RSS

NORTH/SOUTH: A POEM OF CULTURAL CONTRASTS

21 Mar

[March 21st is the new World Poetry Day so I am posting the following poem which is included as the last poem of those to be published next month in my New Poems and Two Celtic Dramas]

Rottweil

NORTH/SOUTH: A POEM OF CULTURAL CONTRASTS

Even if from the end of the woods and the edges
Of forested mountains wonder horns echo [1] and
Sweetest chords summon, there is no call to roam there,
I carry their music within. Here too existence
Deeply resounds as bells toll to the breezes and soul.
Give me my wand! Through village and town I conjure coaches
And elves. There’s more magic than whispers in fir trees
And murmurs at river banks joins me. Mine readily plays
Beneath turret and spire, meanders past fountain and
Steep gabled houses, along winding streets where
Openly dreaming I’ve wandered. In regions like these,
What spell, what enchantment doesn’t journey the same ways
I’ve gone, even entered within each closed door?
Like wishes, no fairies of mine dance only on hilltops in rings.
Here sun need but glint on an alchemist’s pewter for
Whole worlds to be joined. [2] Sculpted satyrs and cherubs
Both smile. So much is enabled, diffused and collected,
Clouds carrying word of bright pasts and charmed futures,
Tell me, what could I lack? With a myriad flowers
I seize the many buds of potential.

Yet for love of particular things, descending
From castles and hill tops and not to snare dragons
I used gladly to linger below in the shadow
Of cavern and rock face, beside lake shores under
Star-heavy skies.[3] They resounded to high tumbling waters
Rushed to valleys that drew and detained me as though
There was a home. And consider that in such places
Souls would take refuge, including it seems to make
And unmake their own gods, [4] even if, as in arts
Of unconscious formation and enlarging mandalas,
The good of those prophets would slide into evil,
Combine, emerge, be revived as the serpent sheds skin.
Is that why they always return to your house and they
Haunt it, those shades, those unsatisfied spirits moaning
They attained to no rest at Jerusalem’s walls? [5]
Could it be that motion is all that they learned? Below
In earth’s darkness it’s said the circle of Mothers
Spin world turning change. But can they transform things, and
By using those steps in our treadmills (called by you
Recreation) whose labours recycle what you chose
To assume were so long left behind? [6] Behold then
A womb scarce more than a tomb and for even
The beauties of Helen not to be rescued.[7] I thought
To absorb the power of forests standing
Noble amid cloud drift. But let no evergreens grow
To enclose me forever. Where canopies rise let
The wishing trees shake out their gold. I will to depart.

11

Beneath these granite, barer mountains
Of the south it’s morning by a tideless lake.
On this, like sighs, the slightest motion
Falls against the unhindered rising of
The day, its atmosphere both still and
Brilliant as marbled columns to the sun.
Compressed infinities reside within
Quiet choruses of air which zephyr-light
Through and beyond the ripening citrus groves
Breathe out of “now” but also, and
Half mournfully before what might seem
Promise, murmur “wait”. Between
Ranged blue below and blue above,
Does body now go swim or row, or soul
Rise up to flow into the higher element?

The glance of Venus is behind, it looks away
Even when widest vistas are displayed and
It’s behind me Venus reigns: fashion dressed
To persons as to time, and shortening it with
Passing loves amid a careless opulence,
Still thrives.[8] But see ahead the flower-topped
Balconade adjoins the shallow steps down
To the lapping waters’ edge beyond which now
You can, but may not wish to go. Give me
The horn! Make noise and bring, clothed like the soul
In only dawn, tritons to race across
The waters into greater light and sky
Bearing upon their backs the time not
Personal but far directed and historical,
An energy that expands, builds, teaches and
Subdues in nature’s course beneath the eagle’s path
Found out by eyes directly fixed upon the sun.[9]
With this you could reach Athens and Jerusalem
And not return. And here from earth accepted in
Its myriad forms, with clarity you can rise high,
Seize infinity and the heavens themselves
Provided you would know to refuse
Those powers some craved on Mediolanum’s way
Seduced by love of emperors and of virgins’ lives [10]
Your talk become like baskets all too full
With blossoms over-ripe, weighed down with
Questions and the many answers not quite given. [11]

No lovers of the infinite and divine
Need dwell on petty joys and small regrets
And celebrate the in-turned mind through record
Of those thoughts, sometimes too humble then
Too proud, that monastery gardens best enclose. [12]
Tolle, Lege : words no angel but a child declared,
No doubt a sweet deceit played on the mind
Too mystical and unprophetic. [13] What faith
Is not far journey and a pilgrimage?
Who but he of alienated mind would seek
Divine felicity through intellect internally
As though to render earth with sea and sky
With body and each material thing all
Valueless besides the soul and God? [14]
What was that fallen temple of the Jews,
If not a heaven reflected and an Eden
Symbolized that mere abstraction never knew
Or else, like prophecy at the core, ignored
With all the mare nostrum world beyond
The cradle of new vision too despised. [15]
Truth here was lost and must again be found.

The shimmering light of day would consecrate
Life’s inner verities, and soul calls out
To banish time’s past monstrous interval,
Its centuries of night and misdirected
Prayer with contemplation pitched, in seeming
Innocence, between oppression and the
Foulest strife. [16] Accept again the sun
And wide created world which are your
Heritage toward the higher life,
By this take flight, reach even further south.

