John Freeman

(1880-1929 / England)

Judgment Day - Poem by John Freeman

When through our bodies our two spirits burn
Escaping, and no more our true eyes turn
Outwards, and no more hands to fond hands yearn;

Then over those poor grassy heaps we'll meet
One morning, tasting still the morning's sweet,
Sensible still of light, dark, rain, cold, heat;

And see 'neath the green dust that dust of gray
Which was our useless bodies laid away,
Mocked still with menace of a Judgment Day.

We then that waiting dust at last will call,
Each to the other's,--'Rise up at last, O small
Ashes that first-love held loveliest of all!

''Tis Judgment Day, arise!' And they will arise,
The dust will lift, and spine, ribs, neck, head, knees
At the sound remember their old unities,

And stand there, yours with mine, as once they stood
Beloved, obeyed, despised, with that swift blood,
Those looks and trembling lips, heart's pause and thud.

* * * * *

'And was it these that love-galled thought pursued
And with his immortality indued,
Nor was by their mortality quite subdued?

'This was the bony hand that held my hand,
The shoulders whereon all my world might stand:
They fell, but in their fall was I unmanned?

'This was the breast my eyes delighted in,
The ribs were faint as now under the skin:
They mouldered, but not my love mouldered within.

'Away, away! This was not truly thee--
A mortal bravery, Time's delinquency,
A dream that held me from thee, thee from me.

'It was not in these bodies that we drew
Near, nearer: never, never by these we knew
Transfusion past all sense of 'I' and 'You.'

'It was youth's blindness held the body so dear:
Slowly, slowly, year after bewildered year,
The dark thinned and the eyes of love grew clear,

'And thought following thought, enlinking each,
Ran where the delighting body could not reach,
And had speech when there was no voice for speech;

'So that we scarce grieved when those bodies died,
And our eyes more than our true spirits cried;
But as when trees fall, the free wind that sighed

'Awhile in their fond branches ceases not,
But sings a moment over the cumbered spot,
Then flies away:--our unentangled thought,

'Our vivid spirits of love, unbroken moved
And lifted no more sense-confined, and roved
And knew till then we had not utterly loved ...

'Leave now this dust!'

And then the dust will sink,
The upheaved mound to its old shape will shrink,
And we shall turn again from Time's dusk brink.

* * * * *

Will it be thus? It will be thus. Even now,
Though body to body submissively still bow,
'Tis not on body's blood that our loves grow.

Though I am old and you are old, though nerves
Slacken, and beauty slowly lose its curves,
And greedy Time the bone and sinew starves,

Like some lean Captain gloating over a town
That has not fallen, but will fall, every stone
O'erthrust and every bravery overthrown;

Who entering the defeated walls at last
Finds emptiness, and hears an escaping blast,
Triumphant from the shining east hills cast,

And knows defeat in victory.... O that rare
Music is ours, is ours--prelusive air
Caught from the Judgment music high and severe.

Will it indeed be thus? Yes, thus! The body burns,
Not with desire, and into pale smoke turns,
And there is only flame towards flame that yearns.

While that ill lecherous Time among the stones
Sits musing and rocking his old brittle bones,
Irked by long shadows, mocked by those bright far tones.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 24, 2010



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