Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The End

Postscript to “The Sea and The Mirror” (W.H. Auden)

(Ariel to Caliban. Echo by the Prompter:)

... Never hope to say farewell,
For our lethargy is such
Heaven's kindness cannot touch
Nor earth's frankly brutal drum;
This was long ago decided,
Both of us know why,
Can, alas, foretell,
When our falsehoods are divided,
What we shall become,
One evaporating sigh


(follow that sigh to

Last of the Troubadours

Those who recall the century that’s past
so rich in deeds, so full of charms, and then
compare it with our age so poor in men,
so sad, a bad age which promises at last,
to comfort us, with an age still worse by far.

-- Piere Cardenal, “Ensanhamen d’Onor” (c. 1270)

The song dies on my lips. I
see nothing now of shores
in this dry world, no
glint of smile or gossamer
descent: The gauze has
fully here unspooled,
curved beneath the wave
to drift, wraith-like, among
the tombs and weed.
Where is that bird now
which rose so proud
each day to sing your matins,
carving with his voice
both glade and chapel,
bed and blade, plunge
and buttery blue swoon?
Gone now, flown, I guess,
to younger worlds, more
devoted cares than I have
heart or hurt to alm. What
remains is an endless tide
of paper waves, this effigy
of self cut out and taped
to a curling, paper shore.
A single of draft of
sterile verse which I here
ball and toss into the wastecan
of an age, patient now with
the rest of the trash to
be hauled from empty rooms.
No more an ocean-seaming
man, the sea’s my moon-bare heart,
a boneless parody of wash
and pour devoid of love or art.
How long have you waited
for me at last to end? And what,
dead numen of the only shape
I could draw with this tongue,
what will you at last begin?

Merlin Enthralled (Richard Wilbur)

In a while they rose and went out aimlessly riding.
Leaving their drained cups on the table round.
Merlin, Merlin, their hearts cried, where are you hiding?
In all the world was no unnatural sound.

Mystery watched them riding glade by glade;
They saw it darkle from under leafy brows;
But leaves were all its voice, and squirrels made
An alien fracas in the ancient boughs.

Once by a lake-edge something made them stop.
Yet what they found was the thumping of a frog,
Bugs skating on the shut water-top,
Some hairlike algae bleaching on a log.

Gawen thought for a moment that he heard
A whitehorn breathe "Niniane." That Siren's daughter
Rose in a fort of dreams and spoke the word
"Sleep", her voice like dark diving water;

And Merlin slept, who had imagined her
Of water-sounds and the deep unsoundable swell
A creature to bewitch a sorcerer,
And lay there now within her towering spell.

Slowly the shapes of searching men and horses
Escaped him as he dreamt on that high bed:
History died; he gathered in its forces;
The mists of time condensed in the still head

Until his mind, as clear as mountain water,
Went raveling toward the deep transparent dream
Who bade him sleep. And then the Siren's daughter
Received him as the sea receives a stream.

Fate would be fated; dreams desire to sleep.
This the forsaken will not understand.
Arthur upon the road began to weep
And said to Gawen, "Remember when this hand

Once haled a sword from stone; now no less strong
It cannot dream of such a thing to do."
Their mail grew quainter as they clopped along.
The sky became a still and woven blue.

