Time: Mid Winter
Place: The Cave of Prometheus
They’ve lain a long time here,
That’s all we know;
We cannot tell the length in nights and days.
And what are nights and days?
And who knows in the making of them
What joy or weariness
Moves fast or slow?
The cave within is dark and damp;
Heavy sleet-drops fall,
The tops of the ash trees sway,
And lonely desolate crows call out.
Prometheus is cold;
Where are the heavy skins
That came between him
and the frost and the night?
Though it was cold
They stole the heavy skins
He had always forgotten in the evening light.
We’ve brought him meat
And water many a time.
Sometimes he’ll eat
When left alone.
He has no gratitude;
We and the rat who comes to steal his food
Are equals – hurried from his sight
With a stick or stone.
The air is full of snow
That cannot fall;
And in the shallow space
Between the ground and the sky
The crows fly low and caw,
And light upon the thorns
Among the rocks;
The cows wait slowly
In the vivid fields;
The sky is slit with green
At the far-off end.
Prometheus creeps towards the dusty shape
That has taken the Storyteller’s place,
And, finding its vague face,
Speaks in its ear;
As though one spoke to a heap of last year’s leaves.
Storyteller, since fire drove us back,
You’ve been besieged by this grey dream;
Wake up, before me and behind,
A length of days lies like a frozen stream.
Snow falling day and night
Has half relieved the swollen sky,
And paralysed the ground with white.
Wake up, since you’ve been dumb and dead
I’ve never caught my breath at the new moon;
And the full round white moon
I’ve used to count and space the night.
Hour after hour we feel the silence grow.
I hear the shiver of a branch
And the soft tumbling of its load of snow.
There is a sound in the cave;
The grey shape stirs,
It moves, it rises, brightens, springs,
It whirls, it flings
Its own increasing colour
Through the darkness of the cave,
It has become the Storyteller.
Prometheus, follow me, Prometheus, come.
And once again the Storyteller runs
With his own rhythm and speed;
Over the surface of the fresh snow
His footsteps fall as lightly as leaves.
Prometheus rises, tries to follow,
Tottering, damaged by fire and cold,
He falls in the drift of snow
At the mouth of the cave.
He cries, the Storyteller turns,
Runs back across the untouched snow,
Stoops, then as a hunter slings
A beast he has killed across his shoulders,
With a single gesture
And on again they go;
But now the Storyteller’s back is bowed;
For the first time his eyes look on the ground;
For the first time his feet sink in the snow;
He sings laboriously;
A trail of song
And a long row
Of knee-deep sockets filled with blue shadow
Mark their slow journey towards the evening sky.