Allen Ginsberg |
What new element before us unborn in nature? Is there
a new thing under the Sun?
At last inquisitive Whitman a modern epic, detonative,
First penned unmindful by Doctor Seaborg with poison-
ous hand, named for Death's planet through the
sea beyond Uranus
whose chthonic ore fathers this magma-teared Lord of
Hades, Sire of avenging Furies, billionaire Hell-
King worshipped once
with black sheep throats cut, priests's face averted from
underground mysteries in single temple at Eleusis,
Spring-green Persephone nuptialed to his inevitable
Shade, Demeter mother of asphodel weeping dew,
her daughter stored in salty caverns under white snow,
black hail, grey winter rain or Polar ice, immemor-
able seasons before
Fish flew in Heaven, before a Ram died by the starry
bush, before the Bull stamped sky and earth
or Twins inscribed their memories in clay or Crab'd
washed memory from the skull, or Lion sniffed the
lilac breeze in Eden--
Before the Great Year began turning its twelve signs,
ere constellations wheeled for twenty-four thousand
slowly round their axis in Sagittarius, one hundred
sixty-seven thousand times returning to this night
Radioactive Nemesis were you there at the beginning
black dumb tongueless unsmelling blast of Disil-
I manifest your Baptismal Word after four billion years
I guess your birthday in Earthling Night, I salute your
dreadful presence last majestic as the Gods,
Sabaot, Jehova, Astapheus, Adonaeus, Elohim, Iao,
Ialdabaoth, Aeon from Aeon born ignorant in an
Abyss of Light,
Sophia's reflections glittering thoughtful galaxies, whirl-
pools of starspume silver-thin as hairs of Einstein!
Father Whitman I celebrate a matter that renders Self
Grand Subject that annihilates inky hands & pages'
prayers, old orators' inspired Immortalities,
I begin your chant, openmouthed exhaling into spacious
sky over silent mills at Hanford, Savannah River,
Rocky Flats, Pantex, Burlington, Albuquerque
I yell thru Washington, South Carolina, Colorado,
Texas, Iowa, New Mexico,
Where nuclear reactors creat a new Thing under the
Sun, where Rockwell war-plants fabricate this death
stuff trigger in nitrogen baths,
Hanger-Silas Mason assembles the terrified weapon
secret by ten thousands, & where Manzano Moun-
tain boasts to store
its dreadful decay through two hundred forty millenia
while our Galaxy spirals around its nebulous core.
I enter your secret places with my mind, I speak with
your presence, I roar your Lion Roar with mortal
One microgram inspired to one lung, ten pounds of
heavy metal dust adrift slow motion over grey
the breadth of the planet, how long before your radiance
speeds blight and death to sentient beings?
Enter my body or not I carol my spirit inside you,
O heavy heavy Element awakened I vocalize your con-
sciousness to six worlds
I chant your absolute Vanity.
Yeah monster of Anger
birthed in fear O most
Ignorant matter ever created unnatural to Earth! Delusion
of metal empires!
Destroyer of lying Scientists! Devourer of covetous
Generals, Incinerator of Armies & Melter of Wars!
Judgement of judgements, Divine Wind over vengeful
nations, Molester of Presidents, Death-Scandal of
Capital politics! Ah civilizations stupidly indus-
Canker-Hex on multitudes learned or illiterate! Manu-
factured Spectre of human reason! O solidified
imago of practicioner in Black Arts
I dare your reality, I challenge your very being! I
publish your cause and effect!
I turn the wheel of Mind on your three hundred tons!
Your name enters mankind's ear! I embody your
My oratory advances on your vaunted Mystery! This
breath dispels your braggart fears! I sing your
form at last
behind your concrete & iron walls inside your fortress
of rubber & translucent silicon shields in filtered
cabinets and baths of lathe oil,
My voice resounds through robot glove boxes & ignot
cans and echoes in electric vaults inert of atmo-
I enter with spirit out loud into your fuel rod drums
underground on soundless thrones and beds of
O density! This weightless anthem trumpets transcendent
through hidden chambers and breaks through
iron doors into the Infernal Room!
