Ross Mackay

Pastoral - Poem by Ross Mackay

We never saw the city lights,
just old earth under country stars,
the dirt track where tarmac stops
to walk one hundred hours-
statues of trees like lost kings,
monoliths in their fists to where
footpaths sank into arcadian grass.
Brooks over rocks, whistling too-
like pilgrims back from lost crusades-
hermits sprung from barron caves,
a blind man raises his visor-
running and turning through the
days of meadows like in fire.
By the first time it was lovely,
strong with summer smells of sea
waist height water through the brook.
Strawberries are plentiful,
as plentiful as the grass.
As lovers we danced the dusk,
sung “how fair my true love's hair.”
Walking in all night rain-
Freak August showers,
like the last time I felt free
Now upon Orlando's knees,
there green with the scented spring,
listen as the loner cries
“I vow to thee, oh country! ”

Northern lights and northern kings
listen as Ophelia sings,
as the smoke is lifted since
eyed by the nymphs always,
the woodland clears and valleys
there before the sun goes down
shiver in her hooded gown.
The hamlet almost hidden-
bonfire smoke as she floats
downstream. Watch the moon rise
from the country newborn,
Swelling full with ghosts-
singing lullabies through
for mother and the maiden,
for the last causeway of empires
in Eden's giant sheets,
the herd is still awake,
wanting to stay up for spring-
queuing under their porches
for the nightly theatre.

He did not rave, he did not stare aghast,
For all those visions were o'ergone and past,
And he in lonliness: he felt assur'd
Of happy times, when all he had endur'd
Would seem a feather to the mighty prize.

That saintly moon, her angel marble,
turning in her crown and bowing
as all those awake clap their hands
woods glitter in her running waters,
darkness dashed in her loveliness,
watch barb and thorn put down their sword
so shining like Michael and the angels.
The children watch the brightly bulb
as whisking to and throw in prayer-
pray you mark,
With their arms stretched they cry,
as I cry,
as this is the land where we can cry.
My feet rising from the ground-
the soul is breathed in Adam again.

On a porch quietly singing,
gathering the missionary stars,
a young woman, the family's fortune.
Eight and ten years have gone by,
and still with her father's superstition,
and still lovely with her mother's ponytails,
she lights a tinting candle:
Nearly curfew time- ghosts will be out,
and outside, there!
Sweeping midnight medicines,
the boogie man is on the coffee sand!
Watch him kick and scrape
near where the mockingbirds nested
in the walnut trees last year,
watch him, the poor man.

Everyday with the lord's work.
Bottles of eclipses on the windowsill
for to her paint a landscape with in time.
The watcher from the water,
where the boat on the old pier
taps the river all night long,
there I lie down, but awake.
In amongst the little houses,
where people know only the smiles
and the gold hoards in their rambles.
Talking of all things presently,
in the midnight sun with music,
they'd sway from side to side
jump up and down for more sights,
and weep if the prayer became too much.
Hear the old man sing:
“Shed no tear! O shed no tear!
The flower will bloom another year.”
Wipe your eyes, it's only a vision,
only a truth-telling of faith,
only a question of knights in Nietsche,
only for the mad-faced,
gardens of Kierkegaard
the lovers of Eden,
the children of Arcadia.

So she blows out the candle,
standing as risen from the manger,
soaking up the dew in spell,
rising again like Jerusalem's holy host
and sleeping amongst its final flicker,
Suddenly quiet, like the mountains.

Chapel stories unfolded,
the saint is in the fields.
And undone from my gold chains
to be so mixed in the elements
as the fires which wrap around my arms.
Falling into country sleep,
a man is born in bucolic heaven.

Enter Arcadia,
one by one,
out from the mangar,
flashing past the streetlights,
down the moors and thick fog,
dream as they turn with the days,
people of splashes and paint smeers,
like the box lines of their unhappy gaunts.
Now breath in for the first time,
Up! Up! The voyager watches!
He knows someone's restless
The path is thinner now,
strangling dream,
two by two

But hush, she wakes up.
fluttering over the window, the pastoral princess,
From folding shores by the old pier, like she practised eighteen years,
leaning melancholy then- to underneath the porch again,
vanilla cast her face, jet stars which made her eyes.
like a child in midnight she rises and wades,
for Rosalind in her glow- is blind for life,
and lovely in the tender light.
Watch the nightwind touch her,
listen as the valley falls silent
lighting the sleepless eyes then all are awake.
Astraea in sadness, and I watch from the sand.

