Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, REINCARNATION, by J. R. I. BROOKE

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

REINCARNATION, by            
First Line: They only saw that he was dying
Last Line: Men fear their mother, fear to die.
Subject(s): Death; Oxford University; Dead, The

THEY only saw that he was dying,
Heedless of their dim surmise,
Saw their anxious heaven waiting
Solemn in the skies.

He only saw a mighty Humour,
Brown of face, and bent with laughter --
Laughters gathered from the faces,
Whither memory had flown,
Till insistent laughters beckoned
Laughter to their own.

He sees.
Figures moving, figures changing,
Red, and green, and blue, and grey,
Passions laughing, dancing naked,
Painted on a pillared way;

Saint and sinner, fresco faces,
Old and dark, and young and fair,
Devils sit in fires flaming
Round their purple tangled hair;

Bells a-banging, voices singing,
Treble, alto, tenor, bass;
On each sound there followed silence,
And each silence found a face --

Till he heard his soul a-calling,
Naming him a noble name;
While a green-eyed demon grinning
Spat at him for very shame.

Never strove he then to strike it,
Heard not noble names for dread,
Distant vision-voices praying
For a mercy on the dead.

Then they closed his eyelids, weeping,
Left him to the dark of noon,
And not e'en his soul was lying
There beside him in a swoon.

Yet he heard a heart a-beating
Beating through the very floor,
Like the sound of children knocking,
Knocking on their mother's door,

Till she took him up and clothed him,
Wrapt him in a space of time;
Made him feel that he was measured
Making up a metred rhyme.

He speaks.
Death, mother of bodies, has measured my days;
My soul has failed to order my ways,
Failed to make me promise to give
Myself to herself -- promise to live --

For her to steal and snatch for my sake
My will, by torture and torment to take
The essence of matter, the person of man.
Without me the soul is but liquid that ran
From an overturned vessel to spill on the floor;
As the vainness of wind that beats on a door,
Till only the laughter of silence replies,
Moving and mocking until the wind dies.

I needed the knowledge mere life cannot learn,
Mere reaping and sowing, mere working to earn;
No living, no loving, no lusting can teach
What pain and a passion's desire cannot reach.
Anew I am born from the womb of a death,
And the soul-self robbed of her symbol -- the breath --
Doth buzz like a fly on the windows of space,
Soul without body -- form without face.

Die, and go with a going
That's only a change in thee:
Live and grow with a growing
That only a world can see.

Matter, my body, has passed into earth,
Has tasted the rain, and has fretted at dearth;
Has crept through the trees that pillar the night
Red-eyed down the wind in a leaf-green light;
Has slept like the sand in the roar of the spray --
Grey-green are the skies of an ocean's day,
Where boom the bell-like colours that swing
To the tunes of the ballads that sea-shapes sing.
The mother of man and the measured beat
Of a heart that's married to molten heat;
Force of her travail, power from her pain,
Has wrought man a body and made man a brain.
The chanceless change of a time-turned year
Gives to that body the gift of fear.

He stirred as the love of his mother
Laughed at the pain of his birth;
Nor felt that the bosom that suckled
Was not the bosom of earth.

A shape that came in a colour,
Not substance, yet subtle and strong,
In the language of colour had claimed him
With a voice like the beat of a gong.

The voice of the returning soul.
Pour out the You from your matter,
The fitness from out of your form,
Your sound is part of a silence,
The stress of a storm.

I cast no shadow in sunlight,
Gleamless I shine in her shade,
I am called more mystic than matter,
Like God am I made.
I seek that I may be sought for,
I am found that men may forget
Themselves in the silence surrounding
The wind of my step.
On the silver grass of dawn dew-damp
Is the scattered sign of her restless tramp;
As she moves, and watches, and wonders, why
Men fear their mother, fear to die.

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