Over your dreadful vibration this measured harmony
floats audible, these jubilant tones are honey and
milk and wine-sweet water
Poured on the stone black floor, these syllables are
barley groats I scatter on the Reactor's core,
I call your name with hollow vowels, I psalm your Fate
close by, my breath near deathless ever at your
to Spell your destiny, I set this verse prophetic on your
mausoleum walls to seal you up Eternally with
Diamond Truth! O doomed Plutonium.
The Bar surveys Plutonian history from midnight
lit with Mercury Vapor streetlamps till in dawn's
he contemplates a tranquil politic spaced out between
Nations' thought-forms proliferating bureaucratic
& horrific arm'd, Satanic industries projected sudden
with Five Hundred Billion Dollar Strength
around the world same time this text is set in Boulder,
Colorado before front range of Rocky Mountains
twelve miles north of Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility in
United States of North America, Western Hemi-
of planet Earth six months and fourteen days around
our Solar System in a Spiral Galaxy
the local year after Dominion of the last God nineteen
hundred seventy eight
Completed as yellow hazed dawn clouds brighten East,
Denver city white below
Blue sky transparent rising empty deep & spacious to a
morning star high over the balcony
above some autos sat with wheels to curb downhill
from Flatiron's jagged pine ridge,
sunlit mountain meadows sloped to rust-red sandstone
cliffs above brick townhouse roofs
as sparrows waked whistling through Marine Street's
summer green leafed trees.
This ode to you O Poets and Orators to come, you
father Whitman as I join your side, you Congress
and American people,
you present meditators, spiritual friends & teachers,
you O Master of the Diamond Arts,
Take this wheel of syllables in hand, these vowels and
consonants to breath's end
take this inhalation of black poison to your heart, breath
out this blessing from your breast on our creation
forests cities oceans deserts rocky flats and mountains
in the Ten Directions pacify with exhalation,
enrich this Plutonian Ode to explode its empty thunder
through earthen thought-worlds
Magnetize this howl with heartless compassion, destroy
this mountain of Plutonium with ordinary mind
and body speech,
thus empower this Mind-guard spirit gone out, gone
out, gone beyond, gone beyond me, Wake space,
July 14, 1978
T S (Thomas Stearns) Eliot |
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us
Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.
Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree
In the cool of the day, having fed to sateity
On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been
In the hollow round of my skull.
And God said
Shall these bones live? shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping:
Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness.
And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.
It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject.
The Lady is withdrawn
In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them.
As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose.
And God said
Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only
The wind will listen.
And the bones sang chirping
With the burden of the grasshopper, saying
Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.
Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert.
This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot.
And neither division nor unity
This is the land.
We have our inheritance.
At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.
At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.
At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.
Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.
Who walked between the violet and the violet
Whe walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs
Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing
White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme.
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.
The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke
But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken
Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew
And after this our exile
If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny
Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season,
time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose
O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.
O my people.
Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth
This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
Allen Ginsberg |
Under silver wing
San Francisco's towers sprouting
thru thin gas clouds,
Tamalpais black-breasted above Pacific azure
Berkeley hills pine-covered below--
Dr Leary in his brown house scribing Independence
typewriter at window
silver panorama in natural eyeball--
Sacramento valley rivercourse's Chinese
dragonflames licking green flats north-hazed
State Capitol metallic rubble, dry checkered fields
to Sierras- past Reno, Pyramid Lake's
blue Altar, pure water in Nevada sands'
brown wasteland scratched by tires
Jerry Rubin arrested! Beaten, jailed,
Leary out of action--"a public menace.
persons of tender years.
