Julian


(Epic) Elysiad - Book I: Canto I: Eulogy


If I should sing the saga of our time—
war with the Heavens, anarchy, and how,
with LORD and grander narratives sunk down
to darkness, chaos fractures all: our state
and culture, Earth and purpose torn (unless
new gods arise to mend the modern world) —
what muse would hear? what spirits still lift Song,
since holy inspiration is undone
and Glory down? Yet sing I must, and so,
if unaccompanied by gleaming choirs,
invoke myself, my soul, my lyre. Sing then—
sing seven strings, and say: how fell Jehovah?
that over ancient Harmony I’ll lay
green words, and deck what rests with laurel; sow
His earthen shroud with floral lines, then weave
a crown of bay from out this threnody
for deity: I sing the death of God.
I sing the Everlasting overthrown,
his Kingdom toppled to obscurity,
and Empire shorn. Amid the ember-ash
and gray, in cinders of Elysium,
I sing Man’s insurrection—war with God
that wrought apocalypse on Paradise,
and ended Heaven’s reign.

“Requiem Deo”:
I hymn my last for You. Here, at the end
of all the world, in dappled moon the arms
of yews let trespass—here, I’ll end my music,
and stop my strings, and mute forever songs
and odes which once enlivened Heaven. You,
butchered Divinity, Soul’s slaughtered King,
are deaf to song at last. But from the skies
which overcast your Erebus, I’ll stop
and vigil, gaze beyond into your Hell,
and here devote my final symphony
to eulogize your shade.
I was your bard!
Court poet and musician of the LORD.
For me the vaulted crystal of his halls
and astral castle rooms of Zion’s realms
were not vague art—fantastic dreams of cloud
or idle musings on an Afterlife—
but home itself since boyhood. There, in robes
of woolen white, beneath his painted Dome
of Spheres, the Mobile, and Empyrean,
I’d pluck my golden cithara and sing,
or ply my harp of darkened algumwood
until the furrowed brow of Majesty
unfolded at my notes. So passed the years
when I, in Mansions, silkened the bright air
with tender music, bathing in my song
the Monarch’s fluted marble like a smoke—
his rhapsodist in dens’ resplendence: court
on court brimful with corridors; white rooms
of long, thick azure cloth draping the sills
and porcelain, or wide doors where (passing in
and out) went winged celestial attendants
in service to Jehovah. There, in all
the ornaments of ancient power, pomp,
and splendor of Elysium, I played
the faithful poet, singing for my God.

And then: the War—when all the Earth, enraged,
and hurtling towards a new millennium,
stirred up its discontent at Higher Things
and, giant-like, ascended to the Heavens.
So all old heights of human value—art
and sculpture, steep cathedrals, kings and courtiers:
ex-summits of the ages—sunk and, rubble,
furnished The People mountains, peak on peak,
to vault them Skyward. Up the armies lunged,
banded in anger: spurred by common cause
to Visigoth a feeble Empire down,
sack old Elysium, and the weak god
who clutched a splintering diadem. So Man,
propelled by Time, and Pain, and Reason, rose,
loosed revolution on the Overworld
and plunged it darkly, slaying Seraphim
and Hosts of Angels as he overran
Authorities and thrust the El Shaddai
from His complacent perch, once-powerful.
Yet I, after the standards changed, remained,
and linger still. Just shy a century
past God’s dethronement, I’ve kept on, alone,
and now in fullest moonlight keep the dawn
that marks his end: sad anniversary
of Heaven’s siege, observed this late July,
two-thousand ten—non annus Domini.
Repulsed by what his killers wrought, I’ve come
a mourner to his graveside, and—with hymns
and eulogy—intend a wake to watch
and praise the body of Divinity.
And yet, unlike a mortal viewing, his
I see not prostrate in a coffin’s hand,
but as a shade, who walks the misty haunts
of Hades: Spirit damned to Underworld.

