Third Ten – Songs of the Heart


  1. Hoelderlin
  2. Faithful Johnny
  3. Spring
  4. Minuet
  5. Harmonious Blacksmith
  6. Old Ballad
  7. Angles Angels
  8. Lullaby
  9. Beethoven’s Farewell
  10. Untitled

1. Hoelderlin

Make no mistake
what he saw is coming;
make no mistake
what is gone is all gone.
Words must decay
lose their core and meaning
fading away
into an unknown:

Songs of the heart
songs of a dried-up stream:
clear as a bell
timeless as water
fragile as blossom
his words came streaming.

Years to him days
centuries seasons
amid the self-praise
of souls diminished
straight from the spring
he drew, for healing,
the plain clear song
of an age long-vanished

Songs of the heart
songs for a dried-up world
he sang them well
in the teeth of darkness
in the face of laughter
burning out his reason.

Make no mistake
what he saw is coming
his dawn will break
what it brings is unknown.
Words must decay
lose their core and meaning
washed all away
like a morning of rain;

Songs of the heart
songs of a vanished world
clear as a bell
timeless as water
fragile as blossom
his words came tumbling.

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2. Faithful Johnny

They vowed that they would raise us up
to a chosen nation
and they promised us the throne of kings
if we would be faithful;
We entrusted to their hands
our hopes of salvation
and like children at wedding games
promised to be faithful

John the blacksmith shook his head
“their word’s light as rotten thread”;
and the word of his dim forge
always did delight us

Willing and hungry men
wheels and engines shaking
promised him all that he could dream
release from his slow labour.
The red light of spreading fires
they called the new dawn breaking
and when the outraged earth groaned aloud
they called it pangs of labour

John the blacksmith closed his eyes
“fools that fight against such lies”
but the work of his dim forge
always did delight us

John the blacksmith quenched his coals
in the dreams of shrunken souls
his hammer echoes grimly

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3. Spring

She was my heart-beat in the darkness;
she was my path, green in the snow;
Then tell me, if you know the answer,
where would her vigour and beauty go?

She was the song I’d always promised
that rises young and morning-true
that has no mark of ageing on it
that’s like a glass full of spring’s first dew

She was the garden I’d always tended
with selfheal, yarrow, and burnet rose
and dark hides where blackbird and wren sing
and mossy lairs where the cool toad goes

She was the house where all’s provided
the high trees round it, where east wind roars
she was the dusk, she was the fireside
when youth and sunlight withdraw indoors.

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4. Minuet

She came close to me, perfumed
like a field of flowers
a courtly dance she danced
lifting her dress;
she was like an open flower
but my seed still slept
a child I dreamed I’d strayed
into paradise

The dance she led me then
once in the time of flowers
has too fine a measure for my
dull feet to tread –

But lusty as he-goats old
men watched young girls play
thigh-deep in meadows, in
the time of flowers;
poor innocents, fragile as
their vigour would prove,
had they known, would they
have still planned such wars?

Now those old men’s schemes seem
Satan’s conspiracy
deadly their touch on the
delicate sod –

She came close to me, perfumed
like a field of flowers
a taunting dance she danced
wounding with grace;
she was like an open flower
but my seed was blind,
poisoned, I called the earth
a lost paradise.
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5. Harmonious Blacksmith

Master clocksmith
whose fine wheels with
speed of thought or lightning dart

cold men stop and stare
as into their
calculations breaks the heart;

they build walls where
beneath their din and warfare
they hear the rumour of his hammer-blows against the dark
they see him resurrecting
out of the shadows where he does his work

his lazy apprentice
who barely rules five senses
who thinks Dame Nature taught him that his heart could never break
learns her iron rule
one small step to lose his soul
five centuries of war to win it back.

Master wheelwright
shedding broad light
from his workshop steps the sun

should the dead be
undisturbed, he
laughs and heaves aside their stone

flowers beneath him
open to greet him
each one strives to emulate that busy old fool
blue, green, yellow
daffodil and sallow
crocus and speedwell hurry to his school

larks think that high sun
has heat to make the forge run
to turn the slugabed cold steel to ploughshare or to sword;
woe unending
proud neck unbending
where’s the winter to the singing bird?

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6. Old Ballad

St Thomas and St Francis strode through the Holy See
and looked up into the blessed Tree
the God smiled down amidst his pain
and blessed them both most blessedly.

“With Aristotle’s soul, and holy Caesar’s sword,”
said sweet St Thomas, “comes the word”;
the God smiled on, but bled like rain
while on his head perched a Cuckoo-bird.

“As song of song-bird in the tree,”
St Francis said, “God’s word shall be”;
and still the God smiled, but his head
was severed clean from his body.

Then to the Tree in that same hour
the Hen-wife brought the saxon Whore;
the God hung dumb, but winked at them
while those saints summoned angelic power.

That blue-eyed beauty did her worst,
she showed them desert, she showed them thirst;
the God still smiled, his wounds were healed
and Thomas fell to her logic first.

“Chop off his head,” the Hen-wife said,
“and let him grope his way instead;”
the God smiled on, on lilywhite brain
old Wotan’s starving Ravens fed.