Shut up or Else Loonybin or Slam
Leroi on bum gun rap, $7,000
lawyer fees, years' negotiations--
SPOCK GUILTY headlined temporary, Joan Baez'
paramour husband Dave Harris to Gaol
Dylan silent on politics, & safe--
having a baby, a man--
Cleaver shot at, jail'd, maddened, parole revoked,
Vietnam War flesh-heap grows higher,
blood splashing down the mountains of bodies
on to Cholon's sidewalks--
Blond boys in airplane seats fed technicolor
Murderers advance w/ Death-chords
Earplugs in, steak on plastic
served--Eyes up to the Image--
What do I have to lose if America falls?
my body? my neck? my personality?
June 19, 1968
John Donne |
He that cannot choose but love,
And strives against it still,
Never shall my fancy move,
For he loves 'gainst his will;
Nor he which is all his own,
And can at pleasure choose,
When I am caught he can be gone,
And when he list refuse.
Nor he that loves none but fair,
For such by all are sought;
Nor he that can for foul ones care,
For his judgement then is nought;
Nor he that hath wit, for he
Will make me his jest or slave;
Nor a fool, for when others.
He can neither.
Nor he that still his Mistress pays,
For she is thralled therefore;
Nor he that pays not, for he says
Within She's worth no more.
Is there then no kind of men
Whom I may freely prove?
I will vent that humour then
In mine own self-love.
Anne Sexton |
Like Oedipus I am losing my sight.
LIke Judas I have done my wrong.
Their punishment is over;
the shame and disgrace of it
are all used up.
But as for me,
look into my face
and you will know that crimes dropped upon me
as from a high building
and although I cannot speak of them
or explain the degrading details
I have remembered much
about Judas -
about Judas, the old and the famous -
that you overlooked.
The story of his life
is the story of mine.
I have one glass eye.
My nerves push against its painted surface
but the other one
waiting for judgement
continues to see .
the New Testament is very small.
Its mouth opens four times -
as out-of-date as a prehistoric monster,
yet somehow man-made
held together by pullies
like the stone jaw of a back-hoe.
It gouges out the Judaic ground,
taking its own backyard
like a virgin daughter.
And furthermore how did Judas come into it -
that Judas Iscariot,
belonging to the tribe of Reuben?
He should have tried to lift him up there!
His neck like an iron pole,
hard as Newcastle,
his heart as stiff as beeswax,
his legs swollen and unmarked,
his other limbs still growing.
All of it heavy!
That dead weight that would have been his fault
He should have known!
In the first place who builds up such ugliness?
I think of this man saying .
Look! Here's the price to do it
plus the cost of the raw materials
and if it took him three or four days
to do it, then, they'd understand.
They figured it weighed enough
to support a man.
fifteen stone is the approximate weight
of a thief.
Its ugliness is a matter of custom.
If there was a mistake made
then the Crucifix was constructed wrong .
not from the quality of the pine,
not from hanging a mirror,
not from dropping the studding or the drill
but from having an inspriation.
But Judas was not a genius
or under the auspices of an inspiration.
I don't know whether it was gold or silver.
I don't know why he betrayed him
other than his motives,
other than the avaricious and dishonest man.
And then there were the forbidden crimes,
those that were expressly foretold,
and then overlooked
and then forgotten
except by me .
Judas had a mother
just as I had a mother.
Oh! Honor and relish the facts!
Do not think of the intense sensation
I have as I tell you this
but think only .
Judas had a mother.
His mother had a dream.
Because of this dream
he was altogether managed by fate
and thus he raped her.
As a crime we hear little of this.
Also he sold his God.
Arthur Hugh Clough |
What we, when face to face we see
The Father of our souls, shall be,
John tells us, doth not yet appear;
Ah! did he tell what we are here!
A mind for thoughts to pass into,
A heart for loves to travel through,
Five senses to detect things near,
Is this the whole that we are here?
Rules baffle instincts--instinct rules,
Wise men are bad--and good are fools,
Facts evil--wishes vain appear,
We cannot go, why are we here?
O may we for assurance's sake,
Some arbitrary judgement take,
And wilfully pronounce it clear,
For this or that 'tis we are here?
Or is it right, and will it do,
To pace the sad confusion through,
And say:--It doth not yet appear,
What we shall be, what we are here?
