Thursday, 19 July 2012

"Plato in His Twilit Cave"

The "peripatetic Stagyrite" is Aristotle.


Plato in his twilit cave
Spoke loudly to the people there;
The hypnotising bonfire roared
And flung their shadows on the wall.
They watched entranced despite his call
And cheered their shadows as they soared;
He turned towards the open air
And sought the truth the sunlight gave.

The peripatetic Stagyrite
Stood doubled up in shallow pools
Thinking upon the little fish
And the power which all the heavens moves.
But what is it that thinking proves?
Truth is like wine within a dish
Which riots in the heads of fools
Who sit beside the road to write.

Plotinus on his deathbed lay
And struggled for his final breath.
A snake which slithered from a hole
Sang sweetly of the joy of life
And glistened like an unsheathed knife.
The dying man unloosed his soul
And shook the curtain of his death
Disproving what the snake might say.

© Prob. Late 1980

"Try to Bring Back the God in You to the Divine in the All"


It is always unavailing, that final glance,
His eyes gone large with pain,
His body hung between the sticks of itself:
Death, the companion of many days,
Has shaken his head at us all.

But there are those who understand this matter
More fully than I,
Who have outstared that unwelcome visitor,
The false thrills and fears he occasions,
And who watch the light simply through an open window.

I have seen a friend depart through a sudden door,
In one moment to become memory
And an unfilled space;
But so, also, Plotinus departed in an empty room,
Muttering his credo as he became the light.

© October 1980

Plotinus and the Snake

   A snake as dazzling as the sky
   Crept softly from its lowly hole.
         “Death’s in your eye,
         Cold’s in your hand,
   What is there left to understand?
   I have watched you through your final days,
      Your cleaving to your goal,
   And marvelled at your stubborn fight
   To prove the old philosophers right.
         Unlatch your gaze
         At this last gasp,
      Turn to my worldly ways
   And die with sunlight in your clasp,
Your breath become a slow surcease of soul.”

   The dying grand philosopher,
   His limbs assaulted by his sores,
         Would not concur,
         He shook his head
   And kept the centre of his bed.
   “The holy light is from the sun
      Which in its goodness pours
   Its metaphor upon the whole,
   Its light is that of living soul
         And from the One;
         And soul is such,
      Its journey once begun,
   It will not worry overmuch
At what is lost behind the slamming doors.”

   “Come look,” the snake in anger sighed,
   “At what the world once offered you;
         No flower lied
         Nor turned its back,
   The sea wind strummed the floating wrack
   And on a sandy foreshore gave
      A vision shown to few –
   Of beauty in a fish’s bone,
   And in a mewling seagull’s moan.
         O shun the grave,
         That place of tears,
      And think upon the wave
   Which riding roughshod on our fears
Dips its salt head and is forever new.”

   “And yet we die,” Plotinus said,
   “Though dying we should bless this earth.
         The quick and dead
         Are simply sides
   Of coins tossed up by many tides,
   And though I know a rose is sweet,
      Its bloom a painless birth,
   Yet life is in intelligence
   Which goes beyond this world of sense,
         Which must defeat
         The old desire
      To hug an honoured seat
   And doze in stupor by the fire
Become as dull as ashes in the hearth.”

   Plotinus coughed and breathed his last
   And was not where he once had been;
         The snake aghast
         At what it found
   To be so serious hugged the ground
   And wished it never had been born.
      It knew what it had seen,
   And as it lay there in the dust
   Wondering what was safe to trust
         It tried to mourn
         The passing of
      The great man in the dawn
   But though it knew the word for love
It could not understand what it might mean.

© December 1980

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Hedgehog in the Garden

The old man in his velvet gown
   At work upon his ‘Life’
Denies the writing in the dust,
   The sorrow and the strife;
But though he challenge with a frown
The pricking of his pointless lust,
The misplaced love, the misused trust,
   The truth begins to harden,
The moon behind a cloud to pall:
   The hedgehog in the garden
   Comes late or not at all.

The politician late at night,
   His aides long gone to bed,
Prepares his speech to vilify
   The actions of the dead.
He moves his chair towards the light,
His ears still burning with the cry
Of one he banished with a lie
   But will not ask for pardon;
Somewhere a night-owl makes his call:
   The hedgehog in the garden
   Comes late or not at all.

The subtle seeker after truth
   At windows after dark
Exhorts the stars as wise men do
   And listens to their talk.
A fakir in a fairground booth
Had told him truths which were not true;
He left Plotinus and the few
   Beneath their fleshly burden
And lodged within the mage’s hall:
   The hedgehog in the garden
   Comes late or not at all.

The savage cat in self-amaze
   Patrols his night-domain,
His lordly eyes ignited in
   The succulence of pain;
The creatures cry within his gaze;
He does not care where things begin
Nor ponders on the fact of sin,
   His actions and their guerdon;
The lonely stone sings of its fall:
   The hedgehog in the garden
   Comes late or not at all.

© July 1980

July Days

July days and August ways,
When cities stumble to the beach,
And children sing the latest craze,
And skinheads rampage out of reach.

And presidents go off to bathe,
And party leaders to the hills,
And underlings do not behave
But, drunken, loll on windowsills.

It’s difficult to call to mind
The facts asserted by the few,
The prophets and the thinking kind;
Who believes in sorrow? Do you?

© July 1980