Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE GODS OF THE EARTH BENEATH, by EDMUND CHARLES BLUNDEN



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THE GODS OF THE EARTH BENEATH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I am the god of things that burrow and creep
Last Line: And then's the end of all her mirth.
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund
Subject(s): Animals


I AM the god of things that burrow and creep,
Slow-worms and glow-worms, mouldwarps working late,
Emmets and lizards, hollow-haunting toads,
Adders and effets, groundwasps ravenous:
The weasel does me homage rustical,
And even surly badger and brown fox
Are faithful in a thousand things to me.
From these and myriads more
Hark to the praises murmurously abroad,
This very slumbrous sound of glowing noon,
All through the low-shorn grass:
The morning hedger with his brishing-hook,
That never saw me, knows me to be near
To greet the greetings of my tiny folk.
Six brothers too I have, gods like to me,
Whose sort I will declare: and maybe you,
Wayweary traveller, with your broad bright eyes,
That well can reverence us the lesser gods,
Shall see themselves anon.

And first of him who, but for me, were least.
He has dominion over every plant
That stretches tapering root, or twists a mass
Of thrusting fibres white as bleachen bones,
Or sends long straying creepers: his are roots
Of every tree: and such love waits on him,
And such free faithfulness that all trees give,
That some bow down their green boughs worshipping
So that they touch the ground, and you may see
In yonder avenue of limes, how some
Have hidden down-curved branches in the earth,
For him; and so delightful is his care
That the lopped tree, be it but stub or stock,
Thrives, and begems its leafits in a year.
Even the pales that husbandmen set up
Have put forth roots -- so kindly is his care,
Shown to his worshippers.

Sir, tell me whether you at any time
Have seen a river-god (since your clear heart
Keeps your eyes clear to glimpse all things that few
May see)? Ay, you have seen a river-god,
Dear honest man of strong simplicity;
Then have you spied in summer, when the weeds
Thicken and lazily swelter to the sun,
In some clear water that the stonefish love
One moving softly in a dream of good
In form like this of mine?
He is my brother, fifth among the gods:
He holds the river-beds and watersands
In fee: there is no yellow or blue clay
Paving a river's travel, no flat rock
On which deep waters tarry, no gold sand
Of shallows with the shealings shining white,
But it is consecrate of old to him,
And with it all its creatures honour him --
All fishes, save the fierce unfaithful eel
That climbs flood gates and travels through wet fields
From pool to pool; or down to the sea's wild works,
Slides past a thousand eyots lovelessly.
The shells that lie along the paven strand
When summer shrinks the water -- think you these
Were clustered by the winter's heaping floods?
Not so could they entangle sunset pink
In crystal frail depicturing within:
Not so could I read words of lovely say.
But they were tinted with the god's own hand,
The god's own hand set them in charactery.
He hollows the green bank, knit with sinewy roots,
That fish may haven there when too clear suns
Have made them languish: for he loves them well.
Therefore, when thunder spreads his pirate flag,
Black, threatening crime, and up the shallow comes
Some eel as thick as any reaper's wrist,
He roves the reeds and tramples up the sands
In warning to the fishes young and small;
And hence the small-eyed eel is led astray
Thinking to see the pike his enemy.

Such is the river-god.
And fourth among us, not unlike to him,
Living amid the dead calm of deep waters
Of sullen lakes and pits (unfathomable,
By all the peasants' tales) there is a god
Of white and golden water-lily pageants.
The languorous water-lily, that some call clote,
Through his perpetual labourings, can climb
Up from the silt, that flees the light of day,
Still striving and still striving up to air,
Proclaiming beauty out of common things
To those that pass. What queen more queenly is?
What love more lovely than the slumbrous clote,
Lingering along the blue stream's mooned curves?
Most worthy she the endeavour of a god.
And with such beauty ever in desire
Her god is pleased to live nigh undescried
Deep down: yet you shall see him of a morn
Shapen like mist, a little lovely form,
Hovering above the sleeping lilies: then
The great sun strides on, frighting the pearl mists,
And with them flees the lily-god away.

