Canto 99: Samothraki

He was resolved to take a course like the soldier in Terence

John Milton


Swansong

In the pursuit of learning one knows more every day:
in the pursuit of the way one does less every day.
One does less & less until one does nothing at all
Lao-Tzu

Coleridge said it should take twenty years
To form an epic poem full evolv’d;
As such, the dateline of my blessing nears,
To canonize its worth on Earth resolv’d;
Fletching anew,
Four years pass’d since last I
Pen rested, cast into my living lullaby.

I sense the trials & the joys
Closer coming more & more,
No longer nimble with the boys
On the burst of forty-four,
This hiking heel no more enjoys
Its Viking matador,
On porcelain mornings tingling with doubt,
Besprinkling middle-ageing with the gout!

But ibuprofen serves the cause
As paracetamol
Puts pains on pause, the plain outdoors
The place I best extol
These passion-rites of poetry, la libertie l’ecole.

Edinburgh
July 8th
2020


Name-Making

Do you want me to bring you forth music
all by myself in the mists in a byway
lacking the respect of any man living
Am Piobaire Dall

Camping at Smithson Farm in Covid times,
Hiking long paths up Pendle in the mist,
Deep contemplating Sumners in these rhymes,
Whom in these lines, iconiciz’d, exist;
Eternitiz’d
Forever here to be
Assign’d & dramatiz’d, a poet’s family.

For I was born a Sumner, aye,
Then Beeson Bullen became;
Dee Double Bee my letters lie,
Patent stations of a name,
Remember them the day I die
& after give them fame,
For twenty years I strove to earn the right
To brand these letters on Parnassus height.

The dedicated are the damn’d,
But better life this way,
When footsteps stand on rocks, not sand,
Beside an ocean’s bay,
Where certain waves & curtain’d riptides sweep the weak away.

Burnley
July 9th
2020


Avanti!

I want the damned fools
to leave the forest alone.
I want the trees to grow
A. Samad Said

Snaking the streets about these childhood haunts,
I pass’d the flat oer Cog Lane’s launderette,
That womby room where infant poet flaunts
His swanplume voice… once more to leave the net
Of Burnley town,
I’ll dally me abroad,
With tent, pen, eiderdown, books, latop, hat my load.

But on my way to forty-five
I aint twenty-one again
Strange caution, doubt, “Will I survive?
Watching Rawtenstall awane
By Manchester I felt alive,
Thro’ upstairs window pane,
Saw Strangeways oozing freedomless despair,
‘My god,‘ I thought, ‘I’m glad I’m not in there!’

Sensing all those who rot inside
Would wish to sit right here,
Starset to glide the airways, ride
The cyan stratosphere,
To taste the chance & mysteries of travel’s vast frontier.

Manchester Airport
July 22nd
2020


Raison D’Etre

After distant lakes of mercury
Let us see the peaks at last,
See the ragged shores of Thessaly!
Gilles Ortleib

Within a planey cage I ranged aloft,
T’where fair Orpheus nature’s music sought,
Same sunny space in Thrace where last left off
My tours of Greece, with a Muses escort;
This pen compell’d
To end its epic lay,
Far from the Saxon feld, half-way to Mandalay.

Let us never forgive errors,
They repeat themselves, increase,
Our pupils will not forgive us
What we once forgave at peace,
These are like Persian emperors
Who once assaulted Greece,
Unfit, unwelcome & uncivilized,
Despicable, distasteful & despised.

The time shall come when humankind,
Should look back on these lines
& in them find the trace of mind
Which raced off with the wines,
Like tasty Xinomavro Macedonia designs

Thessalonika
July 25th
2020


Fisherman

If every god can be seduced
By the carafe, & thus reduced,
How fine a drop am I?
Ales Steger

Sat on slender sands of Sithonia,
Illuminated by the task at hand;
Calicut, Seattle, Estonia,
Have spread my visitations wide & grand;
One final heave
Of effort from the heart,
Might finally receive the triumph of mine art.