Deep in the eerie sadness of a wood—
beneath a grey cape’s worn and outspread sky
(whose button stars fray purple threads of cloud) :
where drizzling willow-sprays, as in a mist,
bleed leaves into a thick collage of ash
and evergreen, and choke the dimming gloam—
sits grey-haired Yahweh, all alone. And there,
atop a rutted seat of boulder stone,
he broods. Hunched over, crumpling fallen back
to cup his hirsute cheek in giant hand,
and casting vacant eyes upon the film
of sand and anthills crystaled to his feet,
the LORD sinks in a sigh whose heaving eases—
expelling with a wind a world of loss.
To sight him from afar in such vague light
one might mistake his darkling silhouette
for some cast king or stone philosopher:
a folded sculpture, pondering the night
that, marble-hard, will think till Time’s slow drip
should finally crumble it at eon’s end.
So sits the God, in haunting likeness of
a weeping wizard, magic all forgot.
The regal purple of his fluid robe
makes mockery of Monarchy-annulled:
his mantle but a relic of his rent,
dismantled rule. Gray rivulets of locks
in spiraled double-helixes descend
from his white temples, just as long ago
spiced incense, ash and smoke of slaughtered ewes
rippled from off the ox-horned altar-top
on high Jerusalem’s acropolis—
the latter Heavenward, the present down.
And in the posture of a King of Earth—
whose head, drink-heavy with the mysteries
of Justice, would on palm rest meditating
before the edict, Bliss or Fire, was given—
so, holding for an Ark of Cherubim
this boulder as a throne to wonder on,
Jehovah ponders, quietly, his Fall.

But then, as one who’s startled from a sleep,
the sunk Divinity lifts up his eyes—
harsh stars ignited to a seething fire—
and hurls them wildly through this den of fog
to scan the twilight, all-enveloping.
But faded green of dusk-lit forest’s all
that greets his irises. Its bristly yews
and myrtles sprinkle their anointing thorns
in streams, while hemlock needles halo him
who elsewise lacks a crown. So all the trees—
impressionistic in their blur of oaks
and birches, honey locusts—rustle whispers,
and in the gentle zephyrs lose their words.
Though, these are mostly slow and gradual.
Despite the murmur of the tickled leaves,
the atmosphere breathes quiet, deep and calm,
and where the dead leaves fall, there they remain—
just as the sad God’s likewise-fallen Host
are all across these glens and meadows strewn
like foliage of autumn’s holocaust—
Angelic wings withered to brittle petals.
(Throughout the rolling dunes of this new Realm,
they hug the earth like suppliants and writhe
in deepest lamentation for their kind:
a species so deciduously prone.)

But…in the clearing, just beyond the wood,
his ocean’s slow perusal yields a pearl:
there something white and lambent lies exposed,
reflecting all the light allowed to fall
from a veiled sun forever cloaked by moon
in dim eclipse. (For here that roaming Star,
unfree to sail the sky, holds captive-bound
at noon’s meridian—arrested up
as once it hovered over Ayalon
when He still ruled the elements and orbs—
except its face, forever blotted out,
sheds only shadows of its shrouded light,
and like the citizens it burnishes
is but a censored thing, and inked from seeing:
the eye of day, closed by the moon, to night.)
Beneath this endless twilight of eclipse,
those objects—distant, indiscernible—
kindle a curiosity in him,
whose addled and confounded faculties
have, trance-like, kept distracted gaze on thoughts,
and loitered long in still despondency.
And so, yielding to wonder and the draw
of their investigation (which at least
could serve as tangent to his miseries) ,
the squinting Deity slides off his rock
and ambles over brush toward the brake.

But once full-bathed beneath the milky gloom,
and free from dewy lairs of leaves and ferns,
he understands —and recognition slits
his bandaged heart anew, as though his Fall
were fresh, and he were double-robbed of reign.

For scattered there upon that field, as far
as blue-light from the moon-sun can reveal,
the ruins of his Heaven sprawl for miles,
flecking receding hills with marble scrap
like moonlit midnight deserts, pearled with skulls,
where famished beasts left ivory tusk and horn.
Caught by the sight, as by an arctic blast,
Jehovah winces at the sudden pang
from seeing his lost Empire there—so down,
and cruelly rearranged.
He inhales deep.
Then, like a shamed commander after rout
revisiting the field, whose downcast gaze
surveys the skeletons of sons he’d ordered,
the once-high King of these fragmented blocks
meanders through the rubble of his reign
in hopeless resignation. This is it:
the place from which his Kingdom shall not move
after it too fell blazing from the sky:
the puddled grandeur of his City’s storm,
now pooled in ruin, resting… “Quando cœli
movendi sunt—” Oh God, what dirge can do?
What simile of as and so could sing
Heaven-in-pieces through the tongues of men?
The million Muses I would need lie there:
beneath those tombstones of Transcendence’ wreckage,
and I, thus orphaned of their high direction,
fall in Your Fall, and fail its endlessness.

