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From the Titans to the Titanic - Ballads of Gods, Heroes and Mortals


Creation and Subjugation
Leaving the Neanderthal
Memories of Doggerland
Rhapsody of the Red Rose (Adonis and Aphrodite)
The Lyre's Death (Orpheus and Eurydice)
Daedalus
The Bells of Nagnata
The Fatal Love Spot (Diarmait and Grainne)
Nerthus
The Doorstep of the Gods
The Birth of God
Invitation to the Afterlife
Jephtah's Lament
John the Baptist
Blood on the Saviour's Hands
The Ballad of the Jester and the King
The Spirit of Jealousy
The Changeling
The Blood of Verden
The Flight of Alice Kyteler
Around the World in Eighteen Years
The Flying Dutchman
The Lost Race in the Tobacco Field
Edgar and the Assassins (Death of Edgar Allan Poe)
From Thebes to Lisheenacooravan
Mr Thirteenth (The Story of Thaddeus Stevens)
The Decline of Sitting Bull
The Ghost Dance
Building the Trans-Siberian Railway
The Final Stop of Casey Jones
Never to Return (South Pole Expedition)
The Silent Defeat (Titanic)
To the Slaughter (Easter Rising)
How to Become a Hero (The Last Tommy)
Armistice (Wilfred Owen)
The Migrant
Final Solutions
Al-Nakba (The Palestinian Diaspora)
Dead Mountain (The Dyatlov Pass Incident)
The Spirit of Humanity
The Conversion of Norma McCorvey
Living with Pluto
Early Heroes of the Third Millennium
The Evil Host
The Secret Word
Prince Ledvi

Creation and Subjugation

After he’d spent eternity alone,
god Arivu, who was the only thing
that did exist back in the olden days,
got bored and finally decided that
he would do something with his life. He tore
some of his hairs out, rolled them in a ball
and started to create the universe.

And after all the galaxies and stars,
the planets and the satellites were shaped,
he took another look at Planet Earth
and populated it with lots of plants
and many creatures whom he brought to life.

When man came on the scene, the god ensured
they had enough to eat and oftentimes
appeared to them in human form to help
and settle petty squabbles that broke out
amongst their families or tribes. On one
of these occasions Arivu laid eyes
on Peracai, a lissom maiden who
was fetching water from the village well,
and fell in love. They married on the spot,
and Arivu saw fit to deify
the girl and have a goddess by his side.

But Peracai was hardly satisfied
with anything he had to offer her;
whatever he would give her, she’d demand
a multiple of it, be it the pearls
he used to decorate her lavish crown
or all the marble for the temples that
he built for her. While he looked after man,
she craved the little they possessed and claimed
that as a goddess she’s entitled to
whatever she desires without regard
for humans and their sufferings and deaths.

Soon Peracai found out she was with child,
and she devised a plan to rule mankind,
helped by the son she carried, and one night
she poisoned Arivu with hemlock wine.

The widowed pregnant goddess afterwards
travelled the world, instructing every tribe
in worship, pray’r and sacrifice to her,
with her instructions being different for
each of the tribes, while stressing that the way
to worship her would have to be observed
in every detail. Every family
each year would have to sacrifice at least
twelve cows; who did not have them was allowed
to sacrifice a human in their stead.
‘But we shall starve!’ some chiefs entreated her,
to which the goddess callously replied,
‘The more you sacrifice to me, the more
I’ll give you in return,’ but failed to state
the nature of the blessings she’d bestow.
‘And once he is a man, I’ll send my son
to help you with your problems and to cope
with any difficulties you may face.’

She named her son Veruppu, and she taught
him that the Earth was theirs with everything
that lived on it. They saw their cattle herds
and slave gangs grow each year when humans brought
their offerings, and when he had grown up
she sent him to the villages and tribes,
intending to divert their anger from
the unloved goddess to their fellowmen.

And so he waded through the corpses of
the famine victims till he reached the tribes,
and he informed the men about the true
reasons for all their sufferings and pain,
which were, according to his mother, but
the sins of their respective neighbours who
worshipped her incorrectly and who sneaked
into their sheds at night to milk their cows
and steal their eggs; ‘Just look at them,’ he urged,
‘they’re different from yourselves - in fact, they are
not even really human, and as long
as they’re alive and dwelling next to you,
you cannot prosper nor exist in peace!’
And for a little while he’d stay to watch
the bloodshed he had caused and then move on
to the next tribe. Eventually he returned
home to his mother, to their large estate
which covers most of the entire world
and their vast herds which never will provide
milk, food or winter clothes for anyone;
possessions merely for possession’s sake.

