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by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |


 This was the gods' god, 
The leashed divinity, 
Divine divining rod 
And Me within the me. 

By mindlight tower and tree 
Its shadow on the ground 
Throw, and in darkness she 
Whose weapon is her wound 

Fends off the knife, the sword, 
The Tiger and the Snake; 
It stalks the virgin's bed 
And bites her wide awake. 

Her Bab-el-Mandeb waits 
Her Red Sea gate of tears: 
The blood-sponge god dilates, 
His rigid pomp appears; 

Sets in the toothless mouth 
A tongue of prophecy. 
It speaks in naked Truth 
Indifference for me 

Love, a romantic slime 
That lubricates his way 
Against the stream of Time. 
And though I win the day 

His garrisons deep down 
Ignore my victory, 
Abandon this doomed town, 
Crawl through a sewer and flee. 

A certain triumph, of course, 
Bribes me with brief joy: 
Stiffly my Wooden Horse 
Receive into your Troy.

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |


 Year after year the princess lies asleep 
Until the hundred years foretold are done, 
Easily drawing her enchanted breath. 
Caught on the monstrous thorns around the keep, 
Bones of the youths who sought her, one by one 
Rot loose and rattle to the ground beneath.

But when the Destined Lover at last shall come, 
For whom alone Fortune reserves the prize 
The thorns give way; he mounts the cobwebbed stair 
Unerring he finds the tower, the door, the room, 
The bed where, waking at his kiss she lies 
Smiling in the loose fragrance of her hair.

That night, embracing on the bed of state, 
He ravishes her century of sleep 
And she repays the debt of that long dream; 
Future and Past compose their vast debate; 
His seed now sown, her harvest ripe to reap 
Enact a variation on the theme.

For in her womb another princess waits, 
A sleeping cell, a globule of bright dew. 
Jostling their way up that mysterious stair, 
A horde of lovers bursts between the gates, 
All doomed but one, the destined suitor, who 
By luck first reaches her and takes her there.

A parable of all we are or do! 
The life of Nature is a formal dance 
In which each step is ruled by what has been 
And yet the pattern emerges always new 
The marriage of linked cause and random chance 
Gives birth perpetually to the unforeseen.

One parable for the body and the mind: 
With science and heredity to thank 
The heart is quite predictable as a pump, 
But, let love change its beat, the choice is blind. 
'Now' is a cross-roads where all maps prove blank, 
And no one knows which way the cat will jump.

So here stand I, by birth a cross between 
Determined pattern and incredible chance,
Each with an equal share in what I am. 
Though I should read the code stored in the gene, 
Yet the blind lottery of circumstance 
Mocks all solutions to its cryptogram.

As in my flesh, so in my spirit stand I 
When does this hundred years draw to its close? 
The hedge of thorns before me gives no clue. 
My predecessor's carcass, shrunk and dry, 
Stares at me through the spikes. Oh well, here goes! 
I have this thing, and only this, to do.

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |

Observation Car

 To be put on the train and kissed and given my ticket, 
Then the station slid backward, the shops and the neon lighting, 
Reeling off in a drunken blur, with a whole pound note in my pocket 
And the holiday packed with Perhaps. It used to be very exciting. 

The present and past were enough. I did not mind having my back 
To the engine. I sat like a spider and spun 
Time backward out of my guts - or rather my eyes - and the track 
Was a Now dwindling off to oblivion. I thought it was fun: 

The telegraph poles slithered up in a sudden crescendo 
As we sliced the hill and scattered its grazing sheep; 
The days were a wheeling delirium that led without end to 
Nights when we plunged into roaring tunnels of sleep. 

But now I am tired of the train. I have learned that one tree 
Is much like another, one hill the dead spit of the next 
I have seen tailing off behind all the various types of country 
Like a clock running down. I am bored and a little perplexed; 

And weak with the effort of endless evacuation 
Of the long monotonous Now, the repetitive, tidy 
Officialdom of each siding, of each little station 
Labelled Monday, Tuesday - and goodness ! what happened to - Friday ? 

And the maddening way the other passengers alter: 
The schoolgirl who goes to the Ladies' comes back to her seat 
A lollipop blonde who leads you on to assault her, 
And you've just got her skirts round her waist and her pants round her feet 

When you find yourself fumbling about the nightmare knees 
Of a pink hippopotamus with a permanent wave 
Who sends you for sandwiches and a couple of teas, 
But by then she has whiskers, no teeth and one foot in the grave. 

I have lost my faith that the ticket tells where we are going. 
There are rumours the driver is mad - we are all being trucked 
To the abattoirs somewhere - the signals are jammed and unknowing 
We aim through the night full speed at a wrecked viaduct. 

