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[Jack Lovejoy, a long-time contributor to The Deronda Review, is one of the finest

contemporary formalists, writing in  the spirit as well as the form of traditional poetry.

We are proud to present three of his longer works:  "Reeds of Cane," "Moses and

the Angel of Death," and "The White Feather."]


The winds relent, the tides ebb back to sea;
The wrack of empire moulders in the sun.
Beyond the multitudes of dreadful life
That swarm Calcutta like an angry hive.
An outland quarter is consigned to death.
And here forever I lay cast aside,

Among the shadows of forsaken tombs.
My share of glory is a grudging plot,
Abandoned in a grove of weathered stones
Like baggage from an army in retreat.

How many conquerors with swords of steel
Have swept remorselessly across the land?
How many lives were like the reeds of cane
That bend in homage to the morning wind?


I never saw the land that was my home,
The darling land of England far away;
My Avalon of dreams beyond the sea,

"Where lords and ladies graced enchanted halls
In palaces begot of reverie.

For I was empire's child. Amelia Horne,

Allotted to an outpost life of books.

In Cawnpore, once, I saw them dance all night,
A lordly gala for the new arrived.

And there were charm and beauty, manly dash,
New gowns of silk and scarlet uniforms;

Bare shoulders, music, splendour, England, Home.
They let me watch from just inside the door,

The maiden daughter of a factory clerk.


I lived in purdah in a place apart,
Unwitting that beneath the cavalcade

An underworld of jobbery and greed
Upheld the silver maces of the Raj.
Instead I went to picnics, sang in church,
And basted linens for my wedding chest.
I never saw how arrogance and scorn
Deprived the conquered of their dignity,
Nor noticed under masks of deference
Humiliation festering to wrath.

Instead I learned piano, dreamed of Home,
And sometimes danced at balls in cantonment.
Till in a tremor of volcanic rage,

My Sunday world upwelled in mutiny.


Half dazed, I stumbled into history.
Not like the stories
I had read in books,
Of glory, derring-do, and noble deeds;
But chronicles of terror and disease,

Of months beneath a cannonading sun,

Of hunger, boredom, filth, green flies, and stench.
While ever closer to our crumbling walls

Came men grown mad on hate and opium.

Our officers had purchased their commands,
And trimmed and shallied as they watched in vain
For columns of relief that never came.

And when they moved at last the move was wrong.
The massacre spared neither age nor sex;

But I was young and lewdly carried off.


Bare, bleeding feet along the dusty roads,
Camp-followers, fakirs, pursuit and flight;
A chattel passed at night from tent to tent,
Until I hovered near that dark abyss

Where madness waits to greet us as a friend.

A numbness seeped like poison through my veins,
As I saw other captives racked and scourged,

Cursed, outraged, hacked, their members thrown to dogs.
But then a sepoy found me beautiful,

And cast me down before the Maulvi 's chair.
My life was spared if I confirmed their faith;
Unwillingness condemned me to the sword.
I was not of the stuff of martyrdom.

With vows and pomegranate I chose life.


Once more the dusty roads, pursuit and flight;
Though now I rode in tumbrils, Islam's bride.
Five times a day 1 fell upon my knees

And called on Allah to be merciful;

While dagger eyes observed my every move,
To prove my late conversion as a sham.

I saw our sepoys grieve at what they did,

And weep before the campfire tears of shame.
I heard the wail of villagers at dusk,

Bereaved of loved ones in a massacre

By boys I danced with once in cantonment.
The foremost rebels perished for their cause,
And what remained were sweepings of bazaars
Who craved reprisal for the failed revolt.


They rampaged through the camp like snarling curs;
And rankled by the fairness of my skin,

They tore my veil and dragged me forth to die.
But gallantly my sepoy braved their wrath;
And slinking like pariahs we decamped,

To skulk forbidden oaths and lurk bv day

In crumbling temples, beggar huts, and caves,
In burnt pavilions and the dens of thieves.
One night while rummaging a Mogul tower,
Haphazardly I came upon on a hoard

Of rubies, silver, emeralds, pearls, and gold.
Some part of this, I thoought, was mine by right,
In recompense for suffering and shame.

But emptyhanded I was forced to flee.


Though beaten, cursed, and robbed of all I owned,
The dread of victor's justice saved my life;

And like a beggar I was left at dawn

Beside the highway to Allahbahad.

Red-coated soldiers stopped me at the gate,

A fair-haired woman wearinz native dress

Who struggled to recall the English tongue.