For as if all great epochs in their prime
and cultures flourishing their richest blooms
had played the dolls of some brat goddess’ rage,
who—in her cheap, galactic tantrums—dashed
Earth’s capitals to floor, littered down domes,
strew Renaissances over continents,
and, careless, made the planets but her playthings,
so spreads Glory: a temper-punished game;
Majesty’s mess; wreck of sublimest toys.
A million acres reel beneath his stone:
as many cradling it as once it swayed
when monarchs, popes, and prelates scuffed their knees
like satraps to Almighty in their zones—
a realm of vastness neither Greece on Greece
nor Rome on remnant Rome could hope for. Now,
the heavy pillars which had borne the weight
of Yahweh’s ceilings, Atlas-like, are spread
in pieces on this valley. In-between
goes God, who at a pace less than a stroll
now walks these broken passageways and malls—
perhaps the way that Caesar might, could he
somehow peruse the Forum as it lies
on modern Hills: an excavation site,
and paltry outline of what glory was.

Who knew the LORD was mortal? that the Skies
could fall? —before our revolution (mad
till then) revealed all notions and beliefs
for what they were, and struck the fatal blow
into the reeling Absolutes of men?
For His Elysium (though propped where things
of favor are preserved) proved not sure spring
of Truth, abiding and objective Nous
unmovable, but sat ephemeral:
mere prince or passing regent of the Air.
Heaven cut free could yield its lines and strings
to deeper moorings, since its base was this:
Two Cities stand: two Worlds of Man’s ideas,
to which all values, thoughts, beliefs and cares
are either saved, or damned: their fate decreed
not by such qualities as “good” and “bad, ”
but power—power in the quantity
of minds they rule: their popularity
with Man. So, down in darkness, gloomed by lost
and long-forgotten shades, an Underworld
of Dead Ideas grows misty with the kings
of countries shorn of names, and quiet gods
for whom no convert sings, nor organ plays.
This Lethe holds the bones of things-that-were
(sad victims of quick Time, and Memory,
which none withstood) , as underneath the Earth
her pendant empire’s denizens roam bleak
isles of the damned, and idols disremembered.
From Lethe and her nether-realms of care
no glory’s safe, no sometime-reverence sure,
but every one in danger of her draw
as the gilt-lettered shrine will fade to Time’s
damnatio memoriae. So rest
the one-time icons of the ages. Yet,
far, far above this sepulcher of Dreams
and over Earth, a hovering prominence
to crown the globe, Alethia extends:
as obvious as Hell obscure; as high
as Lethe’s low. Such is the pedestal
which props our gods: the aerial dais of Cares
and capital of Human Thought, which once
played buttress to the Heavenly stars, and clouds—
before the storm that rained their insides out.
It’s there I sit—though Paradise be down—
and watch Jehovah sift through it in woe
and anguish: unsaved Heaven cast to Hell
to fleck the meadows of the great Abyss.

In ambling through this labyrinth of debris,
his hand occasionally lighting soft
on glassy tops of polished opulence,
the wistful and defeated LORD now stops
and views a stone. Its size—so huge to cat
a Sphinx, or dwarf Colossi on the shores
of Rhodes—now serves but to augment the mock
that greatness plays on ruined things (as boasts,
chiseled on plinths and pedestals for kings
the desert’s conquered, juxtapose the brag
with dirt, and show all hollow) . So this slab,
once brick in buttress of the Firmament,
or sculpted corridor to awesome halls,
is now the prop of earth—and tends to nowhere.
Yet still its friezes vaunt, as paneled scenes
adorn its vast façade and texture in
a Sacred History. Embossed in stone,
its central theme conjures archaic lore:
primordial battle, epic warfare, blood
that clouded wine-blue ocean-depths when God
first proved he had a mighty arm and slew
Behemoth in the reeds. These Yahweh scans—
eyes welling ichoral tears, forbidden falling—
as down the tumbled promenade he walks
and views the pictographs.