But I do not believe them. The future is rumour and drivel; 
Only the past is assured. From the observation car 
I stand looking back and watching the landscape shrivel, 
Wondering where we are going and just where the hell we are, 

Remembering how I planned to break the journey, to drive 
My own car one day, to have choice in my hands and my foot upon power, 
To see through the trumpet throat of vertiginous perspective 
My urgent Now explode continually into flower, 

To be the Eater of Time, a poet and not that sly 
Anus of mind the historian. It was so simple and plain 
To live by the sole, insatiable influx of the eye. 
But something went wrong with the plan: I am still on the train.

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |


 When, darkly brooding on this Modern Age, 
The journalist with his marketable woes 
Fills up once more the inevitable page 
Of fatuous, flatulent, Sunday-paper prose; 

Whenever the green aesthete starts to whoop 
With horror at the house not made with hands 
And when from vacuum cleaners and tinned soup 
Another pure theosophist demands 

Rebirth in other, less industrial stars 
Where huge towns thrust up in synthetic stone 
And films and sleek miraculous motor cars 
And celluloid and rubber are unknown; 

When from his vegetable Sunday School 
Emerges with the neatly maudlin phrase 
Still one more Nature poet, to rant or drool 
About the "Standardization of the Race"; 

I see, stooping among her orchard trees, 
The old, sound Earth, gathering her windfalls in, 
Broad in the hams and stiffening at the knees, 
Pause and I see her grave malicious grin. 

For there is no manufacturer competes 
With her in the mass production of shapes and things. 
Over and over she gathers and repeats 
The cast of a face, a million butterfly wings. 

She does not tire of the pattern of a rose. 
Her oldest tricks still catch us with surprise. 
She cannot recall how long ago she chose 
The streamlined hulls of fish, the snail's long eyes, 

Love, which still pours into its ancient mould 
The lashing seed that grows to a man again, 
From whom by the same processes unfold 
Unending generations of living men. 

She has standardized his ultimate needs and pains. 
Lost tribes in a lost language mutter in 
His dreams: his science is tethered to their brains, 
His guilt merely repeats Original Sin. 

And beauty standing motionless before 
Her mirror sees behind her, mile on mile, 
A long queue in an unknown corridor, 
Anonymous faces plastered with her smile.

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |

Morning Coffee

 Reading the menu at the morning service: 
- Iced Venusberg perhaps, or buttered bum - 
Orders the usual sex-ersatz, and, nervous, 
Glances around - Will she or won't she come? 

The congregation dissected into pews 
Gulping their strip teas in the luminous cavern 
Agape's sacamental berry stews; 
The nickel-plated light and clatter of heaven 

Receive him, temporary Tantalus 
Into the Lookingglassland's firescape. 
Suckled on Jungfraumilch his eyes discuss, 
The werwolf twins, their mock Sabellian rape. 

This is their time to reap the standing scorn, 
Blonde Rumina's crop. Beneath her leafless tree 
Ripe-rumped she lolls and clasps the plenteous horn. 
Cool customers who defy his Trinity 

Feel none the less, and thrill, ur-vater Fear 
Caged in the son. For, though this ghost behave 
Experienced daughters recognize King Leer: 
Lot also had his daughters in a cave. 

Full sail the proud three-decker sandwiches 
With the eye-fumbled priestesses repass; 
On their swan lake the enchanted icecreams freeze, 
The amorous fountain prickles in the glass 

And at the introit of this mass emotion 
She comes, she comes, a balanced pillar of blood, 
Guides through the desert, divides the sterile ocean, 
Brings sceptic Didymus his berserk food, 

Sits deftly, folding elegant thighs, and takes 
Her time. She skins her little leather hands, 
Conscious that wavering towards her like tame snakes 
The polyp eyes converge.... The prophet stands 

Dreading the answer from her burning bush: 
This unconsuming flame, the outlaw's blow, 
Plague, exodus, Sinai, ruptured stones that gush, 
God's telegram: Dare Now! Let this people go!

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |

Meditation on a Bone

 A piece of bone, found at Trondhjem in 1901, with the following runic inscription (about A.D. 1050) cut on it: I loved her as a maiden; I will not trouble Erlend's detestable wife; better she should be a widow. 

Words scored upon a bone, 
Scratched in despair or rage -- 
Nine hundred years have gone; 
Now, in another age, 
They burn with passion on 
A scholar's tranquil page.

The scholar takes his pen 
And turns the bone about, 
And writes those words again. 
Once more they seethe and shout 
And through a human brain 
Undying hate rings out.