And all my trials were a morning's fame.

My story, blazoned by the London press,

Caused thoughtful men to pause and shake their heads,
While millions cheered the victory parade.

Rewards went only to the winning side:

The rebel murderers were hanged like dogs,
And ours created knights at Buckingham.


Redressing little, learning even less,

The Empire in its march to other wars
Consigned the mutiny to dusty books,

And I was left to languish in its wake.

I married in my time a factory clerk.

We set up house in rented bungalows,

With yearly leases and our hopes deferred

Of sailing to our home beyond the seas.

My sons and daughters left me one by one,
By death or steamship wrested from my arms.
And I survived my husband many years,

A crone who taught piano by the hour

In shabby lodgings on the waterfront,

With tales of treasure lost and dreams of Home.


Some chance of commerce brought a grandson back
In time to lay a stone upon my grave.

Now he himself is but a memory

To grandsons of his own on other shores,
While I remain among the castaways,
Forgotten dregs of empire like myself.
Abandoned everywhere across the land.

A Scot who died in childbirth lies nearby,
And scrivners, clergymen, and second sons;

Greeks, Frenchmen, Persians, Mongols, Portuguese,
And unknown followers of nameless kings

Who reigned before the reckoning of time.

The sun arises in the eastern sky,

The reeds of cane stir softly in the breeze.




The tents of Israel reposed in sleep,

In nomad campment of the Moab plain.

While sheltered on a hillside flocked with sheep
The tribal shepherds gathered to complain

How tardily the starlight seemed to wane.

Then high above. on pinnacles of stone

The firstling beams of dawn began to train.

And there a white-haired figure stood alone
Upon a standpoint to a land unknown.


He watched the world below him growing pale,
Until the peaks of Judah gleamed with light;
His weathered countenance a wayworn tale

Of two score years of wandering and flight.
Then spake a Voice:
"O Moses, turn thy sight
Bevond the Jordan where the hills decline.
Where morning treads upon the heels of night,
And on Philistia begins to shine.

For all the land thou seest is surely thine.


From Hermon past the Sea of Galilee,
To Harod and the cities of the plain;
The clefted valley to the asphalt sea,

And Sharon, Gaza, and the king's domain;
For there shall Israel forever reign,

And Aram and Samaria command.

No gate shall bar them nor frontier constrain,
From Pisgah to the washings of the strand.
But thou shalt enter not the Promised Land."


"Must I then tarry in the wilderness,
Condemned upon a farther shore to die?
If not as leader then as something less

-- A slave, a beast. My Lord, O let me by!"
He gazed beseechingly into the sky.
"Wherein have I been wanting or mistaken?"
He pled again, but still came no reply.

"The tents of Israel below awaken.

Must I of all Thy people be forsaken?"


The mountain laurels murmured in the breeze,
A soaring raven fluttered like a wraith,

And warming granite cracked like rattling keys,
But all the firmament was still as death;
For heaven is silent where there is no faith.
Admonished by the stillness, racked with shame,
A chastened Moses bowed his head and saith:
"I own my failings and accept the blame.
Forgive me, Lord. Exalted be Thy name!"

From out a cloudbank burst the eastward sun;
The shadows of the west were harried under
Before the beams of morning, one by one.
And then was Moses stricken still with wonder,
For down the skies proclaimed a Voice like thunder:
"Two vows I made in Israel of old,
Whose sacred convenance I cannot sunder.
The first, I would forgive thy sinning fold,
Who bent the knee before a calf of gold.

"The second was my promise to bestow
The lands before thee in a sacred pact.
Here shall thy people multiply and grow;
Though harried, persecuted, and attacked.
Yet never shall their heritage contract,
So long as they obey the bond they swore.
Nor jot or tittle of the Law retract,
But cross the Jordan to a foredoomed war,
And Israel must wander evermore."

Remorsefully the old man raised his staff:
"Forbear my errors as Thou hast forborne
Abomination and the golden calf.
For better Moses never had been born
Than ever Israel be left forlorn."
"Then summon forth thy forces, armed and manned,
And let a captain of the host be sworn.
For know, O judge, a warrior must command,
And lead my people to the Promised Land."