Their opening glyph
shows Chaos and abysmal Deep in rage:
oceans of darkness, and the untamed Sea
whose watery explosions, spewing mist,
swell rugged, marble mountaintops of waves,
and vex the waste. Surge upon surge, and foam
stirred angry by the tidal shelling, heave
dark liquid bells upon the billowy surf,
whose pluming flood—infused with sulfur—gas
and hiss where fizzling bubbles burst to steam.
All this lies circled by a marshy swamp,
putrid and wet, where the brown fog breathes up
from off the pregnant squalor, smoldering.
But then, out from that reedy margin mire
explodes a beast—massive, and bucking wild
in the thick bulrush lair of weeds and stalks
and mush: dark brute upon the second frieze
that, ox-like, lows, and sniffs hot wind at Heaven.
Its steely-plated head sprouts sunken fangs,
moist with red breath, and stinking in the maw—
which drips a venomous, insatiate hate,
and claws the void. Black smoke-rings, coiled in steam,
geyser from out its nostrils, as the tendon threads,
drawn taut beneath the pachydermy hide,
pull tight the scales upon the mastodon
Behemoth. Heaving snout and horn like fists
toward the drooping skies, the ogre shrieks
and, braying, snorts harsh, fiery snarls in high relief,
defying Heaven. So it writhes, and stomps
the peaty sog beneath the hoof, plays bold,
and triumphs uncontested over towns
its plundering tusks reduced to rubble: smug
as though it would ascend the Clouds, and sit
atop the stars.
But there, in Heaven’s Court,
lours furious, dark Yahweh in synod’s ring—
ferocious orchestra of lesser gods
surrounding—carved in marble true as flesh
upon the daedal glyph. Earth’s pleadings heard,
dread Seraphim of the Assembly bow
to judgment’s utterance, and the LORD’s doom:
Behemoth must not live. So, decked in splendor
and mail of wind, God storms to battle: armed
with lightning bolts and deadly fulgers flung
across his back. And hitching seven gales
whose currents sweep his chariot to war,
the Rider of the Clouds dispatches forth
in hurricane and deafening battle cry
that shakes the cedar trees of Lebanon.
His thunder rolls; smoke hems him round; his beard
is soggy with the rain, and water streams
from his white head as, hurtling on, he aims
for where the Demon Ox blasphemes his crown
from marble fen and glade.
There epic war
is waged, and in confusing tanglements
of flares and flashes, waters tossed and waves’
chaotic crashing, smoke and fog and light
commingle in the violet clouds that burst
in thick eruptions on the battlefield
of deep Abyss—till, finally, storms are stilled,
and on the sixth relief, relief is sculpted.
For when the mist their clamor flurried up
falls gently back to blend with tranquil sea,
there bold Jehovah stands victorious
above the beast, and in his mighty hand
holds dangling lines that, at their bottom, hook
Behemoth by a septum ring: its proud
rebellion and chaotic mutiny
subdued, and bound by Kingship.
Glorying
in triumph, Yahweh comes to Zion changed:
the person of the Deity transformed
amidst the mortals, too ineffable,
to the Intangible enthroned on Ark
and footstool Cherubim, invisible:
its hollow space insinuating all
for Presence of the awful El Shaddai.
With gold-encrusted poles slid through its rings,
and winged Cherubs’ bird arms’ frozen flight
reflecting setting Levantine sunbeams,
the Sacred Chest of shittimwood, deep-swathed
in gilded overlay, is raised and led
in glad procession toward the Holy Place.
Jerusalem exults in festal joy
as Judah drinks salvation greedily!
With fronds of palm and boughs of leafy trees
plucked from the willowed brook, men hymn old psalms
in ritual parade, as minstrels thrill
in singing lays, and leaping; jubilee
and laughing lightness streaming, women lead
the reverend caravan, as others dance
as David danced: wild in the desert sands.
So marching in procession (frenzied king
in front—who in his linen ephod fires
a hecatomb for every sixth step marked) ,
they make ascent toward the Temple gates,
where even now, at fore, the antiphon
begun by Sacred Messengers is sung
to Temple doors: “Lift up! Lift up your heads,
O sacred, shining Gates! For Yahweh comes
To be enthroned for ordering the world:
The LORD Who sits in Council far above,
And rules the Earth with His far-thundering Voice;
Who hurls down sheets of forked-tongued light to scream
Across the sky in wretched bursts, and sends
Autumnal torrents, thick as sea, upon
The parched and hungry desert, weltering!
Lift up your heads, and take the Strong God in—
To rule, to judge, to wield His cosmic bolts:
And, thus, to stand for all that Power is! ”
So does the seventh frieze encapsulate
With able art Faith’s high festivities.

But here the crippled Yahweh ends his gaze
on this unfolding chronicle. With head
bent low, and trembling arm propped up against
the hieroglyphs, his eyes refuse to trace
one measure more, and fall—like him—to where
dark ground is shaded by his darker shadow.
He leans into his misery; the cold
memorial supports his weight, and stands
a sturdy foil to such a flickering frame.
His other hand he uses as a veil
to shroud his sorrow, inconsolable—
yet fails as much in Fall to cover shame
as Adam in his wicker clothes. Indeed,
full-sapped, and naked of his ancient strength,
so fundamental proves this blow that now,
at last—after a final, torturous bid
to bear these deep calamities with grace
and quiet anguish (dignity as fits
gods in their suffering: a stoic Star
or Lamb to slaughter) —finally all breaks,
and raising up his head defiantly
the LORD with furious glare confronts the Wind
to shout his indignation to the sky—

except a murmur interrupts, and stirs
the settled calm, ascending gradually
in volume like the morning’s robins, larks,
and thrushes in the chorus of the dawn…

