Treasure Island

Christopher John Brennan

(1 November 1870 – 5 October 1932 / Sydney / Australia)

Epilogue: 1908


The droning tram swings westward: shrill
the wire sings overhead, and chill
midwinter draughts rattle the glass
that shows the dusking way I pass
to yon four turreted square tower
that still exalts the golden hour
where youth, initiate once, endears
a treasure richer with the years.

Dim-seen, the upper stories fleet
along the twisting shabby street;
beneath, the shop-fronts' cover'd ways
bask in their lampions' orange blaze,
or stare phantasmal, weirdly new,
in the electrics' ghastly blue:
and, up and down, I see them go,
along the windows pleas'd and slow
but hurrying where the darkness falls,
the city's drift of pavement thralls
whom the poor pleasures of the street
lure from their niggard homes, to meet
and mix, unknown, and feel the bright
banality 'twixt them and night:
so, in my youth, I saw them flit
where their delusive dream was lit;
so now I see them, and can read
the urge of their unwitting need
one with my own, however dark,
and questing towards one mother-ark.
But, past the gin-shop's ochrous flare,
sudden, a gap of quiet air
and gather'd dark, where, set a pace
beyond the pavement's coiling race
and mask'd by bulk of sober leaves,
the plain obtruncate chancel heaves,
whose lancet-windows faintly show
suffusion of a ruddy glow,
the lamp of adoration, dim
and rich with unction kept for Him
whom Bethlehem's manger first made warm,
the sweetest god in human form,
love's prisoner in the Eucharist,
man's pleading, patient amorist:
and there the sacring laver stands
where I was brought in pious hands,
a chrisom-child, that I might be
accepted of that company
who, thro' their journeying, behold
beyond the apparent heavens, controu'd
to likeness of a candid rose,
ascending where the gold heart glows,
cirque within cirque, the blessed host,
their kin, their comfort, and their boast.

With them I walk'd in love and awe
till I was ware of that grim maw
and lazar-pit that reek'd beneath:
what outcast howlings these? what teeth
gnashing in vain? and was that bliss
whose counter-hemisphere was this?
and could it be, when times fulfill'd
had made the tally of either guild,
that this mid-world, dredged clean in both,
should no more bar their gruesome troth?
So from beneath that choiring tent
I stepp'd, and tho' my spirit's bent
was dark to me as yet, I sought
a sphere appeas'd and undistraught;
and found viaticum and goal
in that hard atom of the soul,
that final grain of deathless mind,
which Satan's watch-fiends shall not find
nor the seven mills of darkness bruise,
for all permission to abuse;
stubborn, yet, if one seek aright,
translucent all within and bright
with sheen that bath no paradigm,
not where our proud Golcondas brim,
tho' sky and sea and leaf and flower,
in each rare mood of virtual power,
sleep in their gems' excepted day:
and so, nor long, the guarded ray
broke on my eagerness, who brought
the lucid diamond-probe of thought
and, driving it behind, the extreme
blind vehemence of travailing dream
against the inhibitory shell:
and found, no grim eternal cell
and presence of the shrouded Norn,
but Eden, clad in nuptial mom,
young, fair, and radiant with delight
remorse nor sickness shall requite.

Yes, Eden was my own, my bride;
whatever malices denied,
faithful and found again, nor long
absent from aura of wooing song:
but promis'd only, while the sun
must travel yet thro' times undone;
and life must guard the prize of youth,
and thought must steward into truth
the mines of magian ore divined
in rich Cipangos of the mind:
and I, that made my high attempt
no bliss whence any were exempt,
their fellow-pilgrim, I must greet
these listless captives of the street,
these fragments of an orphan'd drift
whose dower was our mother's thrift,
and, tho' they know it not, have care
of what would be their loving prayer
if skill bestow'd might,help them heed
their craving for the simple meed
to be together in the light
when loneliness and dark incite:
long is the way till we are met
where Eden pays her hoarded debt
and we are orb'd in her, and she
hath still'd her hungering to be,
with plentitude beyond impeach,
single, distinct, and whole in each:
and many an evening hour shall bring
the dark crowd's dreary loitering
to me who pass and see the tale
of all my striving, bliss or bale,
dated from either spire that strives
clear of the shoal of shiftless lives,
and promise, in all years' despite,
fidelity to old delight.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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