Submitting humbly and without remark,
The old man reached the campment with the sun;
Convoked the elders, and before the Ark
Commissioned Joshua, the son of Nun:
"My cares are ended and thine own begun.
Across the Jordan let our standards fly,
Till all the land of Canaan has been won."
And then went Moses to his tent nearby,
To pray forgiveness and alone to die.
And God looked earthward from his golden throne,
Aound whose glory courts of angels dwell,
And saw his faithful servant grieve alone.
Then from His flock he beckoned Michael:
"Descend among the tents of Israel,
And guide the soul of Moses home to me."
But Michael's resplendent pinions fell,
And he entreated that he might not be
The messenger dispatched with this decree:

"How can I quench his earthly life," he cried.
"Who knew him as a princeling set apart,
Arrayed in opulence and regal pride,
Intelligent of books and every art,
The pet of destiny and Pharoah' s heart?
Who saw him at the crest of fortune's flood
Renounce imperium and by night depart,
To toil in Rameses at bricks of mud,
The city mortared with his people's blood?

"I see it still," the Prince of Angels pled.
"How Moses bonded with the sore oppressed,
To serve with rigor where he might have led.
Must I take from the living one so blest?"
And God exempted him from His behest:
And as He looked among the flock nearby.
The Angel of Death stepped forward from the rest.
The grimmest messenger in all the sky,
He yearned predaciously for leave to fly.

But God instead selected Gabriel,
The captain of his host when heaven warred.
But his undaunted pinions also fell:
"How can I take the life of Moses, Lord,
Who routed tyranny without a sword?
Who rose up out of Midian below
To beard a king by all the world abhorred:
'Lest thou and Egypt be condemned to woe.
Attend me, Pharoah. Let my people go!'

"But Pharoah in derision only laughed.
'What madness or distemper taints thy brain,
That thou wouldst try withjugglery and craft
A king within a king's house to arraign?
Begone, magician!' cried he with disdain.
'Oh, harken,' answered Moses, 'not to me,
But to the Lord, whose word thou wouldst profane.

And lest His dreadsome vengeance fall on thee,
Obey Him, Pharoah. Set my people free!'

'''Who is this lord,' said Pharoah with a sneer,
'Who dreams I'd harken unto his command?
Why does he not himself pay homage here,
And like the lords, yea kings, of every land
Fail to his knees and crawl to where I stand,
To grovel in the dust and like a prayer
Beseech to lay his tribute in my hand?
I am the Lord, a king beyond compare.
Who thinks he can command me, let him dare!'

'''In anguish of the spirit, beneath thy rod,
My people groan in bondage,' Moses spoke.
'The Lord who doth command, that Lord is God.
An thou will not unloose thy cruel yoke,
Beware this vengeful god thou shalt provoke!'
But Pharoah onlv scoffed: 'A god am I,
Osiris living, whom the priests invoke. '
There is no greater god beneath the sky.
Begone! Else torn and screaming thou shalt die.'

"But when the tenfold pestilence had felled
The firstborn sons of Egypt in a night,
Begrudging Pharoah was at last compelled
To free the Hebrews and condone their flight.
His courtiers, mortified, impelled by spite,
Caioled his vanitv with cunning goads:
'O god on earth, where is thy father's might?
Would he have let his bondsmen shun their loads,
Defile his honor or despoil his roads?'

"And Pharoah marshaled an imposing host,
Six hundred chariots of sword and spear,
And led them with a vengeance toward the coast.
Encamped at evening, Moses saw appear
Appalling clouds of havoc drawing near,
And heard his people, trapped against the shore,
Lament their exodus with cries of fear:
'Better a slave in Egypt evermore
Than food for dogs, the carrion of war.'

"But Moses undismayed allayed their fright;
Whilst from the vanguard I fell back to stand
Behind the camp in shafts of cloud and light,
Till in the dawn he lifted up his hand,
And fervent winds arose at his command.
Two cloven walls of water rushed alee,
Exposing through the deep a seam of land;
And down this chasm sundering the sea,
Beleaguered Israel began to flee.
"As morning wakened with a blood-red glow,
The chariots of Pharoah rolled in place,
To hear his last directives, row on row:
'Go forth, mine hounds of vengeance, and erase
Thine own dishonor and thy king' s disgrace.
Concede no quarter and with one accord
Undo forever tbis unbidden race.
And know that I shall be watching to reward
The richest prize unto the reddest sword.

"'Let none alive escape thee through the flood!
So ages yet unborn may come to see
My glory chronicled in Hebrew blood,
And all the world bow down submissively
In attitudes of homage unto me.'
Thus spurred to fury his vindictive host
Charged through the parted waters wrathfully;
And soon their vanguard spied the hindermost
Of those who fled them toward the farther coast.