End of Brendan's Voyage

3843. After that, then, they reached the land which they had been seeking for the space of sevenyears, even the Land of Promise: as it is in the proverb, Qui quærit inuenit. Now, after they had come nigh that land, and they desired to take harbour there, they beard the voice’ of a certain old man, and this he said to them: O ye toilsome men, O hallowed pilgrims, O folk that entreat the heavenly rewards, O ever-weary life expecting this land. stay a little now from your labour’ So after they had been for some time silent, yon old man said to them: ‘Dear brothers in Christ,’ saith he, ‘why do ye not take this noble, beautiful land, wherein a human being’s blood bath never been spilt, and wherein it is meet to bury sinners or evil men? So leave ye all in your vessel everything that ye have, except a little raiment round you, and come from below.’ Now after they had landed, each of them kissed the other, and the old man wept exceedingly with the greatness of the joy. ‘Search ye and see,’ saith he, ‘the plains of Paradise, and the delightful fields of the land radiant, famous, loveable, profitable, lofty, noble, beautiful, delightful. A land odorous, flower-smooth, blessed. A land many-melodied, musical, shouting for joy, unharmful. A place wherein Ye shall find,’ saith the old man, ‘health without sickness, delight without quarrelling, union without wrangling, princedom without dissolution, rest without idleness, freedom without labour, luminous unity of angels, delights of Paradise, service of angels, feasting without extinction, avoidance of pain, faces of the righteous, partaking of the Great Easter. A life blessed, just, protected, great, loveable, noble, restful, radiant, without gloom, without darkness without sin, without weakness, in shining incorruptible bodies. in stations of angels, on plains of the Land of Promise. vast is the light and the fruitfulness of that island, its rest, its lovableness, its dearness its stability, its security (?), its preciousness. its smoothness, its radiance, is purity. is lovesomeness, its whiteness, its melodiousness. its holiness. its bright purity, its nobleness, its restfulness. its beauty, its gentleness. its height. its brightness. its venerableness, its full peace, its full unity! Happy he who shall be with well-deservingness and with good deeds, and whom son of Finnlug shall call into union with him, on that side,’ saith the old man, ‘to inhabit for-ever and ever the island whereon we stand!’.

3873. Now after they had seen that paradise among the waves of the sea, they marvel, and wonder greatly at the miracles of God and His power and they honour and glorify the Lord after seeing those mighty miracles.

3876. Now thus was the holy old man: without any human raiment, but all his body was full of bright white feathers like a dove or a sea-mew. and it was almost the speech of an angel that he had. After the striking of his bell the Tierce is celebrated by them. They sin. thanks to God with their mind fixed on Him. They durst not ask anything, and they receive their spiritual instruction of him at the uplifting of the gospel.

3882. This then was the preaching that Peter and Paul and the other holy apostles most often used to make, as preaching of the punishments and of the rewards, for they were displayed to them in the same manner. This, then, is the preaching that Sylvester, Abbot of Rome, made to Constantine, son of Helena, to the over-king of the world, in the great assembly when Constantine catered Rome to Peter and to Paul. This is the preaching that Fabian, Peter’s successor, made to Philip, son of Gordian, King of the Romans, when he believed in the Lord, and when many thousand others believed there, and he was the first king, of the Romans who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. This, then, is the preaching which Elijah is wont to make to the souls of the righteous under the Tree of Life in Paradise. Now, when Elijah opens the book for the preaching, then come the souls of the righteous in shapes of bright white birds to him from every point. Then he first declares to them the rewards of the righteous, the happiness and delights of the kingdom of heaven, and at that time they are exceedingly rejoiced. Then he declares to them the pains and punishments of hell and the banes of Doomsday. Manifest exceedingly is a countenance of sorrow upon themselves then, to wit, on Elijah and on Enoch: wherefore those are called the Two Sorrows of Heaven’s Kingdom. Then Elijah shuts his preaching-book. The birds then make an exceeding great wailing, and beat their wings against their bodies till streams of blood come out of them for dread of the pains of hell and of Doomsday.

3899. Now since it is the souls of the saints, whose lot it is to inhabit for ever the kingdom of heaven, that make that lamentation, it were meet for the men of the world, though they should shed tears of blood expecting Doomsday, in quo die mala erunt. Now there will be many evils and tribulations on that day, that is, on the Day of judgement, in quo die Judex justus sua suis reddet: impiis pænas, præmia justis. Then will the Lord pay to every human being in the world his own wage. Punishment He hath for the sinful, reward for the righteous. Then the sinful will be cast into the depth of the eternal pain. and the lock of God’s word will shut them up under hatred of tile Judge of Doom. Then the saints and the righteous the folk of charity and of be carried to the right hand of God the Father, to inhabit the kingdom of heaven for ever. Then they will abide in that great glory. in the unity of the Godhead and the Manhood of the Son of God: in the unity that is nobler than any unity, the unity of the holy, noble, almighty Trinity, Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost.