Though time and cycles will repeat they also
Form and never bring what’s quite the same again.
So now upon the age’s cusp, even though it be
An era’s end, go far upon the opened way
Receiving beams from an increasing light;
And while seas roar and skies unfold
Await of Salem’s city all surprise -
It is decreed again its temple rise
And seers with fiery prophecy outshine 
Closed revelations of the mystic’s mind.

Still waters of the lake and so bright atmosphere
Of risen day, you are that mirror jewel of
My mind, its inner being and my future life. [17]

TRITONS2

    NOTES

[1] Des Knabes Wunderhorn (1805) was a collection of poetry by Arnim and Brentano important for German literary Romanticism and music, both generally evoked by the poem.
[2]  The initial visions of the German Theosophist Jakob Böhme (15750-1624) involved sunlight on a pewter dish.
[3] Loose references both to Nietzsche’s Lake Silvaplana and personal experiences of a time spent in a Swiss college.
[4] Various German speaking sages like Nietzsche, Rilke and Jung have “remade” religion or the gods – Nietzsche believed Zarathustra was revealed to him on the shores of Silvaplana.
[5] In Jung’s Seven Sermons to the Dead, the spirits return from Jerusalem complaining they find no salvation there. Jung experienced the spirits as actually entering his house. German magical vision is not just rural like most magic but urban.
[6]  Evoking celebrated words of Goethe’s Faust  important for Jung, “Formation, Transformation, Eternal Mind’s Eternal Recreation”. They are not however specific to the Mothers who represent the Unconscious and the Feminine with which for Goethe as for Jung  mind must be reconciled.  However there seems nothing particularly liberating about the Mothers in their darkness and even if they inspire, the only salvation is in a certain repetition.
[7]  Homer’s Helen is effectively trapped in the Underworld from which Faust does not deliver her.
[8] Many properties bordering the Italian lakes are home to the rich and famous, fashion designers,  models and stars, the people of Venus, whose devotion to fashion highlights the ephemeral and  passing time.
[9]  The triton’s more masculine energies and nudity as against the well draped Venusian world (Luther taught the soul was naked before God and  a certain spiritual and aesthetic nudity may be said to join North and South) direct east and south toward Rome and beyond which marched under the sign of the eagle. The eagle looks directly at the sun which in the kind of medieval mysticism inaugurated by Augustine is almost rejected: “The good which  I now sought was not outside myself, I did not look for it in things which are seen  with the eye of the flesh by the light of the sun”. Augustine’s views were many and subject to change and his City of God even concedes Rome may be an imperfect symbol of heaven, but the poem suggests that (at its best) Rome represented a general impulse to civilisation of a kind in everything from language to roads.
[10] Mediolanum was the ancient name for Milan. It lies to the west of Garda rather than east like Athens and Jerusalem. Augustine greatly idealized Bishop Ambrose as “saintly” though he represented a lot of the too typical fourth century church politicking and chicanery. He was ordained bishop without having been a priest, wasted vast amounts of money on frantic church building  projects, dubiously courted and supported the emperor Theodosius and developed an obsession with virginity which he seemed to think the only true role for a women. Augustine’s cult of Ambrose is about as edifying as would be to hear he had followed money obsessed tele-evangelist Kenneth Copeland today.
[11] Augustine had been a rhetorician and his Confessions can be extremely florid, even its opening is half obscured by speculations and questions partially answered.
[12] Augustine’s florid conversation with himself and God anticipates the small universe of the enclosed monastery, with its controversial mixture of humility and presumption which has lost a grip upon normal life which is getting exchanged for an extended, minute self- analysis which inevitably shocked his contemporaries for sheer novelty. (It’s generally accepted that Augustine, who said as many good things as bad, is foundational for Roman Catholicism and the western medieval mind).
[13]  Tolle, Lege (Lat: Pick up and read). A child’s voice instructs Augustine. Since spiritualists and witches like Sybil Leek report children’s voices delivering messages, it is possible Augustine’s conversion represents self or spiritual deception, quite possible in view of the fact his theories would leave a  legacy of false beliefs from the damnation of unbaptized infants to theories later justifying the Inquisition.
[14] Augustine is always dismissing the earthly as example of anything heavenly and thus “no bodily pleasure….and whatever earthly light might shed upon it, was worthy of comparison, or even mention (italics mine) besides the happiness of the life of the saints.(Confessions X1 : 10). The corollary of this extreme idealism is a hidden contempt for the Jewish legacy and the temple which not only was intended as symbol or reflection of things heavenly but whose doctrine ironically may even have been the remote basis for the Platonic theory of the archetypes according to Margaret Barker.
[15]  Linked to the last statement, Mare Nostrum (the Mediterranean) and its culture should be seen as part of the flow of divine history as historical/prophetic revelation centred round Israel which Augustine virtually denies, famously dismissing all biblical prophecy as  transferred symbolically from Israel to a Catholic Church Triumphant.
[16]  Augustine’s turn to mysticism favoured a purely inactive contemplation, a gazing upon God in a static heaven that became standard for medieval religion and which ignored the ills of the world around it.
[17]  An  implicit affirmation of the believing soul’s possibility to reflect and reach to the good without seeing or being only Augustine’s original sin.
 

About these ads
 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

One response to “NORTH/SOUTH: A POEM OF CULTURAL CONTRASTS

  1. tammy

    March 24, 2014 at 2:28 am

    Excellent ! enjoyed reading your poem..!!
    Tammy

     

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 157 other followers

%d bloggers like this: