Time: Early Summer (Sunset)
Place: The Cave of Prometheus
Here at the mouth of his cave Prometheus sits,
The Storyteller, quiet, lies at his side,
The evening light is pouring through the fields,
And changes are coming on the rocks and hills.
Through the dark night and through the flat white day,
Because this light may break out of the sky
When morning comes or when the day is done,
Even when he works or sleeps Prometheus waits.
And now it shines on me,
My hands and feet
Seem powdered like the wings
The little stalks of grass have grown so wonderful
I cannot idly pluck them;
A small black beetle
Has a yellow wing.
Prometheus, let me sing.
Trees bend towards me,
And their shadows
Creep on the light
As if they made a hush so I might listen –
Those separate living trees
That were till now
Part of a dumb green background,
Each with some strangeness
To communicate –
But so much crowds on me
My mind is squandered;
I am uneasy
For this light will go.
This is a wasteful light
That never stays.
It makes and makes
And wipes away.
I’ve heard all day
The humming things that fly
And all the little buzzing things in the grass
Call out unmeaning noise
To the open sky,
But now this light has herded in their sounds.
It only herds the sounds to let them go;
So let us sing
Of some brightness that will linger,
A brightness that will hold
The evening sounds for us to string them
In a row
Like shells or stones.
The cliffs are hushed
And all at ease
And flushed and warm;
‘Tis strange that these
Must frown and threaten in the heavy dusk,
And as the darkness comes grow cold and black.
Relentless light would drive the darkness back
To the woods to lie with mould and rotten leaves;
Unwearied glow would dare the cold
Come further than the shores of the lake
Where it could hide among the shivering weeds.
As the Storyteller sings
He rises to his knees,
His hair grows bright,
His body sways
He shivers with light
Like the aspen trees;
Across the things that are,
Things that may be;
He tells strange things.
His voice is pleasant when he sings,
But listen with your ears half dull,
So that the sound alone is heard,
Like the voice of a grasshopper or bird –
Another sound to make the evening murmur full.
Sit again at your ease,
Let your eyes blink,
Clasp your hand round your knees,
Let strange things be;
There is enough to feel and see
In the things we know.
Yes, Storyteller, sing of the things we know,
For nothing is more lovely than this light.
But lovely like the merest edge of Spring
When trees have their green mist of buds,
And on cold river banks
The alder catkins blow
Like slanting rain,
Not lovely like the early Summer woods.
This radiance comes
And quickly goes,
But changefulness alone
Is some delight.
Fire is more changeful than a flight
Of plover rising from a field
That flutters dark and light
And dark and light.
Now that the coloured light
Is widest, brightest over all the place,
Prometheus with a new neglect
Looks only in the Storyteller’s face.
In the Storyteller’s eyes Prometheus sees
The coloured light again, but sees it rise
And curl and take the shapes of waves;
It grows like branching trees,
Its colours deepen,
As when the wind blows through flowers;
He sees in it the motions
Of flowing water and wings of birds.
Hold with me
Sing of it,
Bring it near,
From this coloured light,
With the strength of waves
And the delight of flowers,
With the motions
Of flowing water and the wings of birds.
The poppy’s redness struggles with the dusk,
The blue of the tufted vetch drowns quietly;
But fire will convoy through the night
The sky’s blue
And the peacock’s and the sea’s,
And the blue
Of the wild hyacinth
Spilt in the wood
In the spaces between trees.
Prometheus and the Storyteller sing,
The air around their cave grows thick with singing,
And as they sing they sway
To a strange flickering rhythm.
Their minds have grown more close until at last
They are a single mind,
They whirl so fast
That we can scarcely follow,
Like an eddy in a stream
They drag into themselves and swallow
The things that build their dream;
And all things otherwise
This single, swirling mind annihilates.
Their eyes let go,
Their song dies down,
The glow begins to quit the grass.
A little colour falls from every blade,
Leaving the ground a pale sour green;
And piece by piece
The clinging light
Slips from the tree-trunks
And their shadows fade.
The ring of light grows small;
All round the clotted dusk knits up the trees.
I see no more,
I feel a raindrop fall,
I’m drowsy with the smell of leaves.
End of Part I