Unicorn 6 - Poem by Michael Shepherd
Self-moved; self-stilled; why then for us
this noble creature takes the form of unicorn?
Part horse, with shaggy goatlike hooves,
and lion’s tail; and on heraldic shields
its glorious spiralled horn so fitly crowned
with lilied coronet, marking royal intelligence;
proud in its humility and gentle in its strength,
sometimes rearing up, and sometimes bowing low.
Why then this form?
Forgotten, then, the ancient reasoning, or only
part remembered: that the Creator gave to man
dominion and tender care of all His creatures.
All living things called animals, share living heart;
Thus all with heart are in our close-knit care.
Man and horse
the ancient working team; so agile in the battle,
so bonded in a war of death and life; so faithfully
untiring in the working, drawing, ploughing day;
and in play, in tournament, so joyous,
bonded to mankind; what wonder
that this creature looks so nearly as a horse?
A lion’s reminiscence, lordly in authority, there too;
and goat, so footsure feeding on the crags; so when
the kingdom of the beasts seeks to repay mankind,
it’s said their gratitude then takes this creature’s form
to be more ready recognised by man; leaving
to those beasts more domesticated – and more consumed -
who used to share even man’s abode -
the cows, the sheep – and, prophetically,
the humblest, least complaining, beast of burden, ass,
the honour of attendance there
around the stabled birth of God as man…
When love and gratitude bonds man and creatures in his care
- with fellow creatures of his own mankind -
this creature, purest love, is seen to gently graze
as if it were forever there; self-moved; self-stilled.
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