Ah yet, when all is thought and said,
The heart still overrules the head;
Still what we hope we must believe,
And what is given us receive;
Must still believe, for still we hope
That in a world of larger scope,
What here is faithfully begun
Will be completed, not undone.
My child, we still must think, when we
That ampler life together see,
Some true result will yet appear
Of what we are, together, here.
Andrei Voznesensky |
My doc announced yesterday :
"You may have talent, though it's hidden,
your beak, however, is frost-bitten,
so stick at home on a cold day".
The nose, eh?
As irretrievable as time,
conforming to the laws of medicine,
your nose, like that of any person,
The noses of celebrities,
and ministers of ours
grow, snoring restlessly like owls
at night, along with plants and trees.
They're cool and crooked, resembling bills,
they're squeezed in doors,
get hurt by boxers,
however, our neighbour's noses
screw into keyholes, just like drills!
(Great Gogol felt by intuition
the role they play in man's ambition.
My friend Bukashkin who was boozy
dreamed of a nose
that grew like crazy:
above him, coming like a bore,
upsetting pans and chandeliers,
floor upon the floor!
"What's that? -- he thought, when out of bed.
"A sign of Judgement Day -- I said --
And the inspection of the debtors!"
He was imprisoned on the 30th.
Perpetual motion of the nose!
It's long, while life is getting shorter.
At night on faces, pale as blotter,
like a black hawk, or pumping hose,
the nose absorbs us, I suppose.
They say, the Northern Eskimos
kiss one another with the nose
It hasn't caught on here, of course.
© Copyright Alec Vagapov's translation
Leonard Cohen |
Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I'm crazy for love but I'm not coming on
I'm just paying my rent every day
Oh in the Tower of Song
I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn't answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
A hundred floors above me
In the Tower of Song
I was born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond
They tied me to this table right here
In the Tower of Song
So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I'm very sorry, baby, doesn't look like me at all
I'm standing by the window where the light is strong
Ah they don't let a woman kill you
Not in the Tower of Song
Now you can say that I've grown bitter but of this you may
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor
And there's a mighty judgement coming, but I may be wrong
You see, you hear these funny voices
In the Tower of Song
I see you standing on the other side
I don't know how the river got so wide
I loved you baby, way back when
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
We'll never have to lose it again
Now I bid you farewell, I don't know when I'll be back
There moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track
But you'll be hearing from me baby, long after I'm gone
I'll be speaking to you sweetly
From a window in the Tower of Song
Yeah my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I'm crazy for love but I'm not coming on
I'm just paying my rent every day
Oh in the Tower of Song
Percy Bysshe Shelley |
I rode one evening with Count Maddalo
Upon the bank of land which breaks the flow
Of Adria towards Venice: a bare strand
Of hillocks, heap'd from ever-shifting sand,
Matted with thistles and amphibious weeds,
Such as from earth's embrace the salt ooze breeds,
Is this; an uninhabited sea-side,
Which the lone fisher, when his nets are dried,
Abandons; and no other object breaks
The waste, but one dwarf tree and some few stakes
Broken and unrepair'd, and the tide makes
A narrow space of level sand thereon,
Where 'twas our wont to ride while day went down.
This ride was my delight.
I love all waste
And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be:
And such was this wide ocean, and this shore
More barren than its billows; and yet more
Than all, with a remember'd friend I love
To ride as then I rode; for the winds drove
The living spray along the sunny air
Into our faces; the blue heavens were bare,
Stripp'd to their depths by the awakening north;
And, from the waves, sound like delight broke forth
Harmonizing with solitude, and sent
Into our hearts aëreal merriment.
So, as we rode, we talk'd; and the swift thought,
Winging itself with laughter, linger'd not,
But flew from brain to brain--such glee was ours,
Charg'd with light memories of remember'd hours,
None slow enough for sadness: till we came
Homeward, which always makes the spirit tame.
This day had been cheerful but cold, and now
The sun was sinking, and the wind also.
