MOSES, JOSHUA, THE THREE ANGELS OF THE UNIVERSE
Evening: a slope of Pisgah
Moses –Our span of life is lessening with the years,
Our little sun rolls swiftlier to its end
Among the eternal stars. It is a feather
Blown from a careless lip into the dark,
A fallen feather, the lily of a day,
Brimming with blood and tears instead of dew,
And dying with its sleep. Having known life,
Having known day, I pass into the night;
Having long spoken with God, I hold my peace;
Having long held the sword, I lay it down,
And the new watch believes me. Is all well ?
Joshua –O father of my soul, I cannot tell.
The burden of the Lord is heavy on me,
And I am broken beneath it.
Moses – Since I knew,
All my desires and cares have gone from me.
Rather I think on old forgotten things–
A song within the temple-court, to her,
Isis, the Lady of Love. How white she sat
Above the crowded gate ! I was a boy:
I ran and laid a lotus on her knees,
Dreaming she smiled in answer. Ah, those dreams
Far on the shining level of the sands,–
Thebes and old Tanis builded of a cloud !
The reeds beside the river, those sweet trees
Full of warm buds that ripen and unclose
At eve; the barges passing on the Nile
Like golden water-fowl with ivory wings;
The gardens and the great pomegranate flowers,
And she, my gentle mother in Mizraim,
Calling me, 'Mesu, Mesu.'
Joshua – I cannot think.
My sorrow stays me and my grief prevents.
Yet there are heathen foes and wars to come.
I take thy sword. I cannot take thy soul,
Master of Law, unshaken friend of God,
But I can fight for Israel.
Moses – Fight, and stand
Firmly for God. Jehovah is salvation.
And now, beloved son in all but blood,
Go, get you down again.
Joshua – A little longer,
Leave me a little longer with you, lord !
Moses –No longer, for the gates of life are lonely.
Out of the dark man cometh to his life,
Into the dark he goeth.
Down, look down,
Down to the clustered tents, each with its lives
Of foolish children, vexed with many fears,
Agonies, hopes, beliefs inherited,
Dark hates, fond dreams, divine humilities.
Shall they go leaderless from stream to stream,
Following the far-flung visions of despair,
These that have been my sheep ?
Joshua – I cannot, father..
I am a man of war and not of wisdom.
They will not know my voice nor follow me.
Moses –Man, is it thy faint voice shall be uplifted,
To soothe the fearful and uphold the strong.
To lead the unshaken tribes to victory
Against the men of Amalek and Ai,
Lords of the plain and coast ? Is it thy strength ?
Nay, but Jehovah's in thee. As the cloud
Filling the empty valley of the hills,
As the white flood along the water courses
That once were barren, so His strength will pass
Into the pits and runnels of thy soul.
Fight, for the Lord is with thee. Stand thou firm.
Joshua –Lo, I would rather stay and die with thee
Than pass with shining banners and with song
Of silver shawms and trumpets, in thy place
Over the river Jordan.
Moses – Nay, I pass
Over a deeper river, with no songs,
No mighty trumpetings, no pride of banners.
Toil have I borne but triumph is not mine.
Once, once mine eyes shall see the Promised Land,
Her forts and towers, cities and pleasant fields,
Her palms and cedars, vines and olive trees,
And then be darkened. Here's my heritage,
Here by these mighty chasms, these Godward peaks,
My last resort, my lone abiding place.
See, the night comes. How is it with thee, son?
Joshua –A cloud has drawn between us and the plain,
A darkness moves between us and the sky,
Full of vague voices, mighty whisperings,
Wings, and the sound of them.
O, never man
Has breathed such chilling air as this which blows
Out of the dark. O, never man has heard
Such sounds as these which beat upon my soul,
Known, yet unknown; familiar, yet most dread !
Lord, must I go ?
Moses – This is the wind of death,
And this the cold that lies without the world,
And these the sounds that thrill the untrodden void
Beyond the lonelier stars. Go down, go down
To darknened Israel mourning in his tents.
I can no longer see thee. Stand thou firm.
(Joshua goes; the cloud surrounds Moses.)
O ye celestial presences, great shapes
With terrible fair faces, towering wings,–
Wings with the wine-deep glow of amethyst,
Sheath over sheath like folded waterbuds
Lit with an inward flame; wings pale as foam,
Faint plumes showered with silver; wings serene
Uplifted in a radiant arc of dawn,–
Unchain the prisoned pinions of this soul,
Say to the blind bird, Fly. Bid life recede,
A bubble before the advancing wave of death.
From my youth upward I have spoken of death,
Nor knew the word so sweet. There's music in it,
Music to break the heart. O, heavenly guards,
Looking so long in your immortal eyes
I am grown old. Death calls me as a sleep,
A rest desired, a rich forgetfulness,
After too much of life.
Angel of Darkness – Life is no more.
A little flame soon swallowed in the night,
A harp that hath no voice, a bow unstrung.