3912. I beseech the high, almighty God, through saint Brenainn’s intercession, may we all deserve that unity, may we reach it, may we dwell therein for ever and ever!

Betha Brénnain (Life of Brenainn)
Source: Book of Lismore
Translator: Whitley Stokes
Date of Translation: 1890


Monday, February 21, 2005

Homewarding Ride (Sat. Feb. 19, 2005)

Looking out over the cove I felt a strong
sense of the interchangeability
of land and sea in this marginal world
of the shore and of the links between
the life of the two. There was an
awareness of the past and of the
continuity of time, obliterating much
that had gone before.

-- Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea

This shore we share was once
a birth, then a baptism,
and later still a naked kiss:
Now it’s just a paper strand
where I walk, pen in hand,
down a mile or so of
remembered bliss, arousing
on dry acres the salt
semblance of a blue fold
and crash and hiss.
Here I remit every ache
and sorrow on the inside
that remains, a love of
wetter regions of the
heart where here, even
at this our, that greater
salt sustains. Yesterday
my mother’s poodle
died, clutched away
by a massive heart attack
on the examining table.
My mother in her grief
said she was joined at
the heart with the frail
so docile doggie who
loved to be held in
her lap. Sometimes
my mother would set
Ginger in the front basket
of her bicycle and ride
the neighborhood, an old
woman with her matron
charge triumphant in
the basket, ears flapping
in the breeze like kites.
How awful now the empty
spaces in my mother’s house --
holy too, as heart-spaces
grow cathedral in the
tidal smashings of love,
waxing for scant moments
and then draining forever
out; and then the magic
of how that absence tides
into a fullness of
the inward shore, the
grieving sands poured
slowly full with laughing
children and romping dogs
and beloveds smiling
deep and sure. That’s
the strand I walk and
weave each day, declaring
brimming hearts from
paper boats loosed
on waters deep inside.
With God and kisses
on blue rockings my
homeward songs thus ride.

Salt Abbey (Sunday, Feb, 20)

(In the “many fishes” episode of The Voyage
of St. Brendan),
gale force winds blow the
ship off course and .. the sea is whipped up
into towering waves. When the sea had died
down the sea-faring monks see so many fish
in the sea that it frightens them. ... Brendan
says, “This is the Liver Sea. I have read many
wonderful things about it. .. Brendan asks
himself how it is possible that the sea should
feed all these animals and concludes that
God is so great that he can provide for all
these creatures every day. He has parchment
brought to him to record all he sees and
gives orders to heave to; the ship is not to
move until he has finished.

-- Clara Strijbosch, The Seafaring Saint

I am of the tribe of ocean-faring monks
who roam blue deserts in search
of You, writing Your blue wonders down.
Such psaltery is of gospel truths but
yet unknown, revealed wave by wave
from isle to isle in an underwater
majescule, anchored in God’s darker
vaults. Some abbey fathers raised Your
walls by digging down through earth
to water; ours found singing halls
the other way around, reaching sacred
ground upon a dolphin’s back and
then plunging down to basalt floors
a thousand chapel leagues or more.
The old ones disturbed there are first
and last in Your husbandry, ogres
and their gigantessas in consort
of stone truths only moons and
stars exult the full language of. That
ore is what we ferry here, copyists
of brine in brutal brogue, each
line crammed with the hieroglyphs and
griffin-curves which cram the bottom
of all seas, down there in the
greater half of my heart where the wild
ones roam, singing, we, too, are
sirings of God. Each voyage here is
a fat volume of water and its wonders,
on shores too far below.
Read on if you dare to lose your
land legs and dry soul. Come to
know what only water angels dare
to sing in that salt scriptorium
between the narwhal’s ribs at
the bottom of what’s below.

Glosses on a Line (Hooked & Sinking)

Glosses on a line from the Life of Columba (Amram Columba) vary as follows:

He protected a hundred churches, a hundred crowds at completeness of offering.

Guardian of waves is he, over seas of a hundred churches; and this is a definite (number put) for an indefinite, i.e. Hi and Derry.

He protected a hundred churches under the fullness of the draught (of the chalice) of offering.

He was a guardian of a hundred churches, a draught upon completion of the offering.

