Tag Archives: 2016

Note to Self

Because, today, I am in desperate need of a reminder. A reminder of where my priorities lie. Where my faith is fixed. Where I hide my heart. God help me stem the tide of bitterness in my soul.

From the pen of C. S. Lewis, in what may be his most breathtaking piece of nonfiction: The Weight of Glory.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.

And my other source of sanity. I point you to Stephen Colbert. Love and peace to y’all.

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Silent Photograph

Consider this proof of life! I have my wits and my fingers, still. I will return more consistently, and soon, I hope. I miss my friends here.

I offer a snippet for BeKindRewrite’s InMon, for the prompt Silent Photograph. It is very short.

Enjoy!

 

On every world where creatures have both sight and sapience, the technology follows: translating light into matter.
Lens, mirror, silver nitrate, ammonium thiosulfate… It’s easy to take it for granted once it becomes commonplace. But I think when people see it for the first time, they know the truth of it.
Photography is witchcraft.
I smirk, but I mean it.
Go on, roll your eyes. I know you want to.
Then stop and think for a moment. You take a camera, point it towards some map of light and take your exposure. What have you done? You have frozen a moment of light that will never come again and trapped it in static silence.
Think of all the photographs taken. How many outlive those who know what they are, or why? They lose context, they lose names, they become nothing but a static, silent record of light.
Yet you laugh at the thought that a camera captures essence and soul.
Take your shot.
The camera will be more honest than your eyes, if less sensitive. It will record exactly what it sees.
There. You have the record, my essence trapped in silence. I don’t envy you, in that darkroom, when you finally see what you have caught.
.

Angelus Ferri

My cat died. I will post on it soon, but it’s had me down.
In better news, though, my muse is perking up. So while I hope to do better soon, I will at least post some fictiony stuffs.
This is a continuation of Prism Sentence and Light Reading. Both of those stories were based on Inspiration Monday posts by BeKindRewrite.
In keeping with tradition, so is this one. I give you the dissonant serenity of the Angelus Ferri. I am starting to figure out where this is going. I think.
.
What are you doing, cowering like a five-year-old? You’re Angelus Ferri. Get up. 
Tenebrae pushed herself to a crouch. Her whole body was shaking uncontrollably causing the bladed ‘wings’ shielding her back to make soft metallic sounds.
The blue searchlight that had been chasing her for days beat down on her, but nothing else had happened. She felt exposed, cornered, but her tormentors remained maddeningly silent.
Shading her face with with one ‘wing,’ she looked up and roared.  “If you want me, come for me!”
The blue light flickered. Shadows cast by nothing she could see began to look like forms and faces. She squinted at them. Her attention fell on one that looked familiar. Realization trickled through her like cold water. He was one of her former comrades, left to die when she defected. That connection caused her to recognize the others. All of them were dead. Either she had killed them under orders, or they were collateral damage from her shifting allegiance.
She turned, again, and ran.

“Shift change. Thank God!” Sertor stretched and handed a clipboard to his replacement, Adrian. “Everything’s been pretty standard. No issues.”
“Thanks,” said Adrian, flipping through the notes. Aula’s replacement, Marius, was already practically asleep at his desk.
Sertor snorted at the sight, “Lazy lump,” and kicked the leg of Marius’s chair. The man startled awake, glared groggily, then rested his head on his arms again.
Some time after Sertor walked out, Adrian moved to check Marius’s pulse.
Oughta sleep for a while, after a dose like that.
He flipped through the notes to find the cypher Sertor had left him.
-It’s starting to get to her. We need to act quickly. See prismer 71.-
Adrian felt his stomach tighten. What if she won’t cooperate? What if she breaks?
Swallowing his anxiety, he quickly checked both his own prismers and Marius’s. The last thing he needed was the oneirologist checking in on them.
Everything looked good, for now. But he had only one shift to do what needed to be done. He glanced over the list of prismers to find the most recent addition. The longer anyone had been there, the less likely they would be of any help.
As Sertor had said, it was prismer 71. “Octavian  Laurentius,” Adrian mumbled. “Nasty list of charges. But nothing she can’t handle, assuming she’s still herself.” Carefully, he adjusted the prism for 71. Then for prismer 67, bringing them to a slightly closer frequency. Little by little, over the next few hours, he continued his adjustments.