Nothing has changed. We all still spend our lives
catering for the leeches, and we blame
each other for our poverty and thrall.
Our blind compliance is her only strength,
so if we simply ceased our offerings
to Peracai and started to ignore
Veruppu’s bilious advice, we all
would once again live in a world of plenty
for everyone, just like in the beginning.


Leaving the Neanderthal

Farewell, my dear Neanderthal! I’ll miss
your rugged features, and I dread to face
a life away from you without the bliss
of sleeping safely in your tight embrace.

You have provided for me, even though
at times quite sparsely, but my thanks are due,
yet often I - I thought I’d let you know -
wondered if I meant anything to you.

The joys and woes you brought I can’t describe,
and I would love to stay, I must declare,
but since the mammoths have moved North, our tribe
must follow lest we perish in your care.

No more will I lay eyes upon your caves,
your precipice, your sprinkling waterfall,
your grotto with our ancestors’ cold graves
nor you; farewell, my dear Neanderthal!


Memories of Doggerland

Where shall we find a place like home where reindeer
and aurochs graze amidst the verdant plain,
with lakes and brooks providing clean fresh water
instead of us collecting dew and rain?

We shall not gaze upon the river delta
again nor climb the rolling Dogger Hills
to watch the travels of the woolly mammoths
and practice and perfect our hunting skills.

No more we’ll see the giant oak tops sticking
out of the sandy mudflats at low tide,
and all our forests, vales, lagoons and marshes
have disappeared with all they did provide.

We’ll go no more a fishing in the channel
where Thames and Rhine once merged with other streams,
and of our huts, our village and our people
nothing remains apart from us, it seems.

Now Doggerland is taken by the ocean
with its abundance and its beauty; thus,
though memories will stay throughout our lifetimes,
at last those images will die with us.


The Rhapsody of the Red Rose

Hunting through the woods of Cypros
went Adonis with his helpers -
swiftly ran the deer he hunted,
swiftly followed Smyrna's son:
a thrilling chase, an offering to Ares,
a feast with friends was all he had in mind.

Then, ascending from the ocean,
Aphrodite raised her beauty
o'er the waves into the spirit
and from there into the veins;
the deer, the hunt, the off'ring was forgotten,
and with a sigh Adonis dropped his spear.

Black as raving flocks of ravens
flew her hair across the aether,
white as swans, dancing on rivers,
rose her body from the sea,
and pink as wild flamingoes' moistened plumage
invitingly her lips were opened wide.

Red as blood her mouth smiled fire,
blue as lakes her eyes smiled passion,
mighty and erect stood Eos
on Olympus and his twin;
between the lofty pillars of her temple
he saw the salty water dripping down.

Falling on his knees, Adonis
felt his love for her was rising -
such a perfect face and body
no one's ever seen before;
bewitched he entered Aphrodite's temple
to sacrifice to her in Ares' place.

After he had brought his off'ring,
Aphrodite's temple servant
rubbed her tiny breasts against his
restless chest and held him tight,
and soon they both were lying on the altar,
enjoying every inch of lovers' skin.

'Strength is what you need, endurance
and the mildness of a lion,
will you satisfy the Goddess,'
said the servant, out of breath;
'tonight she will await you on Mount Ida,
if you fulfil her task before the night!

'Love the seven girls of Hellas
that outshine all other beauties -
then she'll give herself, though Ares
will not let you get away;
you'll die when loving her, but in the flower
of lovers you will live for evermore!'

Smilingly she gave a ribbon
to Adonis, made of satin,
twisted it around his flowing
hair and whispered with a kiss,
'Your powers always will be concentrated
in any limb this band is tied around.' -

Still the morning sun shone brightly
o'er the blooming Grecian pastures;
Psyche waited on the mountain
for her lover, for the night -
she never saw the form, the smile of Eros,
but always longed for his exciting touch.

Bluest eyes gazed at the distance,
and her yearning face was framed by
golden curls that loosely covered
shape and fullness of her breasts;
her crimson lips were twitching with emotion,
as she anticipated night and love.

Then Adonis came and kissed her,
and he pressed her to his pelvis,
'I have never seen your beauty,
and you never looked at mine;
I couldn't wait to see you any longer,
I had to set my eyes on whom I love!'