"O Lord, no farther could Thy people fly,
And knelt forlornly on the shore in prayer.
Whilst hovering like vengeance in the sky
The Angel of Death cast shadows of despair.
But Moses raised his staff into the air.
The walls of water closed upon the land,
And Pharoah's chariots were everywhere
Submerged in cataracts of mud and sand,
His armor swept away, his horse unmanned.

"And as he stood aghast on yonder shore,
The multitudes gave thanks at having fled
The rigors of his bondage evermore."
As Gabriel stepped back and bowed his head,
Beholden to be granted all he pled,
The Angel of Death arose with kindling: eves.
But God selected Uriel instead:
"Descend from heaven down the seven skies,
And raise up Moses unto Paradise."

The wisest counselor before the throne,
Now UrieI as well set forth his case:
"O Lord, please reconsider and condone
My own disinclination to efface
This living testimony of Thy grace.
We most praise virtues we ourselves have shown.
Thus valiant Gabriel gives highest place
To Moses' valor, whilst Michael is known
To venerate compassion like his own.
"I am in heaven considered not unwise;
It is in Moses' wisdom I delight.
For through his code did justice first arise;
A code whose principles of wrong and right
Deposed the reign of arbitrary might,
The age-old equitv of teeth and claws:
And man began his journey out of night.
For truth can never justify a cause
Where breathes not mercy on the clay of laws.

"The claims of creditors are set aright,
No longer must the bondsman cringe in fear,
Who grieves a stranger now the laws requite,
The rights of sanctity must all revere,
The orphan and the widow are held dear--"
But scowling: like a storm of blackest night,
The Angel of Death was roused to interfere.
"How canst thou, Uriel!" he cried with spite.
"Is not the soul of Moses mine by right?

"Let those less wise, beguiled of Moses' worth,
Equivocate and shirk the Lord's command
To bring his apparition back from Earth.
But surely Uriel must understand
That all that dwells below fell to my hand
With Adam's sin, when first men learned to die.
Must I then beg for what I might demand?"
He added, with a look insidious and sly,
And fixed on God a corner of his eye.

'When angels mutinied in Paradise,
I stood beside our Sovereign in the fight.
Who knows which lord would dominate the skies,
Had I not hurled my balance-tipping might
Decisively against the Prince of Night?
The soul of Moses, which our gracious Lord
Would elevate to an exalted height,
Concerns me only as my just reward
For joining loyally a cause deplored."

As Death stepped down, again rose Uriel,
And like an advocate began to plead:
"Upon thy loyalty we need not dwell.
In heaven everywhere it is agreed,
To rule in neither camp couldst thou succeed,
So cunningly thou joined the stronger side.
What earthly perquisites the Lord doth cede,
Are points that He alone must needs decide,
But in thy testimony thou hast lied.

"I am in heaven considered not unwise;
It is in Moses' wisdom I delight.
For through his code did justice first arise;
A code whose principles of wrong and right
Deposed the reign of arbitrary might,
The age-old equitv of teeth and claws:
And man begin his journey out of night.
For truth can never justify a cause
Where breathes not mercy on the clay of laws.

"The claims of creditors are set aright,
No longer must the bondsman cringe in fear,
Who grieves a stranger now the laws requite,
The rights of sanctity must all revere,
The orphan and the widow are held dear--"
But scowling like a storm of blackest night,
The Angel of Death was roused to interfere.
"How canst thou, Uriel!" he cried with spite.
"Is not the soul of Moses mine by right?

"Let those less wise, beguiled of Moses' worth,
Equivocate and shirk the Lord's command
To bring his apparition back from Earth.
But surely Uriel must understand
That all that dwells below fell to my hand
With Adam's sin, when first men learned to die.
Must I then beg for what I might demand?"
He added, with a look insidious and sly,
And fixed on God a comer of his eye.

'When angels mutinied in Paradise,
I stood beside our Sovereign in the fight.
Who knows which lord would dominate the skies,
Had I not hurled my balance-tipping might
Decisively against the Prince of Night?
The soul of Moses, which our gracious Lord
Would elevate to an exalted height,
Concerns me only as my just reward
For joining loyally a cause deplored."