Mount Athos rose across the Gulf
Like Heaven reappearing,
Beyond… somewhere… the thermal sulph
Of Samothraki, steering
These claw-steps of my sylver wolf,
Melodies endearing
Slung where Orpheus sung & strung his lyre,
& Hermes felt Persephone’s desire.

Ensnorkeling I chas’d the fish,
& caught one at the tail,
Seasalted dish that tastes delish,
All set to end my tale,
Like Pharas the Herulian at Sarras with the Grail.

Paradise Beach
July 29th
2020


One Last Island

Here the free spirit of mankind, at length
Throws its last fetters off; & who shall place
A limit to the giant’s unchained strength
William Cullen Bryant

My boat departs, Alexandroupoli
Disappears as if Ardrossan leaving,
Ahead, a mountain speartip strikes the sky,
Cloth’d in hoary forest dark, upheaving;
My notebook breath’d
& flutter’d in the breeze,
Its makar, laurel-wreath’d, partaken & at ease.

With the spirit of Orpheus
I’ve arriv’d upon the isle,
Full of Epos, full of Peos,
Set to stride the final mile,
On the gushing slopes of Saos,
Where I should sit & smile,
Ending an epic poem on the height,
With Hisalrik & Ida’s peak in sight.

I frolic in a thermal spring
Absolving spirit free,
By fusion’s wing my muses bring
Soft music back to me
Initiated naked, ancyent rites of mystery.

Therma
August 8th
2020


Before the Waterfall

Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud ?
Like a fast-flitting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave
William Knox

Footing the paths to Fornia one dawn,
Exploring trails, kept cool by waterfalls,
Not twenty-five led on a Kentish lawn,
But twenty years older – still nature calls
To dive within
Her flowers, fields & folds,
Entrancing dream akin to Woden in the Wolds.

Upscrambling rocks he kiss’d book,
Spiritcatcher of the mind,
In shady nook by verses struck,
So he sat, turns, looks behind,
Glazes o’er this stanzetta’s hook
& better rhymes to find;
Across Aegean, golden under sun,
He gazes deeply, glad he’d once begun

The poem he is writing still,
Cliff-surfing like a bird,
Pausing to chill above the rill
They call the Killer Third –
If nature compos’d opera, the best he’d ever heard.

Samothraki
August 10th
2020


One Final Mystery

So words be good, be gone into
The silence of a summit bird
My voice it plummets low for you
Antonella Anedda

On entering the Sanctuary, smiles!
White wings of angels float across my face,
So many monuments among the piles
Of rocks & broken pillars, lock’d in grace;
Fine place to be
This final day I’ll write
Absorbing history from site to famous site.

From skyshuttles oer Seattle,
To scooters cruising Goa,
Now the slopes of Saos settle,
Strolling a serene stoa
Of ageing stones – soft thought’s petal,
Heaven sent, wafts lower –
Landing upon this page as I proceed
About the precinct, milking all I’ll need.

With measur’d steps in Plato’s train
A rectangle I drew,
About an ancyent thinker’s fane,
A friend of wisdom who
Makes Samothracian Mysteries for something fun to do.

Palaiopoli
13th August
2020


The End

Silent is Orpheus now, & silent now
the lyre you strung within a turtle shell,
which made the cypresses & mountains bow
William Bell

With groggy noggin’, nine o clock, drunk still,
My steps besober’d up Poseidon slopes,
Wild dragonflies in escort hill-to-hill,
A spirit free from toil that here elopes
With Muses nine,
In pools, naked, & falls,
Inviting me to dine on melons, wines & rolls.

With breakfast done the climb began,
Force following the shadow
Of something more than that young man
Who started this years ago,
From path-to-rock I laugh’d & ran,
The joyous gjggalo,
This way…” beam Clio & Calliope
Perch’d on steep stone, strumming ukulele.

He dove into that perfect pool
With bed of Autumn leaves,
Sat on a stool of granite cool,
He, elegant, receives,
One final line of poetry, what tapestry he weaves!

The Source of the Gria Vathra
August 21st
2020

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