Tenebrae’s feet pushed the ground behind her until, finally, a step met no resistance and she fell. It was almost a relief to be helpless, to know that there was nothing she could do. Falling was very like floating until the end.
She landed hard, but not hard enough. Her wings, never designed for flight, had closed together to protect her from their sharp edges. She flexed them open again and stood up.
The searchlight was gone, now. Instead there was a globe of light near her feet, shining up through a translucent floor. The ground stretched out, featureless, as far as she could see in any direction, until it met the unnaturally still storm-cloud sky.
Picking a direction at random, Tenebrae started off at a loping, energy-efficient run. Every time her foot struck the floor, there was a flare of light.
I might as well be screaming “hey, I’m here!” Not that I’ve got any better option.
As she covered more ground, she began to see shapes moving under her. They were difficult to make out, but a moving curve, here, and a flickering reflection there, brought her to a halt.
She watched the floor intently. There. What is that?
The line of a flank slipped by, as graceful as an eel, and the size of a whale.
The creature moved out of sight. Then it struck at her feet, causing the floor to vibrate. Tenebrae saw a wide orange eye and a flash of inward-curving teeth before it withdrew, only to ram the floor again a moment later. She tensed to run.
Run where? Why?
The calm she had while falling came over her again. Another eel-monster had joined the first and was also striking at the ground under her feet. Tenebrae knelt down, staring at the teeth with a dissonant, disconnected serenity.
When the creatures struck again, she began pounding in the same place with her fists and the wrists of her wings. Cracks formed between them.

Octavian had no idea how long he had been walking before he emerged from the forest. He came out onto a dry red landscape under a cool twilit sky. It was beautiful, but no more settling than the forest. The hateful giant lightning bug was drifting along beside him, but he tried not to think about it. The only thing he remembered clearly about his recent experiences was the pain of touching the thing.
A sound like the first crack of lightning, without the accompanying echoes of thunder, split the air. Looking up, Octavian realized that what he had taken for roiling clouds were giant eels, as big as dragons, swimming through the sky. Several of them had converged on a bright point, from which spread glowing cracks.
The sky shattered, raining down shards as the eels escaped up into the black expanse above. Octavian dove for cover against a tree.
When he looked up again, the red landscape was dusted with something too crystalline to be snow. It crunched under foot, and sent up puffs of dust if he wasn’t careful.
Ahead of him was another light, like the one that followed him. He felt desperate at the sight of it, though he could not have said why. Slowly, he made his way towards it.
His light, and the one he was approaching, flickered together. They both looked like bio-luminescent jellyfish suspended in midair.
There was a person lying on the ground in front of him, very still.
Angelus Ferri.
The metal wings reflected the dim light and cast the rest of the body in shadow. When it moved, Octavian took a step back. The face that looked up at his was scarred, and the eyes were unreadable.
The Angelus only spared him a glance before taking in the rest of her surroundings. Then her face twisted in what could have been anger, or frustration, or anguish, and she slumped back to being a heap on the ground.
“You… have a light, too.” He said, after a while.
The Angelus twitched, but did not respond. Octavian sat down and wrapped his arms around his legs. There did not seem to be anything to do but wait.

Adrian studied the readouts, holding his breath as they finally synced. He waited for a few minutes, his heart racing, to be sure that they were stable, then he sat back and closed his eyes in relief.
.

Phantom Library

A bit of fluff inspired by Be Kind Rewrite’s Inspiration Monday prompt: Phantom Library

It is also a sequel to Raised by Dragons. The names of characters have been altered to protect their identity. Any resemblance to real people is unintentional and highly amusing. ;)

 

You know what it’s like in the morning when you really don’t want to wake up? Your bed is comfortable, the air is a little too cold on your face, your body feels twice as heavy as usual.

It’s even worse when you’ve been working hard, and I had been.

Some people talk as if magic’s the easy way to do things. But real magic is only easy in the same way that lifting a huge weight becomes easier once you’ve invented, and then built, a pulley. And of all forms of magic, wizardry is the most complex. With nothing more than a mediocre high school education under my cap, my teacher had me studying higher mathematics, the sciences, the arts, and most of all, philology. In some ways, I’d never felt more alive. But living is tiring.

I had been training for months, only getting breaks when Ren, or my foster-parents, would kidnap me for a holiday. Teemu, my teacher, didn’t seem to know, or maybe he just didn’t care, what holidays were.

So there I was in bed, with the morning light screaming in at the window. My blankets smelled faintly of cedar, I was warm, and the room itself was chilly. So I did the natural thing. I stretched a little, rolled over, and closed my eyes.