As Death stepped down, again rose Uriel,
And like an advocate began to plead:
"Upon thy loyalty we need not dwell.
In heaven everywhere it is agreed,
To rule in neither camp couldst thou succeed,
So cunningly thou joined the stronger side.
What earthly perquisites the Lord doth cede,
Are points that He alone must needs decide,
But in thy testimony thou hast lied.
"When Moses from the mountain rose to heaven,
Ascending through the seven realms of space,
He owned the sins of Zion and was shriven;
Receiving thereupon with holy grace
The graven stones no weathers can efface,
Whose scriptures pave the straited way to bliss.
And these, O Angel of Death, wouldst thou erase,
And flout the Lord's commandment, even this,
To prison Moses' soul in the abyss?"

The discord of the angels, stage by stage,
Continued in its bitterness to grow,
Till God judiciously subdued their rage:
'O Angel of Death, since thou wilt have it so,
Upon this quest I give thee leave to go."
Triumphantly, Death turned his kindling eye.
And gazed in rancor on the world below.
Then hurtling earthward with a thundrous cry,
He plunged with dread intention down the sky.

Descending on a campment now asleep,
He plummeted too swift to be descried
By shepherds on the hillsides tending sheep.
Nor did the sentinels preceive him glide
Through shadows to a tent and slip inside.
And there. disconsolatelv. still awake.
Knelt Moses at an altar set aside,
To pray devoutly for his people's sake,
And humbly for the Lord his soul to take.

Then he was startled as from out the shade
Arose a grim eidolon to abhor,
And started with malignance to upbraid:
"I come to you to settle our old score,
For we have met in heaven once before.
When thy judicial voice is stricken dumb,
And thou pent in perdition evermore,
Thy people and the Law will soon succumb.
Prepare, O Moses, for thine hour is come!"

Though sorely shaken, Moses held his ground:
"That convenants of hope should be restored,
And nations brought salvation and unbound,
Were services I rendered to the Lord.
I served for righteousness and not reward.
So that His chosen people multiply,
And bring unto the world divine accord,
What matter that a man called Moses die?
The light that shines forever shall abye."
"Such vanities shall vanish like a dream,"
Retorted Death, with still redoubled spite.
"To quell the fountainhead aborts the stream.
No seed replants the harvest of the night.
The hellfires of Gehenna cast no light."
'''Thou shalt have no other gods before me,'"
Quoth Moses, overmastering his fright.
"Though lost, I shall not honor nor implore thee,
But disavow thy treason and abhor thee.

"No mortal loss can quell immortal Law.
No more can treachery abort a reign
That nations yet unborn will hold in awe.
No night shall blacken nor malignance bane
The seed of heaven," he added with disdain.
The Angel of Death was straitened to replv:
For all his machinations seemed in vain:
Then to his bafflement he heard on high
The joyous song of angels drawing nigh.

"Full many times," he vowed with sickened pride,
"Regardless how thy progeny hath grown,
Will mankind sweep humanity aside,
And sink in spirit to the Age of Stone.
Where tyrants sit, I stand behind the throne.
Then shall thy people be my first endeavor.
For they through thee have robbed me of mine own.
In darkness and in light, forgetting never,
You have in me an enemy forever."

Then like a carrion bird bedogged away,
He spread his loathsome pinions and withdrew.
The shadows now fell back before the day,
And gleaming entities arose and grew
In luminescent beams of nameless hue;
And Moses felt as if he soared on high,
Where only birds and angels ever flew:
As if he nestled at the tempest's eye,
Where all is peace and love can never die.

A Voice now summoned him as from a throne:
"No consecrated life beneath the sun
Hath in beatitude surpassed thine own.
Thy journey out of Egypt now is done;
Thy sands of tribulation all are run.
Come forth in glory to a bliss divine.
Come forth from earthly battles lost and won,
Come forth to blessings that are rightly thine,
Come forth to me, sweet soul, for thou art mine."
As Joshua at dawn rose from his tent,
To oversee the campment and apprise
What needs or jeopardies the night had sent,
Bright beams of glory streaking down the skies
Aroused his wonder and amazed his eyes.
But now was not the hour for idle thought.
For fine appreciation or surmise.
The road was long, with battles to be fought
Great streams to cross, and peoples to be taught.



                        Variations on a theme by Olive Schreiner

The hunter wakened, gathered up his load,
And trudged in darkness, dutiful and staid,
The Vale of Superstition and the road
From which his daily circuit never strayed.
He rigged his wooden decoys and his sets,
And on the moonlit waters cast his nets;
Then in a blind of rushes took his cover
Before the waterfowl began to hover.

And as the surface brightened with the dawn,
A silver-white reflection caught his eye.

But by the time he glanced into the sky,

The creature and its image both were gone.
Yet in that moment all his life was changed;
His bearings lost, his values disarranged.


