Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MANSONG: CHORAL, by MARCUS ADENEY



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MANSONG: CHORAL, by            
First Line: We the proper ancients speak not out of turn
Last Line: This be our prayer.


We the proper ancients speak not out of turn;
Grant us a hearing, O ye gods that lived and died
Time-bound as men, as nature and as knowing;
You who fulfilled an hour, a year, an age
Of mortal need always in mortal fashion,
Hear us now.

Here at the chalky road's end, where the turf
Leads merely seaward; where the white gulls plead
Eternal hungers, and the wind-drift is
Breath of an alien element, O return
From fields immortal; bless these asphodels,
Be latest guests.

This is no ceremonial, gravely precedent;
No ritual utterance greets you from mansoul.
Only the ruffled surface of our thought, as these sere stems
Obedient to each gust of idle wind,
Offers its presents to eternity.
O bear with us.

We who planned hugely to feast but picnic here
At the cliff's edge where the clean chalk crumbles;
And the land of our desire by night falls seaward,
Though concrete walls were built to stop erosion—
Built solidly by men of property,
Behold our loss.

And know: we love not less for our divorce
(In luxury of pride swift undertaken)
From every self but this, the social man;
Only—desire runs crying down the wind,
With gulls' cries desolate, hungry for its own,
Be then not strange.

We who would serve made service a disgrace;
And fortune, with its ills, our only good.
There was no gift that One who lives by giving
Might offer the so needy; and the loving
Were fearfully denied by love's own creatures,
Accept these names.

Accept these tokens also. Who as children
Gave only treasures where sweet joy commanded,
Now proffer intrinsic worth, again unknowing.
Men may declare
In a less troubled age our customs value,
Bear with us still.

And let it be not said that we were fools
Wholly; though a world of goods we squandered
Mainly to satisfy a trampled urge. Reaction
Ruled, pompous, everywhere, of dark necessity;
We were not blind, who stumbled, but depressed,
Be patient, then.

For we were torn between the hour and knowing,
Between the word and life's so sweet emergence,
Between our grief retributive and love;
Nor had our age, a word, a way, a gesture
To capture peace, or by-pass desperation.
Be surely wise.

And know that gods denied cannot be banished
Wholly or ever from the lives that bore them, but endure
Even as childhood in unconsciousness.
So long as man-worlds are—remembering,
Mansoul shall glory in old ordered things,
Accept our loves.

We would return now to our proper station
Between the ancestors and the so bright unborn,
Hold ceremonies suited to these moments
Of brief and partial rightness,—an eternity
Of thought's predicament, desire and pain and death,
Be manifest.

And be not strange in the ways of to-morrow
Among the objects of a world's new fancy.
Past hot dog stands, headlined massacres, sectarian churches
Go easily; be patient with the starving intellect,
And youngsters wasting on coffee, doughnuts and cigarettes,
Accept all these.

Accept also our contrition. Squandering
Generations born with the so glorious unborn
We learned too late of an entire dilemma.
Facing the truth the worst prevail with lies;
The best, disarmed, find virtue in discretion,
Be sceptical.

For the public utterance of men is now an air-raid siren,
And the talk of friends is only reminiscence;
Artists complain, as infants, of small woes,
While clutching churchmen call for sacrifice.
Each one proclaims his own a planet's need,
Stay not for these.

Or for the folly that all speech inhabits
And all speakers; but establish a new day
As we must also, bearing to-morrow's burdens,
Yesterday's grief and malice and affliction;
Evil and error called by no proper names,
Be with us then.

Be with us on the heights as in the depths,
In shining thought not less than native urge;
Be known and luminous, that understanding
Sufficient for the generation's need may flower
To bear as fruit man's proper amplitude.
This be our prayer.





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