrayed a moment’s doubt: he griped the book and the cover fingered

Open; it fell aside – and gave a page wherefrom there sprung

Full suddenly a clown in plainest dress, an apparition

Comic-strange and full of music rudiment’lly rung

Of copper bells some place away: energy in vision

He, with wild electric eyes; sensitive face, alight with mild expression.

 

L

The faeries gasped; all gasped aloud; old Nestor shuffled back

A pace; the small volume from which forth sprung that sudden clown

Found, of grip, old Nestor having dropped it, a sudden lack,

And so fell to the white stage floor. And as it rumbled down

Onto the floor the pages flung askance the binding which

Had fixed each to its place: order gone, the leaf-likes fly;

They flew out everywhere. The strange clown faulted form: a stitch

Began it here and there: then stooped he, greyed he, did he sigh

A very sigh and now an agèd hermit was! Like who watched rocks, and by

 

LI

A shrunken pool had stood and waited for – who knows not what?

Now it stooped and noiseless wailed some unknown fortune lost:

Perhaps a love, perhaps an end to a great promise that, but

For misfortune, would have been a lively grace; crossed

Fate, though, knows no pity. Then the solemn figure wailed

A wild wail: though noiseless, it stirred all wild vision

As a half-imagined storm: great colours artless swirled

And swept as in some great ethereal wind some crazed collision

Of fantastic minds broke off from reason so to dream in mad illusion.

 

LII

The book expounded such fantastic visions vividly:

Now fires of Hell, now beaming clouds of High Heaven; divine

Houses of Paradise and all earthly acts did freely

Swirl in half-confusèd gusts of vision; a shocking shrine

Of imag’d life the book became, though deep silence oppressed

The hall. The faeries watched with wonder in their drinking eyes.

Then fires and clouds; then Houses and Acts; then all this wond’rous int’rest

That the book shot forth for view did stop – gone! – together. Sighs

Escaped the faeries: now the wild visions – vanished – seemed but dreamy lies.

 

 

 

Epilogue

LIII

So the faeries several flew the place; I know not where:

Out from the dreaming hall, that faerie forum built of cloud,

Each to its each, now flying here, now sometime flying there.

Unfounded light – great golden beams; ‘gan shining all around

A chasing light, un-menacing; it ‘sued each faerie flee.

The hall waxed still: heard faerie feather’s ruffled rustle dies;

But loose-fled pages (a small few) blew windy-light and free

Of bind – did mindless make a way in time, with turning sighs,

Past great cloud-wrought gates, or some through aerie ports: out, up to the windy skies!

 

LIV

Left solemn Quip and Quoth viewed out those floating pages far

Past vision failed and ‘nought but air was seen. Quoth nodded out

These thought-tuned words: “I’ve known a place where learned pages are

Collected and kept whole. No doubt we’ve met some agèd shout –

An artifact from such a one,” and Quoth replied: “I’ve known

Such tales myself my friend – what could they be if true? Does

The mind not make for the sake of its heirs? Not simply made and thrown

Away: old acts in record add to new; full pages thousand

Fill full shelves; the pages turn and turn; there’s talk in that – that talk Does – ”

 

End