Monday, September 16, 2013

"In Heaven it is Alwaies Autumne" (Donne)

1. Winter

Here my beginnings, the dark solitude
Of mine own self; my bleak captivity,
The lonely reaches of my barrenness,
The numbing mists of settled misery.
Here dreamt no promise. Nullified by cold,
All hopes aborted ere conception known.
Only the bitter tracery of trees
Etched the close skies that loomed with weight of stone.
No fruit, no flower, never hope of life.
Never a breeze to whisper of the spring.               10
No soft of moisture but the leaden snow,
Weight of despair to blanket everything.
To blanket, with the winding-sheet of death,
All loveliness that longed to germinate,
Lest there should be some seed to seek the sun,
Some tendril of delight should infiltrate.
Lest life, or hope, should enter through some crack,
All, all was sealed with polar lifelessness.
Here sang no birds. Here, never nest was built.
Here music could find nothing to express.              20
All was stark desolation. All was waste.
All was the ice-bound desert of the heart.
Never came thaw to this frigidity,
Nor any sun, renewal to impart.

2. Spring

Then, at the solstice of my wretchedness,
Broke a new dawn that splintered fixed despair.
Warmth, from outside all worlds that I had known,
Softened the ice, and quickened the dead air.
Life laughed aloud in the sweet waters' song,
(Waters that danced, rejoicing to be free.)            30
Tendrils of promise frolicked in the wind,
Turbulent with a green vitality.
No more did the oppressive shroud of snow
Smother the glory of the singing earth.
I was made one with verdure newly born.
I was delivered; I was brought to birth.
I knelt and drank my fill from living streams;
I walked with wonder where the flowers sprang.
Trees put off all their dreary nakedness;
Birds their cantata'd alleluias sang.                       40
I was a day-old lamb. I skipped the hills
With feet of joy. My wool was washed so white,
I tasted innocence and found it sweet.
I knew myself reborn into delight.
I knew, or thought I knew, all blessed truth
In its simplicity. I was so young,
I had the leaping energy of love,
And I was glad to thaw me in the sun.

3. Summer

Some early growth must wither in this heat,
Burnt by the bare, remorseless light of day.           50
But, a fertility that dazzles me,
Overrules any losses or decay.
Often made weary by unvaried light,
Still, to call this sun mine, I will rejoice;
Glad in its splendour even when it burns,
Knowing its fullness is my only choice.
This is the season of my labouring;
Season of toil, when I am often spent.
Yet, I see harvest-promise on the trees,
And, in that sureness, I am well-content.              60
Never such freedom as the grass that springs
Quick from its cutting, lush to rise again.
Never such hope as that within my heart,
Ever renewed, though I'm cut down by sin.
And, though my blossom time shall not return,
Yet I shall glory, for I look ahead,
Towards a sun so bright it shall not burn,
But make me one with perfect light instead.

4. Autumn

Here is completeness. Here, the plenitude
Of heart's desire made perfect. No decay               70
Lessens its bounty now, nor ever shall;
Harvest of joy that will not go away.
Here is the end of journey, end of toil.
Here is the fruit whose flower was so sweet
Its scent beguiled the darkest hours of want;
Now, in fulfilment, I will take and eat.
Now I will drink, nor ever thirst again.
Love is the liquid of my soul's desire,
Immersed in which, I taste all true delight,
Fresh and untainted, perfect and entire.               80
No clouds adulterate the clarity
Of the blue consummation of a sky
Crystalled, that  worship's vision may pass through,
And, into everlasting glory, fly.
Who could wish other than this fruitfulness,
Fullness of mercy in maturity?
Here is no withering, but joy on joy;

Grace into grace for all eternity.

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