ADAM OUT OF EDEN
sub regno Cinarae...
He knew, but never saw, the Cherubim,
the Cepheid sword's excluding Beltane-wreath,
or the unreal orient gate. For him,
the barriers lay within, or underneath,
his very exile. Shadows of Eden, yes:
his partner (eyes askance, and vulpine teeth)
fruit-offering in vain her nakedness;
the bird-adventurers, the live bestiaries,
that came to hand still from their masterless
thickets and boughs; and, fiercer hurt than these,
the unattainable nearness, the spoilt sight,
of all his joy. This world was not at ease:
what of the huge unbiddable time, the night,
terminal black of the inordinate
hunters that crept and screamed? No more the light
bond of his naming held them: how abate
the lion's thundering furnace; bear the rush of amber fury in the tiger, spate
of wicked ivory of wolves, the hush
of dusty hatred in the snake; the grey
volcanic shudder of power - trumpet and tush -
god out of lava, behemoth? Or stay
the ring of hungry planets he saw burning
beyond his fire, wild fire that slouched and lay
and slouched and lay, coils tightening and turning?
The terrors of the darkness died at last;
but was there comfort in the banners of morning?
New paradise no doubt lay somewhere past
eventual horizons and the known;
he ventured, was repulsed, and sought aghast
the few unmannerly acres of his own.
And so: the rainless agony of the wheat,
the field's grim flesh, her grey and flinty bone
that broke the hand upon the space, the heat
of parsimonious harvest, and the red
Lilith of war upon the crops, the feat
wound of the poppy in the womb of bread.
Stun-bent with labour in the soil where gay
and wolvish thistles, the ash-blue stranglers, spread -
serried and packed and swerved, and day by day
sprang dragon-toothed, rejoiced, and were not killed -
he watched his time drop leaf by leaf away.
This cup was deep, not lightly to be filled;
but, grief or guilt, he had not known his worst:
the airs of Eden were not to be stilled;
God, who forgave him much, yet left him cursed
with memory (oh knife!), and only glass
of knowledge between him and all that first
ineffable home. That would not change or pass;
and he must watch a while, already, years
had worn autumnal strangeness, and the strass
of rime appeared an emblem. Then what tears
his brackish flowers drank, and what dark snow
of wings descended on ergotic ears!
Memorial trees fell; fountainheads ran low;
familiar dogs were blinded; sheltering rocks
wore-down to bestial shapes; and long ago
the wilderness came fissioning like a pox
into the farm he had no remedy for.
Hear yet again the horrible paradox:
if Eden had been walled or misted, or
the man himself translated to a land
where that immortal summer burned no more;
yes (in his passion of loss, his jealous and
all-impotent ache), were Eden also stricken:
nothing had been too murderous to withstand.
But hearts must wither, sense and love must sicken,
when misery beholds beatitude:
on roses, not on racks, hell-torment quicken;
that hell is deepest whence a heaven is viewed.