by Ian Williams
O’ Tragedy, that willful Comedy,
Enacted in blood and perfidy,
‘Tis a great and shining melody,
Grown from human malady.
O’ golden praise, O’ day of wrath,
Kinsmen walk the turgid path!
As equestrians ride to gather the fyrd,
Theseus is quartered: cut and spear’d.
Round of linden, axe of wood and steel,
The pray attacks upon, then takes to heel.
A thousand times it winds the saga tale,
Of a hundred lines of bronze and copper mail.
Toward the flame, through that fire,
Hades filled with passionate ire,
The hill of rock the home of the liar,
The man and beast felled by the spire.
Forward the oil’d arrows rain,
Cleaving the greatest clan in twain,
All in search of lost time and space,
Do these ones wish to know their place?
To their steel decay is clinging,
And angels watch over them, singing,
That hallowed tune of Gregorian chant,
A madman sings the dirge in rant.
The flower sits beside the pool,
Once loved, but proven more the fool,
Narcissus, now a sullen tool,
Now takes the countenance of a mule.
We, the living, stand on conquered hills, surrounded by the mills
Of whom we lost our trust and love, deceived by that immortal dove,
Of peace so grand, and conquest promised,
Now lost to the dead, taken off the roll call’s list.
Now long home and under shade, talking
Of retreats and stands we made,
We reminisce below the larch,
Singing still that victory march.
Far from home, away from my land,
Summoned by the master’s hand,
I heard the warriors at Hastings cry:
"What more does our tapestry belie?"
"Taken from hearth and summoned from the sea,
Take us from this infernal, blasted misery!
Take us home, to the stories heroic,
Take our history, but paint us stoic!"
The Great destroyed the Gordian’s Knot,
The Fates took down the Hero who was rot,
Ten years of glory, conquest, and war,
Stripped of land in the sands of a lion’s roar.
Onward the company marched, but refused to enter the mire,
For it saw beyond that figure of the knight, that noble sire,
The contentions of a love, an ambition so dire,
Enough to force the galleons of Lepanto to hide near the fire.
Even the noble six hundred, that critical day,
Would not have rode for eight tons of hay, for
They saw beyond the smoke and cannon,
Perhaps to know the depth of the canyon.
German, Gypsy, Gentile, and Jew,
Equal to none but the eyes of the few,
Enlightened by colour, rhythm, and sound,
Eventually lost and smashed to the ground.
The fury is sound; the sound is furious!
The images of a thousand years come, so spurious,
So quick and bizarre as to warp the mind delirious,
I take my leave of sense and sound, seeing suddenly,
That all is serious.
Wounded by my mind’s sincerities,
I saw the sky alight with the Pleiades,
Dancing, living, and burning in the night,
It is the lune’s companion in sacred flight.
Below this attention-starved sight,
The horizon shone with a bluish light,
And I collected myself to search for its source,
Not knowing the caution a feline must show in its course.
Across a field, I wandered
Through a forest, I pondered
How Telemachus had felt as he searched for his master,
When I found the source of the blue, the magical caster.
As it was, it was no source supernatural,
No force created by unions international,
It was but merely a river, surrounded by the haze nocturnal,
As a lost page, an ancient note in the cosmic journal.
I sat awhile at the river’s edge,
Unaware of the eternal pledge,
Made by those who guard its banks,
Sworn to induct intruders into the ranks,
Of the dead,
I soon learned the folly of my leaden head.
From above it came, the spectre in the air,
Waving its silk, its golden fleece of hair,
This was no monster, no angel or demon,
As I came to see the offspring of Typhon.
Echidna’s child, inexplicably in flight,
Bore down on me as a squadron might initiate a dogfight!
There the hydra flew in the atmosphere,
As plain as the shield of Sutton Hoo from England near!
Descent followed the sting of that menace,
But soon revealed to me was the face of the jewel that was Venice,
Though now it is clear that it was simply one of the eyes’ tricks,
For here I witnessed clear the river bemoaned as Styx.
The boat was crossing, but it was dark in the fog,
The shadows encroaching like gas from a bog,
Wishing to sweep me away to the shore,
Of that eternal deluge, to be observed nevermore.
Fortunately, in the depths of that night,
A sound awoke me to visions of my candlelight,
Burning as steadily in the morning of that soft summer’s sun,
As beautiful as any ray of light in a cathedral could have done.
The imagination of the night concluded,
That horrid dream my mind now eluded,
As the star of earth rose in the sky, I felt the amount of that sleep’s unrest,
Attested by the accreted sweat upon my crest.
It was with me in that journey of subconscious splendor,
It followed my earthly form, so weak and tender,
Giving hope and light, but ready to take flight and mourn,
Yet when pain struck and turned my expression forlorn,
Took the roll of mender.
Phaedra existed in that chaotic storm,
The healer of passion too strong and love too tender.