The city walls were false and would not stand;
A self-sure, self-regarding ignorance
Is walking where Augustine raised his hand.
The manuscripts turn brown from long decay,Their keeper nurses doubts about his pay;
Outside the revellers invoke the moon
Although to what advantage none can say.
And when the centuries have wandered by,Inconsequential as a pulsing eye,
The peering scholars analyse the dust
But cannot find its meaning though they try.
A party soon arrives. A guide holds forth(My mind regards the swallows in the north)
The ancient land is swaddled in its soil;
The pilgrims rush to see what things are worth.
The midnight whisper cannot be refused,The urgent with the trivial confused;
Did the disputatious Fathers pass their time
In gentle musing on what once was mused?
Give me the vigour to instruct my soul,Released from wordplay and the easy dole,
To pay attention when the lamp is low
And shadows flicker on the sacred roll.
The darkness and the light are each in each,And no-one knows just what it is they teach.
Your footprints die behind you as you walk –
The unremitting sign is in your reach.
====================© April 1980