Psyche squeezed him even tighter,
and her trembling lips discovered
every secret of her lover,
every pore and every vein;
entwined they sank into the grass, and Helos
observed the deeds Selene saw before.

Drowned in sweat they held each other,
shaking with each other's heartbeat;
finally their bodies parted,
and Adonis said farewell.
So Psyche kissed him once again, 'Be careful
that Eros doesn't see you when you leave.' -

Daphne gently stroked her lover's
fair blonde hair and kissed her forehead,
kissed her cheek, her neck and shoulders,
kissed her pale and shiv'ring breasts;
she sighed with passion, and she said to Daphne,
'What do you want? What do you want right now?'

Daphne touched her hip most softly,
softly in her ear she whispered,
'I would love to have a satyr
as a viewer and a pet!
I'd chain him to a tree: he'd have to watch us
and witness pleasures he shall never know!'

Stepping forward from the bushes
came Adonis, and he told her,
'I shall go and catch a satyr,
if you'll give me a reward.'
'I offer you my labial diamond chatelaine,
I even offer you my lover's love!'

'Keep your jewellery, dark siren,
keep the love of your sweet lover;
I'll take nothing else buy only,
gracile maid, your own sweet love!' -
'I promise anything you want, provided
you bring him here before the sun declines.'

Soon he found the nymphs and satyrs
gaily dancing in the forest;
in the middle sat Silenus,
watching them and drinking wine.
The ribbon tied around his wrist, Adonis
approached the satyrs, and he said to one,

'Daphne seeks the perfect lover
for tonight: he must be handsome,
very strong and as enduring
as the girls she had before.' -
'My dreams come true! She'll never touch a woman
again when I have taught her how to love!'

'But the mistress wants you helpless,
as she likes to be in power;
therefore I will have to bind you -
this is part of Daphne's game!'
The satyr put his arms behind his kid-back
and let Adonis tie him with a rope.

When the satyr was delivered
and Adonis claimed his payment,
Daphne laughed, 'You know exactly
that I'll never love a man!'
Adonis freed the palpitating satyr,
and with the rope he tied her to the ground. –

In the Calydonian valley,
copper-haired, with eyes of hazel,
stood the huntress Atalanta,
tallest of the Amazons,
with slender legs as white and long as birches,
the slimmest waistline and the broadest hips.

Resting on her spear she waited
for the stranger who approached her,
every muscle in her body
was prepared to start the race,
'You come to challenge me? I was ne'er beaten -
the prize is high: my hymen or your life!'

Soon Adonis reached the meadow
with the ribbon round his ankle,
and he told the handsome virgin
he was ready for the race.
'I'll meet you at the brook,' said Atalanta,
'and either winner there shall claim her prize!'

At the brook Adonis waited,
gaping at her lean appearance
and her wide and graceful paces,
as he picked a little bunch;
her breasts stood firmly like the apples of the
Hesperides and glistened in the sun.

With a winning smile Adonis
gave the flowers to the huntress,
but she said, 'A girl should never
take a flower from a man;
you court, and with your flowers you deflower,
you run, and with your strength you weaken us!'

Atalanta took the flowers,
threw them on the ground and grabbed him,
pressed his head against her bosom
and his breast against her lap,
'You challenged and defeated me - now have me,
and pray you'll love as grandly as you run!' -

Agamemnon's land lay peaceful,
and the lake was calm and quiet;
in its waters bathed Rhodopsis,
his Egyptian courtesan,
when suddenly an eagle took her sandal
and spread his mighty wings and flew away.

Blackest blackness was her colour:
she had eyes as black as midnight,
she had hair as black as ravens,
skin as black as ebony,
and smooth and shiny was her hairless body
and wet as she ascended from the lake.

Then Adonis came and saw her
sitting at the beach in anger,
and the girl's amazing blackness
was contrasted only by
the whiteness of her teeth, around her iris,
her purple peaks, the pinkness of her lips.

'Anger does not go with beauty,'
said Adonis as he timely
found the willowy enchantress,
'tell me, what is wrong with you?' -
'An eagle took my sandal, and the pebbles
will cut my feet when I am going home.'

'I will carry you,' he answered,
and he lifted her with caution,
and he felt her glowing body,
felt her soft skin on his arms;
her luring smell confused his tangled senses,
her tempting sight consumed his dazzled mind.