Pride of the grass and power of the reed,
Life is as swift in breaking. Peace be on thee;
Mine are the wings of peace. Men call me death,
But so God hath not named me.
Angel of Light – Life is past,
Thy ground is taken, thy tent is pitched forever.
Drink of these wells and be forsworn of sorrow,
Forsaken of weeping. Men have called me death,
Yet am I less and greater.
Angel of Dreams – Peace be on thee.
Peace and good rest. Mine are the wings of silence
Folded in silver sleep before my face;
This in my hand is golden fruit of Eden,
Whose scent is sleep; its flame-white flower grew
Along the glades where Adam walked with God.
Death have men called me, yet I am not death
Take thy last look on life.
Moses – O, Land of Promise.
From the great plains of Moab to the sea,–
Thy blossoming orchards, streams, and palaces
Like golden beads threaded on silver strings,
Thy towering walls and pinnacles of pride,–
A fruitful field it is, ripe for the harvest,
The harvest of the sword.
I shall not reap it,
The winepress of His wrath I shall not tread.
Plighted am I to silence; I go down,
Dead, to the dead, and am no more remembered
Upon the lips of men.
Those sceptred kings,
The solemn dead of old Mizraim, who sit
Forever in the sun beside their tombs,
With blank eyes smiling on eternity,
Crowned with the reed and lotus, do they live
More than their grass and lilies? Those I knew,
Princes and scribes, lords of the desert, priests
Learned above the wit of common minds,
Captains and merchants, rulers over gold,
Feathers and spices, emeralds, ivories,
Brought to the feet of Pharaoh: what of them ?
What of the King, Lord of the North and South,
Son of the Sun, like to the Sun forever?
A sun? A darkened light, a star o'erwhelmed,
When his fierce horsemen sank beneath that surge
Whose crest was blood and terror,–when there died
On one hushed night, all the firstborn of Egypt.
O night divine, I set thine excellence
Above the twice-crowned noon. Here is no star,
No slenderest crescent poised above the world,
No lingering love of day. But the soft dark
Folds inward as a flower, enfolding me,
My length of little days, wisdom and grief,
Light as a drop of rain.
Angel of Dreams – Tender is night,
But tenderer far the limits of this death,
This dream-encompassed city. Here no sound
Shall wake thee, from thy sleep no storm disturb,
Though here all storms are born. Tempest and cloud,
Thunder and hail, the mightiest airs of God,
The hosts of night, the hot triumphant dawn,
Seasons, and times, and days, unknown shall march
O'er thy surrendered head.
Moses – O loneliest rest !
On my lost grave only the winds shall mourn,
The white rain do me service, the sad stars
Age after age with endless circling eyes
View this last desolation. In thy hands,
Into thy hands, O death. Break the worn thread
That binds the rifted pattern of the loom.
O King of kings, forsake not now Thy servant.
Angel of Darkness – Lo, the black crags leap to the vaulted cloud,
Towering without a sound. The dark takes substance
In domes and depths of mightiest design
And seals him from the world. Pillared like Thebes,
Straight as the tall palm-orchard lift the walls
Of this vast grave. Life has no meaning here,
Light has no name nor place. O human heart,
Fain for the little shows of grief, for tears
And kindlier sepulchre, no king shall sleep
So royally housed as thou.
Moses – Draw near, draw near.
The string is all but parted. Shape thy wings
Into a roof of silver silences,
A dome of deep repose. O murmuring flood,
O tide of death lifting the weed of life,
O passive arbiter, indifferent power
In whose still hand the kingdoms of the world
Lie like a beggar's coin, beneath whose heel
Nations are drifted dust, accept thou me.
The bubble of life is broken.
Angel of Light – Life begins
Cover his face, kind Darkness, with thy wings
Smooth as the wild swan's breast. Let no wind wake
An echo in this holy solitude.
Let the enduring seasons with soft tread
Circle these sacred hills; no falling star
Shiver the fine perfection of repose.
God hath his life. Guard Thou his mighty dust.
Angel of Darkness – I am the firstborn angel. Ere this world
Was shapen, I endured within the void
Waiting the word of God. Beyond this world
I shall endure, when the young stars are driven
Outworn in dust along the roads of space,
Blown by the breath of chaos. When this plan,
This present firmament, vision and light,
Princes of heaven, dominions, powers, are past,
I shall remain about the eternal throne
Veiling the thoughts of God. Leave him with me,
Ye younger spirits; such silence is too old
For your bright souls to bear. Leave me my dead.
(The angels of Light and Dreams take flight.
The angel of Darkness covers Moses with his wings.)
The dead are mine. Swift they come down to me.
The little life they suffer, their frail dream
Is past. Here is no memory, here no hope,
No reason, no despair nor happiness.
Only the dust and I. It is His will.
Voices of Israel –Who now shall stand between us and our God ?
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.I would like to translate this poem