Up on the hill, where brambling hops are now
Near firm enow for picking, men have found
Gold pieces lying bedded in the earth,
Trinkets of other centuries, treasure trove;
Nor this without its god, the miner god.
To whom all buried coins, all precious things,
All strakes of gold and silver amid rocks,
All porphyries, agates, emeralds, starry stones
Are known and charted. From his treasuries
He thins frail gold for crowns of daffodil,
And inlays silver leaves for ladysmocks.
With rubies is his palace underground
Windowed, to let the cavern's twilight in;
Of alabaster are his buttresses,
Of pallid mica are his little doors,
And all the walls of gold, the walks of gold.
So silver-sandalled down those golden ways
He triumphs, and his people cry his praise,
Even the jewels and stones called dumb cry out.

Above him, yet not greatest,
The god of waters vanished underground
Calls to me, bids me tell of him. Strange streams
Flow flagging in the undescribed deep fourms
Of creatures born the first of all, long dead:
Wherefore he guides their channels and stifled songs.
And fills them with delight of headlong falls
To keep the echoes roaring all through time.
And blind fish grow
Among those waters, for small light comes there;
He makes the white weeds live that are their food,
And heals them from all taints and maladies.
No man has seen this god: who plies along
The long lakes never dreamed nor plummeted,
The tiny runlet trickling steep through rocks,
The river gliding darkly tunnelled in,
And of his realms is proud as any king.

Of six gods have you heard, their emperies
And deathless works: and over us all is set
One greater. He with kingcraft marvellous
Brings out of death the loveliest looks of life,
And from corruption with his alchemy
Images beauty: where the dead leaves piled,
Lo, wind-flowers and the etched uncrumpled fern,
And where the corpse was hidden, wallflowers,
And in the mossed dank oak-stub, primroses.
And those who wander in November's woods
Find toadstools twired and hued fantastically
Yellow, and yellow-mottled red, and black,
In all antique and unimagined vogues.
For these are his ephemeral delights,
Made for the whims of beauty, and then gone.
He stells the meadows in similitude
Of stars in black sky-spaces, in his hands
He catches filtering flames of morn and eve,
To be the sunshine of the buttercup,
The sunlight of the darnel. Where graves are,
He haunts to make unloveliness be blossoms;
Where hosts have hewn down hosts in war, he is
Ever enharvesting their sepulchres
With promises of things divine, wild flowers
Innumerable, hues unsurpassable --

These seven gods whose sort I have declared,
Traveller, are templed in a secret shrine.
For when we move in shadows through your world,
We see the shrines of gods: we hear their hymns
Filling their marble immemorial domes
In sworn allegiance to a mystery.
All gods that have been love this mystery,
Nor we the least. O linger here and listen
To sorceries and rituals dear to us.
Good traveller, through your weather-beaten look
A radiance ever lightens out to me,
Born of a loyal love: but now the pipe
Of pewits newly fledged, from sunken ground,
Brimmed with the moving mists that usher cold,
Shrills clear, and warns me to the waterpit.
Across the sandy path the tiny frogs
Go yerking, and already it grows dark.

* * * *

With that the Traveller's eyes were sealed afresh,
So that he saw the god no more: but then
He thought he heard a music spangled over
With strange delightful echoes, frail as pearls,
And words came burgeoning in his heart, like these:

With seven lamps for seven saints --
Cry we up the thundering chasm --
Lighting seven effigies,
Marble writhed to martyr-spasm --

With seven coffins small and queer --
Run, echo, up the tarn's rupt wall --
Wherein are prostrate effigies
Of seven sinners, silver-small --

With seven niches odorous --
Fly, murmur, up the flinty shelves --
Wherein are seven gods enshrined;
This temple hold we for ourselves.

The long lake in the caverned moor
Is sluiced and sucked into the pit,
And rumbles ever with a roar
Into the shrine prepared for it --

The falling water is the priest,
The thunderous water is the quire;
And we seven gods are well appeased
With fetch-light lamps that twinkle and twire.

And winter after winter dies
But we die never till the earth
Grows dizzy, watched by countless eyes,
And then's the end of all her mirth.





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