"I loved her when a maid;
I loathe and love the wife
That warms another's bed:
Let him beware his life!"
The scholar's hand is stayed;
His pen becomes a knife

To grave in living bone 
The fierce archaic cry. 
He sits and reads his own 
Dull sum of misery. 
A thousand years have flown 
Before that ink is dry.

And, in a foreign tongue, 
A man, who is not he, 
Reads and his heart is wrung 
This ancient grief to see, 
And thinks: When I am dung, 
What bone shall speak for me?

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |

Easter Hymn

 Make no mistake; there will be no forgiveness; 
No voice can harm you and no hand will save; 
Fenced by the magic of deliberate darkness 
You walk on the sharp edges of the wave; 

Trouble with soul again the putrefaction 
Where Lazarus three days rotten lies content. 
Your human tears will be the seed of faction 
Murder the sequel to your sacrament. 

The City of God is built like other cities: 
Judas negotiates the loans you float; 
You will meet Caiaphas upon committees; 
You will be glad of Pilate's casting vote. 

Your truest lovers still the foolish virgins, 
Your heart will sicken at the marriage feasts 
Knowing they watch you from the darkened gardens 
Being polite to your official guests.

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |

Death of the Bird

 For every bird there is this last migration;
Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;
With a warm passage to the summer station
Love pricks the course in lights across the chart.

Year after year a speck on the map, divided
By a whole hemisphere, summons her to come;
Season after season, sure and safely guided,
Going away she is also coming home.

And being home, memory becomes a passion
With which she feeds her brood and straws her nest,
Aware of ghosts that haunt the heart's possession
And exiled love mourning within the breast.

The sands are green with a mirage of valleys;
The palm tree casts a shadow not its own;
Down the long architrave of temple or palace
Blows a cool air from moorland scarps of stone.

And day by day the whisper of love grows stronger;
That delicate voice, more urgent with despair,
Custom and fear constraining her no longer,
Drives her at last on the waste leagues of air.

A vanishing speck in those inane dominions,
Single and frail, uncertain of her place,
Alone in the bright host of her companions,
Lost in the blue unfriendliness of space.

She feels it close now, the appointed season;
The invisible thread is broken as she flies;
Suddenly, without warning, without reason,
The guiding spark of instinct winks and dies.

Try as she will, the trackless world delivers
No way, the wilderness of light no sign;
Immense,complex contours of hills and rivers
Mock her small wisdom with their vast design.

The darkness rises from the eastern valleys,
And the winds buffet her with their hungry breath,
And the great earth, with neither grief nor malice,
Receives the tiny burden of her death.

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |

The Pleasure of Princes

 What pleasures have great princes? These: to know 
Themselves reputed mad with pride or power; 
To speak few words -- few words and short bring low 
This ancient house, that city with flame devour;

To make old men, their father's enemies,
Drunk on the vintage of the former age;
To have great painters show their mistresses
Naked to the succeeding time; engage

The cunning of able, treacherous ministers 
To serve, despite themselves, the cause they hate, 
And leave a prosperous kingdom to their heirs 
Nursed by the caterpillars of the state;

To keep their spies in good men's hearts; to read 
The malice of the wise, and act betimes; 
To hear the Grand Remonstrances of greed 
Led by the pure; cheat justice of her crimes;

To beget worthless sons and, being old,
By starlight climb the battlements, and while
The pacing sentry hugs himself for cold,
Keep vigil like a lover, muse and smile,

And think, to see from the grim castle steep 
The midnight city below rejoice and shine: 
"There my great demon grumbles in his sleep 
And dreams of his destruction, and of mine."

by Alec Derwent (A D) Hope |


 At noon thepaper tigers roar 
-- Miroslav Holub

The paper tigers roar at noon; 
The sun is hot, the sun is high. 
They roar in chorus, not in tune, 
Their plaintive, savage hunting cry.

O, when you hear them, stop your ears 
And clench your lids and bite your tongue. 
The harmless paper tiger bears 
Strong fascination for the young.

His forest is the busy street; 
His dens the forum and the mart; 
He drinks no blood, he tastes no meat: 
He riddles and corrupts the heart.

But when the dusk begins to creep 
From tree to tree, from door to door, 
The jungle tiger wakes from sleep 
And utters his authentic roar.

It bursts the night and shakes the stars
Till one breaks blazing from the sky;
Then listen! If to meet it soars
Your heart's reverberating cry,

My child, then put aside your fear: 
Unbar the door and walk outside! 
The real tiger waits you there; 
His golden eyes shall be your guide.

And, should he spare you in his wrath,
The world and all the worlds are yours;
And should he leap thejungle path
And clasp you with his bloody jaws,

Then say, as his divine embrace 
Destroys the mortal parts of you: 
I too am of that royal race 
Who do what we are born to do.