With her slender arms around his
neck he walked across the pebbles -
as he reached the end, he smoothly
sat her down upon the lawn;
she drew him down to her between the daisies
and wrapped her satin thighs around his waist. –

'Look, at last here comes Adonis,'
said Cassandra to her sister;
'we awaited you, relying
on your most distinguished taste.
We'll love you in Apollo's holy temple,
so he may see what he can never get.'

There Cassandra took her sister's
clothes off while she kissed her shoulder,
and Polyxena undressed her
sister while she kissed her hips;
she kissed her groin, and, turning to Adonis,
they took his clothes and kissed his cheek and chest.

Soon their searching hands and fingers
found the treasures of his body;
everywhere he saw their figures,
everywhere he felt their lips -
he only guessed the parts his hands were grabbing,
his mouth was tasting every kind of skin.

Quivering he sighed with pleasure,
as he watched the wild two maidens'
slender limbs across his body,
full brown hair around his hips,
their snake-like moves, their mounting and dismounting,
their joy in tasting every single pore.

And he saw a breast above his
face, another touched his thigh; he
kissed Polyxena's red summit,
lying in Cassandra's lap -
they pressed and rubbed their skin against Adonis',
their hungry bodies covered every limb.

He was trembling, and, delighted
with their skilful way of loving,
he lay back and held the sisters
and caressed their scarlet buds,
'I have to leave; your beauty raised my spirits,
but now I'll meet the daughter of the Swan.'

'No! Don't leave us,' begged Cassandra;
her green eyes grew large and watered,
and Polyxena embraced him
as he lingered at the door,
and, falling on her knees, she kissed Adonis -
her huge brown eyes were urging him to stay.

'You will die tonight, Adonis,
if you leave before the morning,'
said Cassandra, but he answered,
'This I know, and this I want!
Tonight I'll love the Lady of the Ladies,
and therefore I shall live for evermore!' -

Menelaus' gardens blossomed;
sleeping in the cooling shadow
of an olive tree lay Helen,
while Adonis stood and watched.
He saw her godlike face, her skin of hazel,
he saw her bosom heaving as she dreamed.

For eternities he stood there
and adored her peerless beauty,
her divine, her blooming figure,
and admired her warm brown eyes
as Helen woke, 'What are you searching, stranger?' -
'I'm looking for a beauty to match mine.'

'Here I am,' said Helen softly,
and she rose before Adonis,
just a veil between their bodies,
just a breath between their lips;
they felt the heat, they both began to tremble -
they couldn't move, they couldn't say a word.

Helen's hands reached for the collar:
with a jerk she tore her tunic,
and before the stunned Adonis
stood her breasts like Spartan shields -
he touched them gently and he held them firmly,
he squeezed them roughly, and he kissed their buds.

And she showed him through the garden,
and Adonis spread her orchid,
drank the dewdrops from its petals,
fed her crimson Venus trap;
between her palm trees he discovered heaven,
he split her peach and tasted every fruit.

After he had smelt each flower,
she was dozing off beside him,
while he rose to leave. Another
time he looked at her; she turned,
she winked and smiled and put her arms around him,
and once again they shared the bliss of love. -

Night was falling on Mount Ida;
Aphrodite stood and waited
for her lover. Then her sparrow
flew to her and said, 'He's here!
Adonis comes, who'll always be remembered
by every future lover in the world!'

And Adonis saw her standing,
saw the splendour of the Goddess
brightening the mountain's darkness,
and her beauty took his breath;
he shivered strongly with excitement, knowing
that every inch of her would be his realm.

Tight she pressed him to her body,
and he clasped her breasts of silver,
and he kissed her, and she kissed him,
and her mouth was full of love;
while tenderly they grazed on passion's pastures,
Selene spread her everluring rays.

Aphrodite's whiteness glistened
in the mellow light. Adonis
watched her skin, her graceful movements,
drowning in her deep blue eyes;
he seized the night and gladly drank her beauty
with mouth and eyes until the cup was drained.

Snow was falling on Mount Ida:
white drops softly kept on flowing
down her raven-hair, her crimson
lips and down her cherry buds;
he rested on the pillow of her bosom,
where he declared his never-ending love.

'Never will I love again like
this one night,' sighed Aphrodite.
Hidden in the royal oak wood,
Ares watched them from afar;
he changed his shape, and as a boar he darted
across and pierced Adonis with his tusk.

