I: Aspects of Barbara
That flower-born by whom the lost forgive,
Blodeuwedd, knows this other name as hers.
Thrice-universal, thrice affirmative
(alone, so being), and by no demurs
eluctible, she strings their lyre upon
the Delphic tripos of the sophisters,
returning reason for their worship: gone,
as Barbara, the lunar flesh they kissed -
grown mad as though from ivy - and the wan
sky-felspar of her bridal wine, her mist
of panic hope: she cures their drunkenness
by the clear morning of the amethyst.
The lovers' planet, bourne of their excess,
conclusion of their premisses (the Maid
and Thief) is light they only half-possess:
buds are unfolded that our fires invade,
but vanish soon from their illusive sun;
so spirits whom she wakes are early laid
in ash of hoarfrost, all their seed undone.
Let birds then be her only avatars:
Blodeuwedd's flowers winter one by one;
Barbara's triptych is blasphemed by scars
cat-lusted on it; and the cannibal
mare, the mad sow, were banished from our stars.
But, in the tundras of our after-fall,
spare us memorial doves' wind-opalling;
spare us the cranes that will destroy us all
if they return among the mimes of Spring;
spare us the night and rapture of the owl,
Cassandra's cry upon her desolate wing.
These are the flesh that she inhabits, fowl
of her emblem: every tenderness
lapses in danger and the sibyl's cowl;
every death foretold is a caress;
oh Barbara, by whom the lost forgive,
love ends in love and its devouring dress.
II: Figure One
Barbara Celarent Darii Ferio...
Continually then to shroud from us
their Persian cruelties in the forms of reason -
moods of sweet order, figures perspicuous
as triangles - they ravished our long prison
with bannered sieges of embroidered laws
dove-purring though draconic; false horizon
of amative arras. While their knives and saws
opened harems of wounds in us, their hammers
trod vineyards on our flesh, they sang the cause
in wry faburden syllogism, drummers
to their own lullaby. We were allayed,
oh truly, by such furbishers and psalmers.
All miracles are born from love (they said);
are not your agonies a preternature?
It is by love that now you are dismayed.
Vagitus fails in joy that begs a future;
dear chronicles dress bright with almanacs;
none of your spectra was a living creature.
From pride alone a man believes he lacks;
the wild fires of your pain are greed and searching;
it is vainglory chafes at screws and racks.
Charity springs beneath no miser's watching;
in its degree, the scourge is merciful;
ferio!, then: I lash for your enriching...
Are we less blind for lying in that school,
glossing the dangerous moods of Media,
forgoing our allies from their twisted rule,
than surely alone on the sand (andabata
tensing for net-man), masked in one triad, thus:
"all", "all", and "All": the naked Barbara?
III. The Second Figure
Cesare Camestres Festino Baroco...
Say she had come among us a mystery -
unfound in charvering and unapt for chivving,
by Occam blade or Hampton patency:
could we have bent her to our beat of living?
How little we, though, understood what swung
our impassioned pendulum, or our forgiving
bell of good reason with its golden tongue!
We should have known her (if she took our schooling)
older than lust itself; and no less young.
She did not come unknown to our befooling,
nor daisy-thighed, nor meaning us any shame:
but she and all her sisters, overruling
our diffident hatch, fine-drew the mating-game
to Lilith-meshes of perpetual checks.
Thus, echo-name by Malabranca name,
they hung the Nine of Primers about our necks:
a sigil in the place of lauds; the orders
of reasoned service in the vast of sex.
None, in their sweet enclave, can woo his warders;
unconsummated love must kiss the bars:
no captive princes are within these borders.
Virginal scars meet with placental scars;
the sisters were Palladian of bearing:
they went in tunics, not in scapulars.
Say she had come among us never caring
for the Frome answer (bulldyke, philosopher,
pouf, or anaesthetist, or the outstaring
clergy)? I hasten (could we have hastened her?);
no new is good new; hells may be justly novel,
but may be neither for nor on the spur.
Yet she made all, in this Baroque sub-hovel
of shadow-life, except the hoping part -
and, but for that, what need have we to grovel?
We cannot leave her: it is she we chart
in lust-with-reason's ill geology.
But love is the huge nifë at her heart.