He scanned the heavens vainly through the day,
His heart alive with hope, until the light
Retreated in the west and died away;

And only then lurched homeward through the night.
He gave no reason for his empty nets,

His solitary moods and grim regrets.

But when his friends confronted him and chided,
At last he broke his silence and confided:

"A dazzling thing of white with silver wings
Came soaring past me through the morning skies:

Some bird or angel out of paradise,

Beyond the latitude of earthly things.
The fugitive reflection that I saw
Was so enchanting I am still in awe.


The fervor of his protests only stirred
Incredulous derision from his friends,

Who called it mad to venerate a bird;
Implying his conceits had secret ends.

"A sunbeam or the shadow of your head
Was all
you saw reflected," many said.
"This fleeting vision over which you sorrow
Will fade and be forgotten by tomorrow."

But as he wandered lost through ways unknown,
Uncertain even what his longing meant,
Tomorrows rose in turn, tomorrows went;

And still he searched, despondent and alone,
Until he met one evening by the fen

A grander figure than the sons of men.


"Who are you?" he inquired. "Whence do you come?"
"Within these valleys I have ever been.

My name is Wisdom, Knowledge called by some.
Though always present, I am rarely seen."

"Oh, tell me," cried the hunter, "I implore,

What is this apparition I adore?

Was it some great wild bird with pinions gleaming?
Or was I, as my friends say, only dreaming?"

"You have not lost your mind." The old man smiled.
"This visionary image that persists,

Her name is Truth, and truly she exists.

Who sees her once is evermore beguiled.

He longs for her with every waking breath,

With unabating ardor unto death."


"How may I capture her?" the hunter pled,
"And evermore embrace her to my heart?"
But ruefully the old man shook his head.

"You have not borne enough to even start."
Once more the hunter found himself alone,
And vowed to snare the creature on his own.
So with the Shuttle of Imagination

He wove a network of his own creation;
Entwining tender wishes round and round,
In golden meshes gauzy as a wraith,

And richly baited them with grains of faith.

Soon his endeavors were profusely crowned.
For birds flocked unto him till none could match
The numbers or resplendence of his catch.


Deep blue and ebon, brightly-hued and fair,
With lilting songs that rarely had been heard;
He keenly watched them settle from the air.
Ambitious to behold the great white bird.
Their variance and beauty in a cage

Attracted masses and amazed the age;

Their singing was so lovely and entrancing

That multitudes rejoiced with feasts and dancing.
But though the people roistered and were glad,
Exulting happily without a thought

Whence came the birds or how they had been caught,
Their clamor only made the hunter sad.

And pangs of disappointment stabbed his breast;
For Truth had not been captured with the rest.


Distraught and outcast, with a heavy heart,
He wandered from the trodden paths of men,
Till he encountered in a place apart

The old man known as Wisdom once again,
And told him dolefully what he had done.
"Untutored multitudes have thus begun,"

His mentor counselled him with new compassion.
''They tell themselves that what they fashion,
From daydreams and the impudence of youth,
With raw Credulity imposed as bait,

Must so inveigle flocks to congregate

That without effort they would capture Truth.
These brilliant-feathered birds that charm the eyes
Are only hatchlings from the brood of lies."


"Must I then languish here and be consumed
By fretful longings till I am no more;

Condemned to nothingness, tormented, doomed?"
"Your sufferings reach deeper than before,

More grievous than they were mere months ago,"
The old man said. "This then is what I know.

A search for Truth begins in intuition.

You must depart the Vale of Superstition,
Reserving nothing, never to return.

Alone you must descend the steeps of light,
Withstanding surfeit and the lures of night;
And where escarpments tower dark and stem,
Continue boldly on until you see

The topless mountains of Reality.


"The range of Truth extends beyond the dawn,
Where sunrise lights the firmament like fire.
Its crags are trackless, its crevasses yawn,

And every climb is arduous and dire,

Through shadowlands and passages untoward,
With neither praise nor prospect of reward.
Nor may you ~back away from your endeavor;
For he who leaves this valley leaves forever,

To nestle in its fleshpots nevermore.

Nought else can I reveal about the climb.

I am but Knowledge, gathered from all time;
I may come after you but not before.

The mountains I decribed are climbed alone,
And solely for the love of the unknown."


The hunter left him and uncaged his birds,
Withholding only Immortality.

He cosseted its plumes with tender words;
But in the end he also set it free.

