Things More Ancient : VIII
First, make a letter like a monument –
An upright like the fast-held hewn stone
Immovable , and half-rimming it
The strength of Behemoth his neck-bone,
And underneath that yoke, a staff, a rood
of no less hardness than the cedar wood.
Then, on a page made golden as the crown
Of sainted man. a scripture you enscroll
Blackly, firmly with the quickened skill
Lessoned by famous masters in our school,
And with an ink whose lustre will keep fresh
For fifty generations of our flesh.
And limn below it the Evangelist
In raddled coat, on bench abidingly,
Simple and bland: Matthew his name or Mark,
Or Luke or John; the book is by his knees,
And thereby his similitudes : Lion,
Or Calf , or Eagle, or Exalted Man.
The winds that blow around the World- the four
Winds in their colours on your pages join –
The Northern Wind – its blackness interpose;
The Southern Wind -its blueness gather in;
In redness and in greenness manifest
The splendours of the Winds of East and West.
And with these colours on a ground of gold
Compose a circuit will be seen by men
As endless patience; but is nether web
Of endless effort- a strict pattern:
illumination lighting interlace
Of cirque and scroll, of panel and lattice.
A single line describes them and enfolds,
One line, one course whose term there is none,
Which in its termlessness is envoying
The going forth and the return one.
With man and beast and bird and fish therein
Transformed to species that have never been.
-With mouth a-gape or beak a-gape each stands
initial to a verse of miracle,
Of mystery and of marvel (Depth of God)
That Alpha and Omega may not spell,
Then,finished with these wonders and these signs,
Turn to the figure of your first outlines.
Axal, our angel, has sustained you so
In hand, in brain; now to seal that thing
With figures many as the days of man,
And colours, like the fire’s enamelling
That baulk, that letter you have greatly reared
To stay the violence of the entering Word !
Adjutorium nostrum , in nomine Domini
Qui fecit caelum et terram.
from The Poet’s Circuits, Collected Poems of Ireland ; Centenary Edition with a Preface by Benedict Kiely. Dolmen Press , Dublin. 1981 The Monuments , by Padraic Colum