That’s when a sound like a large ball-bearing spinning against frosted glass made me leap up.

Never ignore a growling dragon.

Teemu was standing just outside my room, teeth clenched, lips barely parted. He was wearing human form, as he usually did for our lessons. A full grown Draconis Major in its true shape is awkward indoors, to say the least. Still, he had a way of being scarcely less intimidating as a ‘human’ than when he showed scales and row on row of teeth.

Without a word, he turned and walked down the hall.

I scrambled into my clothes, trying to ignore the twinge that suggested breakfast. It was unlikely that Teemu, already angry at my oversleeping, would wait for me to grab anything from the kitchens.

Maybe, I thought,  Tesni will bring me something…

I caught up with Teemu on the stairs and cleared my throat. “Sorry. I’m, uh, still not used to being without an alarm-clock. …Or electricity.”

Without looking around, he lifted one hand and spoke a word in Draconic that I didn’t know yet. Before I could react, he turned on his heel and planted one finger on my forehead.

Have you ever had an unpleasant encounter with electricity?

It felt like a combination of that moment when a roller-coaster starts to plunge, and being punched in the face.

The next thing I knew, Teemu was glaring into my eyes.

“Better?” he said, emphasizing the hard consonants, a sure sign of annoyance. “Don’t make weak excuses. Do you want to learn how to weave an alarm? Or how to power a toaster?”

I dug my hands into my pockets to keep from punching him. Speaking of which, just in case you’re ever tempted to punch a dragon in human form. Don’t. Remember, they may be smaller, but they still have the same mass.

I took a deep breath and answered him. “…Yes.”

“Then dedicate yourself to this apprenticeship. Potential is meaningless when not applied. And don’t give me disrespectful one-syllable answers.” He turned and continued down the stairs.

“Yes, teacher,” I said, following.

I had expected to stop, as usual, on the ground floor. Our lessons mostly took place outside, in Teemu’s workshop, or in the mansion’s little library. But Teemu kept following the stairs down into levels I’d never seen before. It was still clean and tidy, Tesni would have it no other way, but it was not as airy. We sank down into subterranean cold and scents of cavern and cellar. There were still plenty of lights, leaping up in niches when we approached, and falling into darkness again behind us.

“Where’re we headed?” I asked.

“I’m going to teach you how to use the phantom library. That way you can continue your theoretical studies when I’m too busy to give you practical lessons.”

“Phantom library?”

Teemu laughed, always a disconcerting sound coming from him, and gave no answer.

As we continued, I began to realize that I would have to climb back up the stairs in the near future. I wished I’d insisted on getting breakfast.

Two more flights down and we stopped. Water covered the steps a little way ahead.

But I soon realized that it wasn’t water.

It was translucent, and rippled along the surface, but it didn’t reflect the lights in the cavern walls, nor the helictite-encrusted ceiling above us.

Whatever it was, I could see slowly-moving blooms of glowing color, and pale points, like stars, beneath the surface. I wondered if these were living things, algae or fey, or chemical reactions of some kind, or simply images projected from who-knows-where.

Teemu turned left and stepped out onto the surface.

I followed. The first step was the worst, for though I could see the edges of a platform about an inch under the ‘water,’ I didn’t really know what I was stepping into. Whatever it was, at least it didn’t seep into my shoes.

The platform led to an alcove, raised just above the surface of the pool. For being in a cave, it was shockingly homey.

There was a massive roll-top desk, well-supplied with notebooks, pencils, pens, and various old-school calculating tools. Several armchairs sat by a stone platform, like a coffee-table, and there was even a worn couch with a blanket thrown across its camel-back.

There was, however, only one small bookshelf. I found this terribly disappointing. Three shelves, none of them full of books, with book-ends and knickknacks taking up valuable space. The books themselves were an odd mix. An Ethiopian cookbook, a technical study on some planetary cataclysm, volume “Q” from an encyclopedia, and Through the Looking Glass were among them.

“This is the biped study,” said Teemu. “If we’d turned right, we would have reached the dragon’s study, but you wouldn’t be comfortable there. Still, if one of us is down here, you know where to find us.”

I moved over to the desk and picked up a yellow ruler-looking thing. More accurately, it looked like two rulers bridged together with metal brackets, and a third ruler between them that slid back and forth.