Despite its beauty and alluring eyes,

It so encumbered him he could not rise.

He stripped the Shuttle of Imagination

Of Baubles, Wishfulness, and Imitation,
And cast the tangles from him with the rest.
The shuttle of itself he kept at hand;

It was the heirloom of an olden land,

And so he tucked it snugly in his breast.
But as he rose resignedly to go,

A raging mob assailed him from below.


"Dolt! Imbecile!" they cried. "Are you insane,
So foolishly to let the caged birds fly?

He tried to quell the uproar and explain;

But they would not allow him to reply.

They shouted down his words with cries and groans,
And harried him with curses and with stones.

"What is this Truth, this shadow you saw winging?
Your birds at least were real, we heard them singing."
With execrations cutting to the quick,

They crowded round to menace and to scoff;
And hurling mud and brickbats drove him off.
Forlorn, as evening vapors gathered thick,

He slunk to where the borderlands begin;
Discomfited by bruises and chagrin


Along the paths of loneliness and lies,

He groped through ashes to a sunless hole,
Disheartened by Negation that denies
Immortal consolation to the soul.

At last, impeded by a reeking bog,

He sat to wait the thinning of the fog.

Then through the plumes of mist he saw come dancing
Two wisps of light, vivacious and entrancing.

Like orbs of fire they brightened as they came;
Revealing lovely faces, young and fair,

With merry laughing eyes and golden hair.
Enwreathed like stars in aureoles of flame,

Their glances too evasive to define,

They glanced around him with a grace divine.


"Who are you?" he exclaimed bewilderedly,
Too dazed by their allure to even guess.

"We are the twins called Sensuality,

Our parents Nature and Excess.

The last man sees us with the first man's eye;
For we are old as time and never die.

More noble hearts than thine have sat here waiting,
Half frozen in a darkness unabating.

"Yet they have come to us, and we in turn

Have wrapped them lovingly in our embrace,

And led them warmly from this sunless place.
Come feel how sweetly our caresses burn.

Come dwell with us untroubled by the storm.

Oh, come to us, come love us and be warm.


"All else is but delusion and deceit;
The Vale of Superstition too absurd
For anything but humbug and conceit,
Or any but imposters to be heard.

This Truth you idolize is doomed to fade,
As vainly as the shadows of a shade.

Why should you perish like a thing discarded,
Lost in obscurity and unregarded?

Come go with us and truly live," they cried.
"There is no fierce free life among the rout.
Devote your days to us and never doubt."
And rapture stirred the hunter deep inside,
Until he felt himself like one possessed,

And stretched his arms to clasp them to his breast.


But as he reached, bedazzled by their charms,
Repellent images perturbed his eyes;

A vision of confusion and alarms,

Which showed him their allure as only lies,
And where surrender to them truly led.

He turned away in shame and bowed his head:

And covering his face he sat unheeding,
Unmindful of their wiles and artful pleading.
And when he looked he noticed far away
Two glints of starlight fade without a trace.

He rose and roamed once more the sunless place,
Where darkness reigns and never dawns the day;
Where many languish till they die at last,
Forgotten in a wasteland few have passed.


How long he wandered there he never knew.
When, suddenly, revitalizing light

Alit the skyline with a fringe of blue;
Inspiring him to slip the bonds of night,

To stumble from the darkness and to run
Like one befuddled toward the rising sun.
At last he carne to where the darkness ended,
Where mountains of Reality ascended

In sheer escarpments up a sunless slope,
Until they vanished in a ruff of cloud.

He cried exultantly and laughed aloud,

And chose the steepest path with growing hope.
The pathway unto Truth could not be long;
And crags and ridges echoed with his song.


But as the paths grew steeper and less clear,
His song subsided into gasps for breath.
Volcanic chasms, bottomless and sheer,
Converged on every side with threats of death.
Remorseless winds remurmuring like moans

Blew hollowly through casques of whitened bones.
Such footprints as survived the brooms of weather
Died out and like the path ceased altogether.

He had perforce to push on for himself,

And climbed from rock to rock tenaciously,

Up trackless slopes of rubble and debris,

Until obstructed by a granite shelf;

A crosswise barrier without a breech,

Which vertically rose up beyond his reach.


Dismayed, benumbed, beyond the beaten track,
He stood immobilized like one in shock,
Unable to go forward or turn back,

Before a rampart of unbroken rock.

He struggled long to master his despair,
Till with a will he rose to carve a stair;
And with the Shuttle of Imagination
Began the weary task of excavation.

