The Sage's Stand

The hallowed hour is past,
The glory-songs of youth,
Bright noon receding fast.
The shadow-shapes of truth

Emerge behind the trees
I enter much perturbed:
The shudder of unease,
My faculties disturbed.

My walking staff my guide,
I probe among the wood.
I've wandered far and wide,
In habit and in hood

Of monk's grey toil and care
Through rain and sleet and storm,
Known little of the fair,
The gentle and the warm.

Exultant pride of Reason,
Great hymns I've sung to thee.
Now, why this callous treason:
Why thou forsakest me?

There is a word called "Love"
That makes a sighing sound.
It whispers from above
And leaves a bitter wound.

The wraiths, yet timid shadows
Which barely tint the air,
Cavort among the willows
And laugh at my despair.

"Say, wise man, if you can,"
Says one in woman's voice.
"Where is your errless plan?
Your sovereign gift of choice,

"Well, has it brought you nearer
To Her that you adore,
Though you may only hear Her
From Hades' distant shore?

"Where is Vanera now?
Where treads Her tiger's grace?
Where burns Her haughty brow?
Where shines Her regal face?

"What would She say to greet you?
Would you recoil in fear,
Or She in fastidious coldness,
Indifferent to your tears?

"Can the wide world even allow
This goddess to walk among
The lowly mortal crowd
Which plods its way along,

"A weary train of slaves
Enchained from leg to leg:
The man who toil waives
Must die, or rob, or beg.

"She laughs at all your toils,
And breaks your stoutest yokes.
Your Gordian nets She foils,
Dispels with lightning-strokes.

"Through thunderheads She dances,
High-booted dragon-rider.
Who meets Her burning glances
Must perish all afire!

"Her eyes, blue lunar daggers,
Her locks of storm-tossed brass:
See how Her spirit swaggers,
And yet retains the class

"Of womanhood distinguished.
The fires She commands
Are, at Her will, extinguished,
And She may sing and dance

"And play upon Her lyre,
As dainty as any belle,
(But as Her fierce desire
Is like the lust of Hell,

"This seems a trifle forced.)
And just beneath the bluster,
The fever and its source,
Vast wisdom hides its luster

"And intellect beguiling:
A universe in small!
And secretly She's smiling;
The world's Her costume ball!

"Turning webs, poor spider,
Of words, you spin in vain
To catch an eagle, bind Her
With such a feeble chain.

"Go find yourself a fly
To cherish and enjoy,
Or of your hunger die,
Your barren hopes destroyed!"

I reel from the darkness.
The evening draws to night.
The shades within the forest
Grow heavy, and the fright

Assails me—where to go?
Which way to turn? I am
Imprisoned in these boughs,
And lost as all the damned!

Enough! I say. Enough!
You spirits grim and taunting.
When daylight's rays are snuffed,
I know my Reason's wanting.

I'll find a bush as soft
As I may for my bed
Tonight. And when, aloft,
Apollo casts his red

Life-beacon on these woods,
I then may find my way
From weariness that broods
Into the light of day.

There is no sense in groping
In darkness evanescent.
I have the means for coping
With this uncertain present:

Sleep. To sleep until
My Reason is revived
And confidence. I will,
As always, yet survive.

And hear! my goddess may
In mind, if not in life,
Sustain me, light my way,
And in the face of strife

Inspire me to act,
To take heart, and to dream,
To make a better pact
With all that I esteem.

You demons! Here's a word
Which you may not withstand:
"Patience!" You have heard;
I raise my staff in hand,

Repeat the word more firmly:
A thousand locks are broken!
Brave strategems are sternly
And eloquently spoken,

And with Sol's waking fires,
Roads stretch out from the forest,
To clasp the distant spires
Of palaces, the turrets

Of teeming cities, harbors
Which open to a sea
As boundless as the labors
Of man's mentality.

George Chadderdon © 1996