“Slide-rule,” said the dragon, pulling a worn book from the shelf. “You’ll figure it out. But first, let’s show you the catalog.”

I came up beside him as he knelt down over the edge of the not-water. Several pale, glowing points converged like nibbling minnows when Teemu placed his free hand against the surface.

“It’s a communal library,” he said, “shared among the Draconis Major and Draconis Minor as well as a few select members of other species. You won’t be allowed to access the restricted works, of course, but that leaves plenty of trouble for you to get into. So the first rule is: Theoretical Study Only. This is not the place for experimentation. If you defy that rule, I’ll know, and your free-study privileges will be revoked.”

“Yes, teacher.” My earlier anger had vanished. The only thing I felt at the moment was excitement.

“The first step is to identify yourself to the library. That’s what I’m doing, now. Place your hand next to mine.”

I obeyed. Little lights clustered around my hand, too. The surface of the ‘water’ felt like mist, insubstantial and a little warm. The lights dispersed, leaving a blank space around where we were kneeling.

Teemu began to write with a finger on the black surface, leaving a silvery trail. Title: boolean AND search.

A moment later, the images of several books appeared under the surface. Teemu flicked one of them and it opened. A few more flicks and he had ‘turned’ several of the phantasmal pages.

“This is how you select a book. Then, once you have found the one you want…” he dipped the physical book he was holding into the image of the book in the mist. When he withdrew it, it had become the book he had been looking at.

He opened it to the cover page, and I saw his name scrawled in Draconic runes. “This is my copy. That is the next important thing to know about the phantom library. You will not be able to draw my copy out. Instead, you will have your own copy where you can, if you like, take your own notes. And every time you draw out a book, it will be that copy, your copy, just as you left it. Do you understand?”

“I think so. What… what happens to the notes I’ve taken if, for instance, I die?”

Teemu smiled, as he only did when he liked one of my questions. “Marginalia is absorbed into the library and can be retrieved, if one knows how and has the right level of access. But this is enough to keep you busy for now, don’t you think?” He offered the book to me. “I suggest you read this, first. Otherwise you will find searching the catalog very hard. Dip it in to change it to your copy.”

I was obeying his instruction when I asked the wrong question.

“What happens if I fall in?”

The dragon casually batted me off the edge. For a moment I was in freefall, and I screamed accordingly. A moment later, and I was blinded as the bright points of light mobbed me. The next thing I knew, I could feel solid stone under me again, and my vision was full of afterimages. Teemu’s amused voice drifted to me from not very far away.

“The library doesn’t absorb life-forms.”

I answered him in language I won’t repeat here.

“If I hadn’t thrown you in, you’d have been curious. Now you know, and you can focus on your studies instead of wondering.”

My vision was clearing, and I looked at the book that was still in my hand. The cover was a patchwork, shreds of countless books mashed together, and the pages were sticking out at odd angles, words overlapping words until they were nearly black.

“Go ahead, dip it again.” Teemu backed up to reassure me that he wouldn’t push me off the edge again. Grudgingly, I obeyed.

“There is a water-closet over there,” he pointed to a little door beside the desk that I hadn’t noticed earlier. “The penalty for peeing in the library is a five-decade ban, so don’t be stupid.”

I nodded and sat down in one of the armchairs. The book looked dry, and I don’t mean in terms of moisture. I began to regret, more and more, not having breakfast. Teemu seemed to be going over the list of things he meant to tell me.

“Oh, and I almost forgot.” He knocked on the stone coffee table, then wrote with the tip of his finger on the surface. A few minutes passed, and a knock sounded from the table itself as a cup of tea appeared on it. “There’s a direct line of communication to the kitchens. But don’t over use it, and always say ‘please’.”

“Yes, of course.”

He paused to think for a moment, then nodded. “Tomorrow, 8 am, sharp.”

“Yes teacher.”

As he turned to go, the realization of where I was, and what was now in my reach, began to sink in. Boolean method book notwithstanding, I was on the brink of a literal sea of books.

I called after Teemu, hoping he was still in earshot. “Thank you!”

No answer.

He probably heard, but didn’t bother to respond. I would thank him, again, in the morning. I settled comfortably in the armchair, with the cup of tea, and started trying to absorb the book as quickly as possible. It was going to be my map to this sea.


Reorganization

I realized, recently, that I’ve put quite a few pieces of original fiction on this blog. And that it would behoove me to make it more accessible.