A hundred churches to which the wave goes.

Abbot of a hundred churches to which a billow comes.

A hundred chruches which a wave frequents.

This is the number of churches which he has on the shore of the sea.

A hundred chruches with the fullness of the wave of the mass-chalice in every church.

Abbot of churches which a great wave reaches.

Gloss and Trope (2004)

Abbot of churches which
a great wave reaches ...

-- 11th Century gloss on a
line from the Amram Columba

One root of Oran’s name
is Gaelic auran, or song

That’s the poet, sitting here
at 4:30 am between the 21st
century and the fourth,
settling down into the great
sleepy dark where breezes
fan a chorus of drowned trees.
He how dips his head
in water and returns singing,
his tropes cleansed and
freshened by immaculate
blue. Each dive presents
a daily varied view, some
turn of the topic a few
degrees toward the moon
as it molts across the sky:
and so the crannog is my
aquae aerie, the shape of
accumulate song, the
action itself of riding
the great sea horse of God
inside and under the waves’
sparkling plain which
covers Your mouth.
Today it occurs to me
that the crannog is a
grave-marker for a
martyr sown into the blue,
a soul tree which fruits
all I let go. Recently I
cut the throat of Your well:
Hit the delete key three times
and all that blue bother
was gone, from cyberspace
I mean, that visible (though
seldom visited) face of an
invisible swell and thrall
released back to the dark
waters from where You came.
Nothing of it remains
but the cathedralling
shape of this crannog,
its roots gripped deep in
a silence which once
sang louder than the wildest
booming wave I still ride
on; bell-shape I once rang
like a monk tolling matins
is that door to the lowest
porch below, down
with the denizens of dream
who guard the vaults
of Her preterite gleam.
Song is the Oran
Oran bid me bury here
which walks in dark ways
for three nights here
whose face buoys up
in blue waters found here
like the bog-man buried
throat-slashed smiling here
between moon and mere:
Abbot of the hundred
churches this crannog
supports, apple-isles like
Your fingertips poking
just above a calmed sea.
Angel of the mouth
that just won’t stop
singing, chalice and
baptize me in the next
gloss, the next wave’s
wilder ringing.

Shore Abbot

Winwaloe (b. circa 455) is often presented in art as an abbot, standing on the shore, his staff in one hand and a bell in the other. The fish raise their heads above the surface of the sea, as if they obey the summons of the bell.

-- Clara Strijbosch, The Seafaring Saint,

The Pope of Playalinda Beach (2003)

The Pope of Playalinda
Beach stands at the
surf’s edge swaddled
in white and gold
brocade, his long
train dissembling in the
wash. His crozier
posts the sand like a
surf caster turned the
other way, bejeweled
with summer oceans
and the eyes of
rapturous women,
hooking us all.
And those eyes --
so serenely they
scan our naked
shepherding us
to the insides
of this crashing
surfside day.
Above his head
the sun is a belfry
of summer fire,
pealing the sanctus
of a shadeless choir.
Who is saved
and who gets damned
by such ordained
and consummate
bliss? The surf thunders
and recedes down
the shore,
no crest not a prayer,
every crash
a blue door,
the long ebb like
plainsong, censers,
egress to the back
-- a cathedral pour
the flesh restores.

Fin Parson

Anthony of Padua, too is said to hav preached to fish, as a way of convincing heretics who have refused to be converted of the strenght of the true faith. Immediately from the depths of the sea a huge number of fishes rose to the surface, their heads turned toward the preacher. The fish slapped their tails, opened their mouths and showed in all manner of ways that they wished to glorify the Lord.

-- Clara Strijbosch, The Seafaring Saint,

Lovers, Drinkers, Singers, Demons

The supernatural suitor seems to correspond to the Indian Gandharva, whose presence ... is considered necessary for conception. At weddings, the Gandharva is a kind of rival who, to the last, disputes the bridegroom’s possession of the bride.

The few references to the Gandharvas (in the plural in the Rig Veda show them to be spirits of the air or of the waters, but other texts associate them with mountains, caves, and forests, with the world of the dead, and with animals. They are half-man and half-bird. Their wives or mistresses, the Apsaras, appear as water-nymphs. The Gandharas have charge of soma, or they steal soma; they are skilled in medicine and they are fond of women. They also appear as singers and musicians who atttend the feasts of the gods, while from the time of the Mababhrata their name also denotes human musicians.