Our talk grew somewhat serious, as may be
Talk interrupted with such raillery
As mocks itself, because it cannot scorn
The thoughts it would extinguish: 'twas forlorn,
Yet pleasing, such as once, so poets tell,
The devils held within the dales of Hell
Concerning God, freewill and destiny:
Of all that earth has been or yet may be,
All that vain men imagine or believe,
Or hope can paint or suffering may achieve,
We descanted, and I (for ever still
Is it not wise to make the best of ill?)
Argu'd against despondency, but pride
Made my companion take the darker side.
The sense that he was greater than his kind
Had struck, methinks, his eagle spirit blind
By gazing on its own exceeding light.
Meanwhile the sun paus'd ere it should alight,
Over the horizon of the mountains--Oh,
How beautiful is sunset, when the glow
Of Heaven descends upon a land like thee,
Thou Paradise of exiles, Italy!
Thy mountains, seas, and vineyards, and the towers
Of cities they encircle! It was ours
To stand on thee, beholding it: and then,
Just where we had dismounted, the Count's men
Were waiting for us with the gondola.
As those who pause on some delightful way
Though bent on pleasant pilgrimage, we stood
Looking upon the evening, and the flood
Which lay between the city and the shore,
Pav'd with the image of the sky.
And aëry Alps towards the North appear'd
Through mist, an heaven-sustaining bulwark rear'd
Between the East and West; and half the sky
Was roof'd with clouds of rich emblazonry
Dark purple at the zenith, which still grew
Down the steep West into a wondrous hue
Brighter than burning gold, even to the rent
Where the swift sun yet paus'd in his descent
Among the many-folded hills: they were
Those famous Euganean hills, which bear,
As seen from Lido thro' the harbour piles,
The likeness of a clump of peakèd isles--
And then--as if the Earth and Sea had been
Dissolv'd into one lake of fire, were seen
Those mountains towering as from waves of flame
Around the vaporous sun, from which there came
The inmost purple spirit of light, and made
Their very peaks transparent.
"Ere it fade,"
Said my companion, "I will show you soon
A better station"--so, o'er the lagune
We glided; and from that funereal bark
I lean'd, and saw the city, and could mark
How from their many isles, in evening's gleam,
Its temples and its palaces did seem
Like fabrics of enchantment pil'd to Heaven.
I was about to speak, when--"We are even
Now at the point I meant," said Maddalo,
And bade the gondolieri cease to row.
"Look, Julian, on the west, and listen well
If you hear not a deep and heavy bell.
I look'd, and saw between us and the sun
A building on an island; such a one
As age to age might add, for uses vile,
A windowless, deform'd and dreary pile;
And on the top an open tower, where hung
A bell, which in the radiance sway'd and swung;
We could just hear its hoarse and iron tongue:
The broad sun sunk behind it, and it toll'd
In strong and black relief.
"What we behold
Shall be the madhouse and its belfry tower,"
Said Maddalo, "and ever at this hour
Those who may cross the water, hear that bell
Which calls the maniacs, each one from his cell,
" "As much skill as need to pray
In thanks or hope for their dark lot have they
To their stern Maker," I replied.
You talk as in years past," said Maddalo.
" 'Tis strange men change not.
You were ever still
Among Christ's flock a perilous infidel,
A wolf for the meek lambs--if you can't swim
Beware of Providence.
" I look'd on him,
But the gay smile had faded in his eye.
"And such," he cried, "is our mortality,
And this must be the emblem and the sign
Of what should be eternal and divine!
And like that black and dreary bell, the soul,
Hung in a heaven-illumin'd tower, must toll
Our thoughts and our desires to meet below
Round the rent heart and pray--as madmen do
For what? they know not--till the night of death,
As sunset that strange vision, severeth
Our memory from itself, and us from all
We sought and yet were baffled.
" I recall
The sense of what he said, although I mar
The force of his expressions.