Thus I have reorganized the navigation links at the top of the blog, and created this Handy Page.

Also, as I do periodically, because I love it, I am pointing you all towards Bekind Rewrite’s short, hard-boiled Noir Mystery, The Mysterious Case of the Marshmallow Mushroom Forest


A Brief Political Rant

Of the kind those who know me (and only them) will expect.

I grew up on a dividing line. It used to be one where conversations were held. The conversations were usually civil. They rarely came to shouts or blows.

That doesn’t happen much anymore.

I know it can get worse. In the U.S. we’re not killing each other in large numbers. Yet. But from where I’m standing in No Man’s Land, it’s not hard to imagine the current insanity leading to slaughter. It’s happening in other places in the world, and our history is pock-marked with brutal conflict.

And here’s the thing that terrifies me: With all the Us vs. Them jargon being tossed about in the U.S. right now, almost no one seems to realize that we’re all in this together.

People are treating “them,” as absolute enemies. If they aren’t spewing hate and making threats then they’re jeering, mocking, belittling.

But countries are a unit, like a family. All families, like all countries, are a little dysfunctional. You don’t necessarily like your family members all the time, and you will not always agree with them, but if you start viewing each other as actual enemies, the dysfunction tears the family apart. In short, you cease to have a family.

It’s a pity we don’t have a national version of family counseling.

My point is that we really have two options.

Nationally, the U.S. is headed for a cliff. Not like lemmings (because lemmings are, despite popular belief, far too smart to follow each other off cliffs), but like humans who are so engrossed in fighting each other that they won’t step away from the edge, even though everybody knows we’re in trouble.

Education, poverty, healthcare, national debt, environmental issues, the list goes on… We have serious problems that need solving. And we’re far too busy fighting each other to even converse about how to solve anything.

So, speaking to my fellow U.S. citizens. Forget, for a moment, all political affiliation. Stop trying to figure out who’s side I’m on and ask yourself this:

Do you want the United States of America to continue to exist, or do you want us to go down in history as one more failed social experiment? Do you want us to be pointed at as proof that different people cannot live peaceably together? That ordinary folks can’t be trusted with the right to vote because it all goes to hell eventually? Do you want to be the scorn of the world?

Because that is where we are headed unless we can look “across the aisle” and see fellow citizens. We don’t have to like them, we don’t have to agree with what they believe or what they say, but we do have to figure out how to converse with them again, and work with them, because the only other option is to lose our country.

Someone may read this who doesn’t care if the nation breaks apart. They may feel that “their” part of the country will be better off without the hated “them.” I have a hard time sympathizing with that kind of thought, because it’s reductive and naive. This country’s strength and health comes, and has always come, from the differences, the tension, the fact that we are forced to converse with and work with people who don’t share our views. Take that away, and homogeneity will emphasize the weaknesses in each position until we collapse. Those people you hate, also happen to be the people you need the most.

I can already hear the clamor of excuses. The “he started it!” “No I didn’t! She did!” juvenile accusations. Let me get one thing straight: I DON’T CARE. I don’t care who did what, I don’t care what horrible things will happen if “they” get their way. I’ve already heard it, and it is all beside the point.

What I want is people to put themselves in time-out until they calm down. Then I want them to get over themselves and start holding conversations in which they don’t simply talk, but also listen. I want this nation to become functional again.

…And yes, I know it’s highly unlikely that I will get what I want. But we did survive the Civil War mostly intact. I’ve touched artillery-pocked stone that proves it. Maybe, just maybe we can get through this bout of screaming insanity without so much destruction and bloodshed.

And a side-note to friends and readers in other countries. Yes, humanity is like a family, too… even more screwed up than my nation is right now. What happens to some of us, affects all of us. I’m sorry if the dysfunction in my country is affecting you right now.

 

P.S. On a lighter note (and a complete non sequitur) Tracy J. Butler of Lackadaisy created some hilariously disturbing valentines this year. Go forth and enjoy them.


Mythopoeia

Hubblesite.org

Hubblesite.org

To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though “breathed through silver”

Philomythus to Misomythus
(myth-lover to myth-hater)
by J. R. R. Tolkien, to C. S. Lewis

You look at trees and label them just so,

(For trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);

You walk the earth and tread with solemn pace

One of the many minor globes of Space:

A star’s a star, some matter in a ball

Compelled to courses mathematical

Amid the regimented, cold, inane,

Where destined atoms are each moment slain.