This bloomed legato, sunrise-like, warms God
in wonder—blind, though, to its source or author:
some liquid hymning hummed in honeyed notes
by unseen, sweet celestial voices…
—There!
Beyond the wood he recently had quit!
He wades again back through the forest pines
to stalk this psalm, tempting its Siren’s air,
and comes at last upon the music’s fount
with panting hope discovery rescinds:

Within a rolling meadow, just beyond
another brake of ilexes and oaks,
a tattered band of Angels combs the field
for harps and halos lost amid the Fall;
and as they stoop and search for trinkets lost—
like children raking through the rubble-mound
that was a home (before the cyclone struck) ,
to find their treasured toy, their threadbare doll:
(so they can hug a friend amidst the loss) —
they sing “in paradisum deducant”
and walk the grass. Jehovah stands and stares
beneath the arbor arches’ forest edge
as symphonies of wandering seraphs lull
the somber hills with requiem.

But this…
this proves too much… To hear beseeching prayers
of liturgies, and masses now defunct—
hymns sung for those who’d scoff at Tartarus
and wake to Dawn’s pure light—Jerusalems
of sun-pierced Paradise enveloping
the Homeward traveler as she comes to Bliss,
and breaks the mortal limits marking Earth
from Afterlife. And this while He—the one
who’d grant a million times each Paradise,
grant Paradise seventy-seven times
those Paradises if he could —is dead!
Is dead himself! Is dead as dust is dead,
and gnashes teeth from Tartarus in death
without a peace in his eternal rest!

And so, receding back into the wood
that opened like a curtain on the scene,
Jehovah, undetected, slips away,
to find—somewhere—a hidden grove, a cave:
abysmal darkness dark enough to weep
the tears of God, when gods no longer live…

Oh sad, sepulchral Ghost: rest…rest, in peace…

Out of the depths I draw these images:
obscure and murky through such distance, dark
and deep, which weathers all the Underworld
like faded notes on vellum sheets: scarce seen,
yet clear enough for plucking from the page
to strum an elegy for Yahweh.
Oh
how fickle Man is! Think! Recall the God!
For we did love Him once—not without cause
(though crucial were the faults which caused His end
and proved his cross) . Still, such a King as this,
who penned our Narrative for centuries,
surely deserves some narrative or hymn
to mark his passing: mark, if but an hour,
his unmarked grave with some oration. Then,
though he should sleep forever, we’ll have spread
some flowers of regard upon his clay—
respects and honor not alone to Him,
but all Religion. This, be our libation:
To pantheons, divinities, and gods
who gave us Meaning!

I helped slay him too…
Should we repent? For what dark incubus
has stolen in since pretty Dreams departed
molests the modern sleep, and leaves our minds
ravished with nightmare. Visions of an hour
propelled by madness and the ceaseless gnaw
of steel machinery beset—so much,
in fact, that this existence, like the sty
of concrete troughs for techno-pigs it is,
frightens me back from my first loath betrayal,
and proves me wanton prodigal to sides
with my allegiance. Still, the Father’s arms
in which I might now burry sorries (warm
and wet with homecome tears) themselves are cold,
themselves are buried by a death my arms
helped instrument. And so, unless some great
and brazen storm of swirling Deities
should rise, remount Alethia in war
and seize their thrones back, chaos keeps its rule—
and ugliness and anarchy remain
this century’s champions. To them I must,
since brooding on the graves of gods is vain
and I am done with singing. But…once more,
before conceding isolation here—
self-exile and a chosen loneliness
away from the psychotic Vulcan blaze
of Man’s Metropolis—once more I’ll sing,
and play the solemn dirge Your wake is wanting.

Come, listen then, and hear the history
I hymn. It is no common requiem,
but vast, and huge: of given purpose, truth,
direction, certitude; of human measure
and a world eyed and eared; of limits, bonds,
and manacles, which kept some order in:
all dashed and downed, and rudely murdered. For
so much was God—and so much we have killed.
But let all rest. With them I bury Song,
whose final utterance shall melody
the death of God, and Mankind’s decadence.

Submitted: Friday, November 22, 2013
Edited: Friday, November 22, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

This is the first Canto of my epic poem, Elysiad.

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