Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HERE IS MUSIC: NUNC DIMITTIS, by AUSTIN PHILIPS



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HERE IS MUSIC: NUNC DIMITTIS, by            
First Line: A man, / low on the westering stage of large-liv'd life
Last Line: Last off'ring, glad and grateful for your goodly ways.
Subject(s): Harmonicas; Singing & Singers


A MAN,
Low on the westering stage of large-liv'd life,
(Life's loyal lover still!)
Free'd from quotidian
Fever and friction, fret,
From storm, from stress, from strife,
Fond, foolish clash of will,
Seeking his good within and not without,
Odious ambitions ousted, put to rout,
Grown spiritual anchoret,
Knowing full well that, runner down the straight,
He nears the goal awarded him by Fate,
And, well-fed guest on viands coarse and fair,
Ungrudging goes to greet Death in Death's lair,
Sings now last swan-song, pours forth paean of praise
To that great Unknown God who gave him length of days.

Who gave
Him—first—glad, gracious, bounteous boon of birth
(Best gift, perhaps of all
This side the teeming grave!)
To twain who, loving much
Each other, music, mirth,
Happy, harmonical,
Exquisite hours of truest tenderness
Shower'd on their little son in measureless
Measure ... and thus to touch
The very stars taught him ... so that they three
Seemed sharers in insoluble intimacy,
Which heighten'd, deepen'd, strangthen'd till the boy
Walked hand in hand with Love Himself, fresh joy
Found each new dawn, as though benignant nod
Bless'd him, brought one more favour from the Unknown God.

Who gave
And took away ... since stark, fierce jealousy
And lust to dominate
Lurked in the sire who, slave
Made of the mother, bent
His being ruthlessly
To forge, to fabricate
His child self-counterpart; Narcissus, stood
Gazing in vanity; with wrath imbu'd,
With frustrate fury rent,
Each time he sensed the image that he saw
Not wholly like his own, who hailed as flaw
All unresemblance, turned full force again
To fashioning his like, found that in vain
He strove; then, raging, impotent to o'er-ride
Nature, for all time snatched small son from much-loved side.

For this—
E'en this—my thanks, Oh Great and Unknown God!
Who, in that earliest hour,
Showed, brought and gave me bliss,
Large, lavish, so complete,
Then touched me with your rod
And, ruthless vavasour,
Taking your gift, gave greater, lest I be
Softened and sapped by sweet satiety,
Sent me, in sad escheat,
Insatiate seeker, East, West, North and South
In spiritual hunger, harried by heart's drouth,
To yearn, to hunt, to find a space, to lose,
Outgrow, learn victories end in overthrows,
To be a man, strive, suffer, till, full ripe,
I stood true individual, not mere tristful type.

Did You
Not save Your child from sorry servitude
To Art in callow Youth?
Did You not, gracious, strew
His path with stone and thorn,
Bid him go, grief-endu'd,
Taught by each tear fresh truth?
Vast and strong-visioned, bend and bruise and break
His being, rend his heart for Love's sweet sake?
Feed him with hungry morn,
Famishing midnight? 'Spite foul Philistines,
See him serve, slave in secret, priest at mine-deep shrines,
Sire-named "degenerate", self-styled "nidering",
Torn by Home-taunts thrice sharper than Death's sting. ...
While You, Oh Great Unknown, in magian might,
Urged him, unknowing, upward ... onwards, out of Night?

If in
These Songs, and if, uttered in mine own name,
In Prose or Verse, there be
One thought whose origin
Sprang from myself, which drew
Its inspiration, came,
Swift and inevitably,
Offspring of joy and happiness, grief and smart,
Out of the wrung and tortured human heart
To strengthen and renew
Those who themselves have striven to fight free,
At fearful cost, to spiritual liberty. ...
If one who reads herein shall start and say,
"Since he who wrote these words took harder way,
And, taking it, found prison'd soul's release,
May not I, too, who tread like perilous path, find peace?"

If this. ...
Granter of myriad boons and much-blest gifts,
Hearken, while Ishmael hails
Him who gives genesis
To large-liv'd lives, who shapes
His chosen few, and lifts
Them sky-ward; whose fierce flails
Flog the staunch forward; who, as taskmaster, bars
The broken road ... so tempts them towards the stars
To reach the prize he rapes. ...
For that first bludgeoning, for every blow
The tramp of Time has brought, Unknown One, know
That he Your wrath and ruth, deliberate, drave
To find, and be, himself, to whom You, regal, gave
Hope, vision, dream, high purpose, on Your altar lays
Last off'ring, glad and grateful for Your goodly ways.





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