Wednesday, 14 October 2009


Homage to Rupert Brooke
(To be sung to the tune of the Prelude to Act III of "Carmen", by Bizet)

The boy who sang by Granta's stream
of spires and fenland, games and laughter in the morn,
is taken by a wider dream;
out eastwards sees the golden sun of blazing dawn,
and hears a voice singing proudly now of songs of war and duty


youth and honour lie in Flanders field
and by the banks of Somme and Yser seek for fame;
a sword to draw, a lance to wield,
a shield to bear the man who dies to win a name;
and hear him sing, now may God be thanked who matched us with his hour


loud rejoicing as the boat sails away
to sun-baked islands, sead that once were dark as wine,
where heroes fought a burning day
and deeds as brightly as the Hellene sun will shine
and so he goes, seekin Ilium's walls and Hector's martial story

for the

boy who sang by grana's stream
in storm and glory
to the war
is gone.


The Days: a creation myth

The first day was golden with the radiance of pure light as the Sun rose. Creation began. But behind the radiance was the Anti-light, the false creation, which is the greatest sin.

The second day was glittering silver beneath the Moon; and it was a day of mysteries, of hidden things, and of the waters. And the sin of the second day was magic, and forbidden knowledge.

The third day was blood-red, and it was the day of Mars. A day of struggle and fight; a day of iron. The sin of the third day was violence, and blind rage.

The fourth day was black as the infinite void; but from the blackness rose swift Mercury, the Quicksilver, who made it a day of buying and selling, of coming and going, and of messages. The sin of the fourth day was greed.

On the fifth day the firmament was painted bright blue, and its lord was Jupiter. So great was he that some confused him with his Maker. And the sin of the fifth day was pride.

The sixth day was the shining green of verdigris. Here lay the naked form of Venus, who commanded it to be a day of lovemaking. And so the sin of the sixth day was lust.

The seventh day was rich imperial purple, robing ancient Saturn as he yawned on his leaden throne of unendurable weight. On this day all creatures rest from their labours. So the sin of the seventh day was idleness.

So the first week ends.


The mask of Agamemnon

Pale gold, thin as card, shaped to a face,
heavy-lidded eyes like cowries, and a smile.
Not the faint ironic smile of a skull,
but a grin of power, satiated,
having laid conscience to rest.
This face, not Helen's, launched the thousand ships,
murdered Iphigenia, burned Troy,
to avenge an insult to the family,
to not lose face.

Then, fixed in eternal gold,
sent into darkness, out of sight of man,
unrotted in the grave, for endless years,
only the gods could see. To them it showed its grin
and the message, "This face was not lost:
through heroic genocide and towns laid waste, this face was saved".

And now is saved indeed
since Schliemann dug it from the earth:
placed now behind bullet-proof glass
stronger than stone walls and Lion Gates,
under fluorescence far brighter
than any sun of Hellas:
Agamemnon: great king
of mighty Mycenae
once more in state:
trriumphant over death as over morality,
immortalised in story as in gold,
still grinning. We repeat: this face was saved
- though nothing else was. Troy was lost
and soon after, Mycenae also was lost; but this face was not lost.
What more could any king desire?


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