At times the stones he fashioned would not fit,
At times they tumbled from him and were lost,
With all the days of labor they had cost.
Conviction overcame the wish to quit;

For once he carved a stairway, he believed,
His quest for Truth would surely be achieved.


He labored at the wall without a rest,
Through enervating heat and bouts of cold,
Until his growing stairway neared its crest.
The shadows lifted and the mists unrolled;
The Vale of Superstition spread below
With all the trumpery of long ago.

And towering through the starlight of creation
There soared on high a daunting elevation,
Whose peak was clouded over like a crown;
While from his stairway he could now descry
Another wall beyond at least as high.

He cried aloud and in a swoon fell down,
As if he never more would rise again;
For all his sacrifices seemed in vain.


He lay inert an evening and a night,

Too broken and dismayed to face the test
Of solitary struggle up the height;

And only after days resumed his quest.

Once more up mountainsides, through thinning air,
He quarried doggedly to carve a stair.

A season wastes away, another passes

Amid abyssal chasms and crevasses.

Time now is measured by the steps he hews;
And though he sings no longer as he works,
There is no task he shuns or pain he shirks,

Nor shoddy workmanship he will excuse.
While all around, from crevice, blind, and haunt,
Rose apparitions to beguile and taunt.


Their strange wild faces like fantastic dreams
Appeared and disappeared in mist and shade.
"What profit compensates or gain redeems
The futile sacrifices you have made?

Put by thy labors, lonely man," they cried.

"For nobler souls than thine have toiled and died,
Of disillusionment and foiled ambition,

Among these very rocks without fruition.

See where those bones now molder in the cleft?
The valiant of their times have ventured here,
Resolved undauntedly to persevere,

And strove with all their strength till none was left.
They suffered broken lives and lost their youth,
But came no closer to beholding Truth.


"And weary of adversity and strife,

They lay upon the ground and longed for sleep.
Sleep is the consummation of a life,

The harvest home of all who sow to reap.
Sleep eases hunger, helps our cares depart,
Refreshes languor and restores the heart.
Sleep gives deliverance from vain endeavor.
Sleep is the balm of loneliness forever."
"But work is my salvation," he replied.
"Have I removed myself from what endears,
Endured reclusiveness across the years,
Prevailed against temptation, stifled pride,
To lose by courage now and apprehend

The blandishments of phantoms in the end?"


He laughed aloud the laughter of the free;

And faced his tempters resolute and bold.
And though they slipped away disgruntledly,
They never left him as the years unrolled.
They lurked in shadows and behind each rock,

And when thev sensed him doubt came forth to mock:

"Your shanks have withered and your hair has whitened;
Your fingers tremble like a dotard frightened;

This stair you excavate may be your last.

What can you fashion with so little time?

Have you the vigor left to even climb?

Your days of strength and beauty long are past;
Your visage witnesses what you have borne;
Your very shuttle is reduced and worn."


"I know," he said, replying as he worked,
Refusing to surrender or relent;

Though phantoms skulked and failure lurked
Behind each stumbling block to his ascent.
But when at last he reached his utmost height,
And with a lifetime's longing raised his sight ,
He only saw new ramparts rise like towers: '
Transcending his perceptions and his powers.
Again he lay despondent on the ground,

Too shattered by discouragement to weep,
And in defeat resigned himself to sleep.

But as the mists of evening gathered round,

A momentary rift exposed to view

Elusive prospects of the fields he knew.


In lilting snatches he appeared to hear
Light-hearted people singing as they danced;
Reminding him of what he once held dear.

And peering through the mist as night advanced,
His dying eyes nostalgically looked down

Upon the homely byways of a town:

A town beside a lake with a wildwood,

Where he had idled through his years of childhood.
"My fellows in the streets below," he said,

"May pass their lives obscurely and unknown,

But when they die they do not die alone.

While those who live for beauty must instead
Reside like exiles as their times roll by,

Reclusive and estranged until they die.


"I have not rested nor have I repined;

And now my strength is gone and mist enshrouds
The solitudes wherein I hoped to find

The great white bird of Truth among the clouds.
But others soon will follow, young and strong,
Where with devotion I have labored long

And mount to elevations more exalted

Than this poor resting place where 1 have halted."
Then indistinctly he became aware

Of something like a star drift down the sky,
And crying joyously he reached on high ...
When others trod behind him up the stair,
They found him lying with his hand held tight
Around a single feather silver-white.


                                                         -- Jack Lovejoy


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