 

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend

(And must), but only dimly apprehend,

Great processes march on, as Time unrolls

From dark beginnings to uncertain goals;

And as on page o’erwritten without clue,

With script and limning packed of various hue,

An endless multitude of forms appear,

Some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,

Each alien, except as kin from one

Remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.

God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,

Tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these

homuncular men, who walk upon the ground

With nerves that tingle, touched by light and sound.

The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,

Green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,

Thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,

Slime crawling up from mud to live and die,

These each are duly registered and print

The brain’s contortions with a separate dint.

 

Yet trees and not ‘trees’, until so named and seen –

And never were so named, till those had been

Who speech’s involuted breath unfurled,

Faint echo and dim picture of the world,

But neither record nor a photograph,

Being divination, judgement, and a laugh,

Response of those that felt astir within

By deep monition movements that were kin

To life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:

Free captives undermining shadowy bars,

Digging the foreknown from experience

And panning the vein of spirit out of sense.

Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves,

And looking backward they beheld the Elves

That wrought on cunning forges in the mind,

And light and dark on secret looms entwined.

 

He sees no stars who does not see them first

Of living silver made that sudden burst

To flame like flowers beneath the ancient song,

Whose very echo after-music long

Has since pursued. There is no firmament,

Only a void, unless a jeweled tent

Myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth,

Unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.

 

The heart of man is not compound of lies,

But draws some wisdom from the only Wise,

And still recalls him. Though now long estranged,

Man is not wholly lost, nor wholly changed.

Disgraced he may be, yet is not dethroned,

And keeps the rags of lordship one he owned,

His world-dominion by creative act:

Not his to worship the great Artefact,

Man, sub-creator, the refracted light

Through whom is splintered from a single White

To many hues, and endlessly combined

In living shapes that move from mind to mind.

Though all the crannies of the world we filled

With elves and goblins, though we dared to build

Gods and their houses out of dark and light,

And sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right

(Used or misused). The right has not decayed.

We make still by the law in which we’re made.

 

Yes! ‘Wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat

Our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!

Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,

Or some things fair and others ugly deem?

All wishes are not idle, not in vain

Fulfilment we devise – for pain is pain,

Not for itself to be desired, but ill;

Or else to strive or to subdue the will

Alike were graceless; and of Evil this

Alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

 

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate,

That quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;

That seek no parley, and in guarded room,

Though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom

Weave tissues gilded by the far-off day

Hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

 

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build

Their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,

And steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,

A rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

 

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme

Of things not found within record time.

It is not they that have forgot the Night,

Or bid us flee to organized delight,

In lotus-isles of economic bliss

Forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss

(And counterfeit at that, machine-produced,

Bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).

 

Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,

And those that hear them yet may yet beware.

They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,

And yet they would not in despair retreat,

But oft to victory have turned the lyre

And kindled hearts with legendary fire,

Illuminating Now and dark Hath-been

With light of suns as yet by no man seen.

 

I would that I might with the minstrels sing

And stir the unseen with a throbbing string.

I would be with the mariners of the deep

That cut their slender planks on mountains steep

And voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,

For some have passed beyond the fabled West.

I would with the beleaguered fools be told,

That keep an inner fastness where their gold,

Impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring

To mint in image blurred of distant king,

Or in fantastic banners weave the sheen

Heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

 

I will not walk with your progressive apes,

Erect and sapient. Before them gapes

The dark abyss to which their progress tends –

If by God’s mercy progress ever ends,

And does not ceaselessly revolve the same

Unfruitful course with changing of a name.

I will not treat your dusty path and flat,

Denoting this and that by this and that,

Your world immutable, wherein no part

The little maker has with maker’s art.

I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,

Nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

 

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray

From gazing upon everlasting Day

To see the day-illumined, and renew

From mirrored truth the likeness of the True.

Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see

That all is as it is, and yet made free:

Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,

Garden not gardener, children not their toys.

Evil it will not see, for evil lies

Not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,

Not in the source, but in malicious choice,

Not in sound, but in the tuneless voice.

In Paradise they look no more awry;

And though they make anew, they make no lie.

Be sure they still will make, not been dead,

And poets shall have flames upon their head,

And harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:

There each shall choose for ever from the All.

My reading

morning dew, by Jubilare, taken on a morning in Yellowstone National Park in 2005.

Morning Dew, by Jubilare, taken in Yellowstone National Park in 2005.

 


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