A year ago like pastoral glow
my lover and I- say O!
Like shepherd and lamb he'd understand
my affection and love me so
Like portrait and painter
and seas and the sailor
Like brick and the builder- say O!
Like a folk hero and with a longbow
my lover and I- say O!
With his songs and his poems he would win
my affections and love me so
Like sword and the soldier
and bread and the baker
Like thought and the theory- say O!
When autumn came he went again,
to the city and slums- say O!
Like a slave to the ship and chained to his oar,
he had to cast off and go
Like moon and the maddened
and flies to the finches
Like the burning of birch I cry- say O!
Not even a letter he's sent as a gesture
I fear him dead- say O!

Oh how blind is the earth for such a tender soul!
Her ribbons on her shoulders,
running with the ocean chambers
like dancing clockwork through the sky
stretching love and life longingly.
Daphne under the olive trees,
her laurel crown dropping leaves,
and why is the valley always in light?
the flowers saddened at the sight?
On my knees and empty, I pity,
weeping as the clouds come to mourn,
the all-night birds have disappeared?
Is it her sadness that they feared?
Watch her by the rocking chair,
eyeing up to the dreaming moon!
Where the skies were lighting and living
Now the valley maddened and mourning
a pretty prayer away- frail, the hooded sovereign.
Oh for all the thinking I'd die a matyr!

Shall I raise my voice? Perhaps sing:
Matthew Prior's 'To Chloe Weeping! '
“Who's there? ” She calls kindly
Weepy, sightless eyes over the valley.
Are you a brother I never met, stranger?
Are you a nightly fox on prowl?
Or maybe you're just the wind, or the midnight owl
Perhaps you're the ghost said to haunt my home.
Shadow people crossing my eyes
sliding hither to and into further shadow,
if my eyes could see clearly,
would you be an ancient ghoul?
A skull face and jaw stretched aghast?
If you don't answer me as I call, I'll think you the wind.
If you answer truthfully and you're as I feared,
will I stay sat? Yes, yes I may do just that.
Just to see where the Underworld's at.
Perhaps it's rather pleasant, with a little cat,
a pretty little garden, a 'welcome home' doormat!

Judge as not, the hearts that meet,
in scarlet town in children's streets,
wipe your eyes, gold girl of the peaks,
the height of Babel's heaven's feet.
As a lover in thorns, in my hour of trial,
where behind that locked door,
are we not the ships that meet?
A man there was in a sea of vultures,
taught a tower of lies by devil masks,
built by mortal clay, the house of Moloch,
the chains I was under, the money mad
fools of fate and between jealousy and the man
there were white roses, and a diamond star
and a horse and rider:
On her shoulders, settling mountain snow,
“in my hand a crown of belladonna-
there's yarrow for your wounds-
and here, borage for your courage-
and in the city, there too I found
the narcissus, but it spread too thinly
for man's love of it- he watched himself
in the mirror for hours, and on embrace,
he drowned.
Flax for weaving, poppy for dreams,
up from, rising in the blood of Apollo,
a hyacinth that might live forever-
at least while the Earth still grows green.”

Orpheus has come, harp in hand-
Odysseus has come through the storm for Ithaca
The final settlement before the skyward waterfall,
the final lodging before the eternal mother.

But she shies:

“Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies; good night, good night” (exit)

The laughter and tears,
the daughter of the peaks
taken by a phantom carriage.
The path is clear, as she disappears.
I watch the house with the closed shutters.

Now let us sit up and wait for judgement,
smile as she comes, calls us to the stand,
puts us on trial and on hearing our doom,
we can laugh again- and won't that be fun?
Yes, I look forward to it. Let us wait.
Life should be just a centimetre from the ground.
And so where do we go now?
Well, there's going to be a giant wave,
go aww as it comes! And tomorrow too
the sun will rise and we'll go aww again.
Look as the hand of God is moving too!
Watch each tuning fall,
watch all the senses numb with the breeze,
the fresh, bright dreaming eyes
all dizzy with the immensity of the IT.
Look now where the people are flying,
look again where they grow wings!
The path ends-
the ground where no dust settles,
a dilemma, for the bandit's rhapsody,
the sky is too jewelled, more than he can carry.
Watching forever, is the reasoning-
watching his fortune from afar,
a watcher from the water,
the eternity rests.

Poet's Notes about The Poem

A narrative poem, I think I got the idea from Thomas Cole's paintings and the D.W.Griffith film 'True Heart Susie',1919

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Poem Edited: Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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