As gaily thus they were discoursing
there came the Nazarean King;
“God bless you, lord,” the Hen-wife roared
and still the God hung suffering.

Then longing seized that golden-headed Whore
for Solomon’s long-hidden power:
the dead God blessed the wedding feast
of sulphurous Fiend and sweet Saviour.

St Francis took the Hen-wife’s hand;
“no creature,” he said, “need understand.”
There was no God to watch them stride
off through the blasted barren land.

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7. Angles Angels

I asked for a slave
and you gave me an Angel –
their hair like the sunlight
their eyes blue as heaven,
like giants they strode past
and laughed like thunder
each thing they touched filled
their eyes with wonder;
my dark-haired lords
spoke of the world’s youth –
when you sent us the Angel
he stole my heart away
he filled our hearts with joy;
– Whips in his hand
his set jaw
and cold eye
seem a world apart.

She came as a slave
when he longed for an angel
and how he abused her
and how he mistook her
and she was patient
and gifts she made him
when raging soothed him
when hungry fed him
and rocked him to
sleep on the myth
of a fallen angel
bright Lucifer his name
Prince Lucifer, star of dawn;
– Sweet as a child
as a flower
of the earth
now he wastes for her.

King of the Slavs
and the golden-haired Aryans
from Urals to Kerry
from Crete to Inari
his realm extended
his word was binding
his judgments pliant
his law was kindly
his Hebraic
eagle-eyed lords were
the people’s teachers
his title King of the World
the promised King of the World;
– White-haired and bent
now he sits
clasping his knees
and slavering.

I longed for a King
and you gave me a People:
a scourge through the ages
her terror of change was,
she raised stone tablets
where Eden’s gates had
long since rusted
unwilling to
move from God’s presence
she had her fallen Angel
whips of red flame in his hand
scourges of flame round him chained;
– Bowing my head
like a stone
for a crown
her longing and shame.

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8. Lullaby

My lord who healed
my lord who died
had twelve strong men
to hold up his head;
but sleep sound, my darling, the harvest is in
King Dagobert is lying in the wood of Katyn.

The sower has sown
the reaper must reap
the golden heads nod
before winter’s sleep;
then let dreams be your nurture, while you are still young:
the forest birds will wake you with their morning song.

Though the trial that falls
to Christendom’s part
be the healing of
her wounded heart
sleep sweetly, my darling, for the leaves are still green
King Dagobert is lying in the wood of Katyn.

My lord came down
from his shining throne
and offered his life
to the ravening Hun;
so sleep easy my darling, for Christendom’s safe;
the forest birds will wake you, if you’re not grown deaf.

The holy Romans
the sanctified lords
take their harvest in
with red-rusted swords.
Though your dreams be disturbed, dear, may you take no great hurt
from the dogs that fight over the shreds of your heart

The forest was filled
with nightingales’ song
as the innocent King
rode blindly along;
but when the dark tyrants rise, dear, quiet dreams may you have
though they skip and embrace on young Dagobert’s grave.

My lord who healed
my lord who died
had one faithful man
to hold up his head.
Rest your weary head, darling, and slumber again
till the King comes once more from the wood of Katyn.

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9. Beethoven’s Farewell

Realms of skill
cities of art
while cold-faced men
carved realms of power
a world apart –
With joy we worked
we were so blind
we made believe
knowledge and growth
could never end;

I drove my skill
to its high flower
from noon the sun can only fall
when it goes down
in blood and ruin
a weak-brained tribe mumbles on in
the night none foresaw.

Among the guns
the realms of steel
the German child walked
with the nations
at his tail –
Hänschen klein
in the wide world alone
a knob of wood
and skill to carve
was all he owned;

The German house
a gilded tomb
the child soon grew to monstrous size;
all our love
was not enough
our cities drowned in the age-
old tyrannies.

Cities of steel
cities of glass
an arrogance
to prison light
or let it pass –
cold-eyed they grew
from staring hard
the living earth
would tremble at
their very word;

Slaves to a dream
of glory that was
how quickly their fingers forget and grow numb!
crude and gross
all that they produce:
the smoke goes up, our story
dissolves in the sun.

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10. Untitled

One foot on the shore, one hand in the sea
he’s tethered by the neck to a holly-tree;
a thousand years he’s lived on fears
but still he laughs outrageously.

Who charted the sea? Who planted the land?
– a king who deals from a broken hand;
who was the clown of Hamelin town
but Robin that headed the outlaw band?

He flings his skinny arms open wide
the lord of river and mountain-side
the piper of spring, the woodland king
the juggler who swallowed an Emperor’s pride.

And who scratched the boundaries with a glass-headed pin?
It was cosmopolitan Harlequin;
from the Great Bear’s lair to Peter’s Square
he scattered his children and fenced them in.

And mighty Jesus sucks vinegar still
and littleman Jack has his Fool on the Hill;
the realms of glass soon shatter and pass
and in the ruins the nettles grow well!

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One response to “Third Ten – Songs of the Heart

  1. Pingback: Almost Heaven | Coldhome

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