Toll Softly For Christiane Sheer Rosepetaled Song - Poem by mary douglas
to Christ, the Lord.
in memory of Christiane Coste, my friend (d. february 27,1978) to be sung from tower to tower...
oh how could we mourn you then, Christiane,
being blinded by the same sun.
somewhere there must be old carols sung. chanson-
for the princess never returning home.
and in the distance you can see
the Griefs all silver and gold
raised like pennants floating:
unmoored, the ships of goodness, truth
and beauty gliding on gilt waters to retrieve
your faith displaced as mine was
because true mandarins wished it so
in their purple gloating.
let there be worldwide lamentation.
or none at all when silent tears
blur your water-coloured imprint
bourne away on the glittering waters
since you, to a fair country returned
to the One beyond all deception;
the One who held in store for you
the fairy tale gown of simple pearl.
the unalloyed crown.
somewhere old carols must be rung
for the triumph over the world,
over all charlatans forever-
clear focus: crystal star.
rolling from tower to tower in this,
our brief exile.
oh lily snatched back with the laughing eyes,
devoutness unsurpassed. my wildflower heart
was once subdued now
tolling, tolling for the carol hid from your heart
only for a span-
the rose petaled scattering
of your hands
mary angela douglas 22 may 2014; rev.24 may 2014 rev.26 may 2014
Note on the Poem: use of the word 'mandarin' is not used for any ethnic sense, nor is it meant as a slur, but more in the meaning of bureaucrats, court hangers-on in a kind of anamolie, fairy tale sense, as in Hans Christian Anderson's 'The Emperor's Nightingale', or 'The Emperor's New Clothes' the fawning of those who praise the wrong music instinctively or agree to see what isn't there for the sake of getting along. The circumstances of her death were surrounded by exactly this atmosphere.
It is also used to express a certain broken hearted disenchantment in a delicate way to echo the beautiful soul of the person departed (especially in contrast to her brutal murder which I have not even acknowledged in the poem for good reason as it is not paramount-when compared with the indestructibility of her soul) -
and in token of her youth. She was barely into her late twenties at the time of her death.
The rose petaled scattering of her hands refers simultaneously to her death as well as to the rose miracles of the French saint, St. Therese of Lisieux as Christiane was from France, though she died in New York City.
The entire poem musically I longed to set as a kind of antique French song from the Middle Ages, one of those mysterious songs that mirror so much beyond the power of common speech to convey.
This rose petal hands image is also to represent the fact that her body was found in a huge flower box, a detail that was left out of some newspaper accounts and which I have now 'corrected'.
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