The broad star
Of day meanwhile had sunk behind the hill,
And the black bell became invisible,
And the red tower look'd gray, and all between
The churches, ships and palaces were seen
Huddled in gloom;--into the purple sea
The orange hues of heaven sunk silently.
We hardly spoke, and soon the gondola
Convey'd me to my lodgings by the way.
The following morn was rainy, cold and dim:
Ere Maddalo arose, I call'd on him,
And whilst I waited with his child I play'd;
A lovelier toy sweet Nature never made,
A serious, subtle, wild, yet gentle being,
Graceful without design and unforeseeing,
With eyes--Oh speak not of her eyes!--which seem
Twin mirrors of Italian Heaven, yet gleam
With such deep meaning, as we never see
But in the human countenance: with me
She was a special favourite: I had nurs'd
Her fine and feeble limbs when she came first
To this bleak world; and she yet seem'd to know
On second sight her ancient playfellow,
Less chang'd than she was by six months or so;
For after her first shyness was worn out
We sate there, rolling billiard balls about,
When the Count enter'd.
"The word you spoke last night might well have cast
A darkness on my spirit--if man be
The passive thing you say, I should not see
Much harm in the religions and old saws
(Though I may never own such leaden laws)
Which break a teachless nature to the yoke:
Mine is another faith"--thus much I spoke
And noting he replied not, added: "See
This lovely child, blithe, innocent and free;
She spends a happy time with little care,
While we to such sick thoughts subjected are
As came on you last night.
It is our will
That thus enchains us to permitted ill.
We might be otherwise.
We might be all
We dream of happy, high, majestical.
Where is the love, beauty, and truth we seek
But in our mind? and if we were not weak
Should we be less in deed than in desire?"
"Ay, if we were not weak--and we aspire
How vainly to be strong!" said Maddalo:
"You talk Utopia.
" "It remains to know,"
I then rejoin'd, "and those who try may find
How strong the chains are which our spirit bind;
Brittle perchance as straw.
We are assur'd
Much may be conquer'd, much may be endur'd,
Of what degrades and crushes us.
That we have power over ourselves to do
And suffer--what, we know not till we try;
But something nobler than to live and die:
So taught those kings of old philosophy
Who reign'd, before Religion made men blind;
And those who suffer with their suffering kind
Yet feel their faith, religion.
" "My dear friend,"
Said Maddalo, "my judgement will not bend
To your opinion, though I think you might
Make such a system refutation-tight
As far as words go.
I knew one like you
Who to this city came some months ago,
With whom I argu'd in this sort, and he
Is now gone mad--and so he answer'd me--
Poor fellow! but if you would like to go
We'll visit him, and his wild talk will show
How vain are such aspiring theories.
"I hope to prove the induction otherwise,
And that a want of that true theory, still,
Which seeks a 'soul of goodness' in things ill
Or in himself or others, has thus bow'd
There are some by nature proud,
Who patient in all else demand but this--
To love and be belov'd with gentleness;
And being scorn'd, what wonder if they die
Some living death? this is not destiny
But man's own wilful ill.
As thus I spoke
Servants announc'd the gondola, and we
Through the fast-falling rain and high-wrought sea
Sail'd to the island where the madhouse stands.
Ruth Padel |
I was with Special Force, blue-X-ing raids
to OK surfing on the Colonel's birthday.
Operation Ariel: we sprayed Jimi Hendrix
loud from helis to frighten the slopes
A turkey shoot.
The Nang fogged up.
The men you need
are moral and kill like angels.
Judgement defeats us.
You're choosing between nightmares all the time.
My first tour, we hissed into an encampment
early afternoon, round two.
The new directive,
It took a while.
As we left, this old man came up, pulled on our
back-lag jeep-hoods, yacking.
We went back.
They'd come behind us, hacked off
all the inoculated arms.
There they were
in a pile, a pile of little arms.
Soon after, all us new recruits turned on
to angel-dust like the rest.
You get it subsidized out there.
The snail can' t crawl on the straight
razor and live.
(This poem was Commended in the 1992 National Poetry Competition)