Part Six - The Resolution

THE KING’S MESSENGER REPROACHES THE PRINCE

Part Six - The Resolution

“Now Prince”, Udayin said, “there are three

Marks of a true friend.

One Is to defend one from adversity;

One is to defend one who is within

Adversity; and one is the advocacy

Of all good and advantageous things.

Therefore I must speak to you now rather candidly.

Honoring me, the king named me your friend. His confidence

I can in no way betray.

It seems to me, in your behavior there is excessive diffidence

Women find such diffidence not conducive to love.

In one so handsome it is discourteous to display such reticence.

In your behavior this is difficult to approve.

‘Beauty lacking in courtesy’, says an old adage,

‘Is like a grove

Lacking in flowers.’ You must not disparage

These mock battles of love. For the joys of blood

Are a great good. God, king, and sage,

For sheer joy, sow their seed!”

THE PRINCE’S REPLY

Udayin, you are wrong! For see that bird, a yellow singing thing,

And yet its wing is now already worn.

Ah! but the petals which were hung

So perfectly in spring,

Are falling and, before the summer comes, the spring is gone.

To laugh and dance the twilight from the day

I brought eleven-stringed instruments of gold and ivory

And bid my maidens play,

To lull my youth away,

Stories and songs from our antiquity.

And with my favorite lamps filled with sweet substances

I courted all the evenings with my praise

As if my one clear duty were to light those languorous distances

The sun, the arching sun, could not array; or bring to those

Dark features of the night, the night’s own fragrances.

I did not see the symbol when the owl,

Glancing a moment in its moonlit flight,

Dropped down to earth upon some animal---

Some hare, who found the night too slanted when it leapt;

Or watched that plummeting bird, thinking it beautiful.

THE NIGHT TOO SLANTED

But on those streets today, I realized the silence

Of death. I saw a black hand, stealing on us, lift

It shadow at the first sound of our dance;

And even my unready heart could feel the chilling drift

Of that gray wind, and that mysterious countenance.

And now my ease is gone. And in the guttering of my heart’s flame

And of my eyes, are my tears become, and fire,

A gray rime. For dawn shall come

As no bringer of dreams; nor the dry

Vein with crimson; nor minstrels, the fled moon.

THE ENIGMA OF EXISTENCE

Our generations run to their end.

In the dry wind the surface cleaves;

The mountains turn into sand;

The trees, unseasoned, lose their leaves,

A branch, falls to the ground.

The parakeet, upon the pier,

Her nest and futile eggs are gone;

Her generations disappear.

The cows grow thin, the grass is worn,

Their bodies and the meadows sere...

All lovers vanish; only one,

There where the castle wears away,

Protected from the sun,

Sits day by day

And sings, his silent love, alone.

The soldiers on the city wall

Can see the harvest is not done.

They let their heavy weapons fall;

The battles which they won,

Were useless, after all...

We could not know, when we began,

That our fresh forms would wither so;

Nor that the furrowed stone would run

Between the ploughman, and the plough;

Nor that the night would come so soon...

THE MEDITATION OF THE PRINCE

For at the lifting foot’s mercy was time;

Or so we thought. And in the grass, a pattern

We supposed we knew; in the wind’s covering, a rhythm

Fitting to dance to. And age, being bent,

Could never follow our path; no monument,

Could judge our symmetry. For if death stalked,

He came, (we knew), neither straightly nor merrily; and talked

Of stone boldly only to those who were aged. But we, who were young,

Walked (and were never weary), to the ocean’s chanting metre.

But now at a familiar door has my bowl been filled with hunger;

Strange on a shore I know, I am stranger

To the wave’s laughter; my heart no longer

Sweeps with the tide. In an old man

No small sea animals eddy to see the moon

Ride in the domed sky. There is danger

in each red sea pulse swinging; anger

In every thundering vessel; the storm is stern harbinger,

Eager at last to bury ruin is the high gale.

No rhyming hallows the last path which our foot follows.

There on the final cold hills, the memory yellows,

The late day allows

No greenness. For time also ages.

Thick on the high ledges

The shadowing dark birds question their food; nature,

Watching its own ending. But what bold scavenger

Would pluck the dying sun? Even the vulture,

Circling some earlier season’s failure, is ever chary of autumn.

For who can stop the continual oncoming of the horizon?

Not man; nor small sea creature; nor the denizen

Of the winged cloud. For the maimed sun moves on

Toward darkness. I

Would not smile at the high

Perch of the black bird, nor laugh

When the dancing stream starts its thundering path

On toward the sea. For death,

Finally at the last gate wryly waiting, is for all who journey.

SESTINA: DEPARTURE

Now while the contemptuous moon has left the night in darkness,

To court those changing clouds, which gathering, praise its beauty,

I shall leave without song, no loud horns sounding. Alone,

Though the trumpets would call my silence sadness,

I shall seek for a peace which has never been forged by minstrels,

A light which is not to be darkened by Time’s contending.

In youth, and my glance with the sun contending,

My mind knew no meter to pattern the light to darkness:

Only that night was the time which was strung by minstrels,

That sun was the sheen which was gracious to fall on beauty,

That the pretending heart was the only measure of true sadness,

And that grief and parting were in song alone.

But now I know that we travel not with song alone;

That the gay heart is always with grief contending,

That ever our path is edged with the reeds of sadness,

That always the tune is bitter; that night, with darkness,

I shall not welcome; seek not, in its deceitful robes, for beauty;

Nor command longer the lulling beat of minstrels.

For all is sorrow; and let the minstrels,

Whether they play to the thronged street, or come alone,

Augment their music, add to their trumpets’ beauty,

The cry of the child and the cry of the mother contending;

Unending, the shrill rush of pain in darkness;

And a familiar voice, telling of sadness.

With garlands and formal robes you would hide your sadness;

Would follow, believing the tunes are gay, your grieving minstrels

Through highways thick with lights, to lands of darkness.

But you are wrong. At that hour you will be alone.

At the final hour, when you die contending,

At that hour, do not ask for music, do not ask for beauty.

That hour, is not the hour where I seek beauty.

For the end of life is not the end of sadness;

And time continues, forever with Time contending.

I too was deceived, compelled by the shrilling minstrels;

But now I know, it was the pyres’ light alone,

Flashing upon the horns, which seemed to light the darkness.

My self with myself contending, within me I hear the minstrels—

Their clashing beauty is marred by the straining sadness;

I go alone, else all is darkness.