The Old Traveller

On the road to Jerusalem
A traveller old I spied
For a fortnight follow'd him
Until an eventide

This fellow-creature was aged and wan
And stopped did he at last
Then in the light of setting-sun
Unto the earth he asked:

"Tell me, oh wind, a single thing
Where shall I lay my head?
If you traverse on gos'mer wing
To the edge; is it there said:
"I passed over these empty lands
Many hills and valleys on
Only now I rest my hands
Twas light work, tis done."

"Tell me, oh sun, a single thing
What now shall my work be?
Of skies and stars, you the king
Over deserts' golden sea:
"I shone on all alike in kind
Although my lands were barren
What then there lies for me to find
Where shall I place the cairn?"

"Tell me, oh rain, a single thing
Where does it now all go?
You pour and slide and roll and sing
Can you be he that know:
"All those I washed them clean I washed
Even those that I washed out
Many days were wetly lost
With tears of dark and doubt.""

But no answer was there given him
From the spirits of all these
No kind or kin of human whim
The day, the rain, the breeze.

You see by now I'd lost the path
Though we were by the sea
My map undone in stormy bath
My letters lost by me.

"Oh plan undone, my pilgrimage
And time is slipping by
To forget it all, and quell my rage
Where do my letters lie?

"My map and compass, over there?
And whence my ledger-book?
Appointed I can't-recall-where
Neglected, overtook."

So I sat upon the rock
Warm'd by the sun
And gazed upon the pocket-clock
Which said six-oh-one.

I looked and gazed and wondered why
I was gazing at the hands
They moved and roved and caught the eye
Six oh two it stands.

Then I knew I'd company
Over to my left
The crone had come to set by me
All his earthy heft.

"Dear son," he said in deeply rasp
"I know you're sore distressed
To fail and fall from fruitful task
Finds a man duress'd.

"Some things are lost by chance and I
Cannot be held to blame
Others through unwatchful eye
Or sloth are sadly slain.

"My song may sound sad indeed
For wounded are the words
But the rocky road too leads
To where the gentle curves."

With this his hand he gently placed
On my shoulder's round
"Come, a path is to be traced
Before the sun is down."

And walked we for a mile or so
Into the dimming day
Until fields were seen below
A rise of hilly clay.

Here a thousand-thousand flowers rose
Reflecting rays of eve'ning
Beyond the ox and cattle lows
A procession of bereaving.

"Behold my son the thing which one
And all find they must confess
Is beauty, light of moon to sun
Nature's finest dress.

"Each plant you see, has but in mind
(if mind we really see)
To make a seed, a pod or a rind
And have its progeny.

"Along the way are stems and leaves
Which all must go to rot
To make what more? more of these
The same will be their lot.

"But beautiful they are, be warned
That they go to spoil
Why not be short and unadorned
Organized just for toil?

"If you know the question to say
The flowers have the answer
The fruits and melons and grasses lay
Waiting while to chance her

"The form is beautiful you see
Makes the seed worth having 'round
Adorn your work with beauty's nee
You garden will have no bound.

"The difference between they and us
Glory in each moment made
Is it not so obvious
What leaves and petals said?

"And thus you see my song is how
My leaves are curled and fine
To sing and speak and paint is now
To make such songs be mine!"

And so in morning we went our way
He his and I my own
A song is fit to hear and play
Even on the path alone.

So long as seed is born to die
From our hobbled hands
Let us make lovely each laugh and sigh
That is heard across the lands.

I suppose then if I could say
About my pocket-watch
It least it looks nice each day
My number'd days are notched!

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy reading your poems so much!

    A little gem to chew on:

    ...All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16)

    This means that there are no wasted moments if one follows the Logos. I've been learning (especially this week) to savour the savourless. It's hard to describe, but one can get acclimated to a certain level of a "physical lack" that one begins to prefer it. Cravings for passions die down as one fasts from anger, malice, greed, envy...etc. My journey to Zion presses on to fulfillment.

    I always pray for our journeys together.


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