My personal reflections on this blog take inspiration from the Bahá’í teachings.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Prisoners' Elegy

Droving a plodding herd we’re getting there
Our paces crunch the gravel road we tread
A tractor engine strums the evening air
The milking plant starts humming in the shed

And there we boss the mooing cows in line
The milk-pump’s chug insists we do our task --
One task of those the waking hours assign
Whereby we meet what nature’s cycles ask

The rounds of labour raise a steady chant
That floats across the flatlands to the hills
And flowing with the fenceline’s rising slant
Arises to the sky, subsides and stills

As night comes down the world of dreams expands
Rolls out a track toward the mystic sky
Then morning places weightier matters on our hands
Sent by the rising sun, our strength we try

A man who knew in youth those sunlit ways
Between the fertile paddocks of that farm
Took casually the fortune of those days
And barely saw the threat of any harm

No foresight told there’d come a dismal time --
That he’d descend to lodge within a space
From which, for long, he could not hope to climb
Where madding burdens clamp their stern embrace

With hindsight he could warrant no surprise
To find himself enclosed in halls of grey
Where rigidly his routine hours comprise
Of chores contrived, his sanity to slay

Enraptured dreams had brought him to this state
The peaches on the trees -- were his to pluck
An apple of the eye -- would be his mate
Each juicy fruit that grows -- was his to suck

And who does not vacate their blameless youth?
Who never goes where innocence is spent?
Who ever did resist that sweet untruth --
The glamour of the world’s alluring scent?

No village makes a haven from the world
No nation gives a guarantee of peace
No idle wish can loose the snare that’s curled
Around a life, by folly’s wild caprice

No home gives certain shelter from the storm
A heart may not depend on vows of care
Where heaven’s voice finds no-one to inform
Finds scarce an ear attuned to be aware

No inmate owns a key to flee the cell
Its walls complete the circle of his view
Its forced confinement forms a living hell
Unless with vision, he through stone can hew

On tawdry walls he paints a summer land
With stubborn art creates a living scene
That takes him where his body cannot stand
In prospects beamed upon an inward screen

Not convicts all, but prisoners we are all
Inside a gilded cage that traps our flight
To gaze beyond the space in which we crawl
Equips the earthbound with empyreal sight

As if released to speed in sky at dawn
We shall attain the eagle’s awesome skill
To rise above the plane from which we’re born
And spy the darting prey we must needs kill

We shall like lions listen on the breeze
For heartbeats pulsing on the moving air
Those distant murmers that our hunger tease --
Such savoury signs must signify good fare

The flames that feed us lurk in nature’s show
They flicker on the edges of perception
They flare out in the sunset’s fiery glow --
That herald of the end of self-deception

Imagination sports a double head
Both smiling: one shows greed and one bears grace
Before the blood from all my veins has bled
My mind, I pray, the lines of grace can trace

I here pay tribute to those souls who’ve flown
And left behind the arts they made from life
Projecting back a glimpse of what they’ve known
From struggle with the world’s ignoble strife

(With appreciation to Thomas Gray)

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