-- Rees and Rees, Celtic Heritage

The Fluid Freedom

Are you jealous of the ocean’s generosity?
Why would you refuse to give this joy to anyone?
Fish don’t hold the sacred liquid in cups!
They swim in the huge fluid freedom.

-- Rumi (transl. Coleman Barks)

Dylan Eil Ton

The moment he is baptised Dylan (twin of Lleu or Lug) makes for the sea and receives the sea’s nature, swimming well as any fish, and because of this he is called Dylan Eil Ton, "Sea Son of Wave." No wave ever broke beneath him.

-- Rees and Rees, Celtic Heritage

The Soul of Two Centuries (2003)

He was the soul of his century.
- Emerson, "Goethe, Or, The Writer"

It is one thing
to write the book
of an age. Another
to tome the
seam of two.
Here is not
solus but
saddlae, born
on one beach,
ebbed from
the next. The
words of hybrid
wings must grip
and howl as
if caught between
tectons, each
sentence a stormy
range two miles
up from the sea.
I am not he,
but yammer on
in the heat of
such artistry,
my spume of
Sputnik's beep
and the World
Trade Center's
ghost legs dancing
on Manhattan's
glitzy ends. The
death of literature
on parent in my ear,
some fuse incarnate
yet inchoate my
other sire, a widow
who clasps a
blue rosary in
a drowned chancelry,
a finger to her
wrinkled lips.
Spawn of Jello
and Mao, this next
day is my green
martyrdom, the
world so casually
aflame in the
ordinaries of dawn.
My waking here
at the pad the
repeated matins
of a liturgy only
spread ages
understand, each
poem a prayer
furrowing the foam
between googol
plex and tetrabyte,
no wiser for
the motions which
the well I found
here satisfies
and oceans. Thigh
to thigh I travel,
the rhapsodic
anchorite of
ripe unravels,
a boor angel
of the gravel
ground from
those two ages
which wrap
around me crying
c'mon baby
give me more
make waves for
Dylan's twice-
born roar on
the next more
savage shore.

Dylan (Monday, Feb. 21, 2005)

My demon twin still rides the wave
unrepentant, torn, and free,
a music-making mouth astride
the white mare of all shores,
singing salt hecatombs
inside the wombs of shells.
Darkling prince with the grey
blue cloak, he contests my day-
bride wooings by riding far below
where only women in their deepest
thrall have dared to go, their
drowning hair curved round the
prow that I, proud man of a
wretched faith, point ever toward
the next isle she once called
me from. In my drinking days
I swore I had a twin named
Steve who was my blackout self,
emerging when I clocked out
to fang the throat of 2 a.m.,
dancing in the bottle clubs
with drownlettes or alone, a
man of plunder and a fool’s
blue greed. When I woke
sometime later that next day
he was gone, leaving behind
cuts and bruises on my arms,
the press of a woman’s ankles
on my back and shoulders,
my hips ground to raw points
of cooling fire. The sea-man
is like my Steve but swims
a deeper malt than booze.
He’s out there just beyond
all shores with his blue guitar,
singing the sweet matins of
desire inside each wave’s
approaching curl. He and I
were born of one womb, and
though for years we’ve wandered
far and farther apart, there
is a land we share, of seas
and shores composed --
a mutual embroilment
of song in water metres,
a soul which shires both
priest and prick, somehow
both reliquary of God’s
star glow and the tinkling
of heavy hairy balls below.
Dylan Eil Ton is my
blue brother in the undertow
while I sit here, the sum
of all the nights I drank
more than three beers,
those three cups which
he spilled gold and frothing
on the bosom of the fraulein
who lives inside my wife.
That darkling pair frolic
and writhe wildly beneath
this pillar of salt which is
my writing chair, pagan
slips descending down
a primordially dark stair
which is infernal measure
to my day-song’s sweet
ascending up into -- oh my!
heaven’s lacy blue underwear

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