'Ton Adonin!' sang the flowers
and the trees of Priam's forest.
'Ton Adonin!' sang the maidens
and the grieving nymphs of Greece.
Selene veiled her face, and through the darkness
the plaintive song of Nature lingered on.

Aphrodite held Adonis
in her loving arms and kissed him,
and the tears that she was weeping
fell upon Adonis' wound;
his blood was flowing on the snow-white roses,
and red as blood they stayed until today.


The Lyre's Death

1.

Oh lost! Oh lost! I nevermore will sing,
no more my lyre shall please another ear:
as she I played for is no longer here,
I'll never touch a body nor a string.

They took my love away from me to bring
her to the underworld, the place of fear.
They made her as a shadow disappear -
none of Life's seasons did she know but spring.

I'm rich - there was a lot for them to choose:
my gardens or my art they call divine,
and none of those I'd be afraid to lose.

But as she's gone, no joy can e'er be mine -
as she has left me, I will leave my muse:
the magic of my lyre shall now decline.

2.

The magic of my lyre shall now decline,
her noble sound shall nevermore be heard
that made in silence listen man and bird
and turned the tears of sadness into wine.

The poet's magic is no longer mine
since greater evil powers have occurred,
powers that can't be fought by sword nor word
and that forbid the sun for me to shine.

The magic of my voice has now expired
that once sent golden shivers down your spine,
the singer from his business has retired.

As for my one and only love I pine,
the only one I ever have desired,
my trembling lips won't utter any line.

3.

My trembling lips won't utter any line
till they can sing to her I love once more,
till they can meet the lips I kissed before,
till in her arms my sorrow will decline.

These yearning hands will touch no food nor wine
till they can hold the lady I adore,
till once again her beauty they'll explore
before her longing flesh will melt in mine.

I served them well, so I don't understand
what caused the faithless deities to bring
such pain and grief to their devoted friend.

Whoever heard before of such a thing?
There is no other voice throughout this land
to praise a girl, a hero, god or king.

4.

To praise a girl, a hero, god or king,
your inspiration, power and good will
shall be accompanied by talent still,
so singers will enjoy hearing you sing.

Then Pegasus will take you on his wing
to where the noblest artists get their skill:
he'll stamp with force upon the holy hill
and open with his hoof the poet's spring.

He flies no more, and I don't want him to
as long as to the arms of Death you cling,
though no one else can sing the way I do.

For now my heart was stabbed by Hades' sting:
this cup of passion and of love to you,
oh lost! oh lost! I nevermore will bring.

5.

Oh lost! Oh lost! I nevermore will bring
to you my gifts of poetry and song:
I only wish that they could be as strong
as those who drew you in their fiery ring.

Oh lost! Oh lost! My breast will never cling
again to breasts which quiver as they long
for my soft touch; how could they do so wrong
to him who of their glory once did sing?

I'll lay me down until my bones be stiff
and no more life flow through this flesh of mine,
to be with you: without you I can't live.

If I could only hold again this shrine
of precious love, if I could only give
my kiss to lips as warm and sweet as wine.

6.

My kiss to lips as warm and sweet as wine
I'll bring again before the dawning day;
beside my lover I will always stay,
our lucky star for evermore will shine!

From all my earthly arts I shall resign,
as for my lady once again I'll play;
our timeless beauty will not fade away,
the power of our passion won't decline.

So come, sweet viper, let us go to sleep,
and while in peaceful dreams for her I pine,
your venom run into my body deep!

To Hades bring the burden of this shrine:
deliver now, no more to moan and weep,
my heart to one that is in need of mine.

7.

My heart to one that is in need of mine
won't come, for lack or surplus of respect
has caused my serpent servant to reject
her master's wish, and still I have to pine.

Why can I not receive this gift divine
to wax immortal by my death? In fact,
the jealous gods in any way neglect
the herald of their glory and their shine.

I praised them - in return they stole my wife,
and of the grace of those I shall not sing
who faithful artists of their song deprive.

No sacrifices neither pray'rs I'll bring
to those who took my love and spared my life;
no more to my beloved one I'll cling.

8.

No more to my beloved one I'll cling,
no more I'll look into her eyes so bright,
but with my weapon I'll put up the fight:
I'll get my lyre, and I will tune her string.

And once again the world shall hear me sing
the songs of gods - their mockery and spite,
their wickedness, their vice and great delight
in all the pain and sorrow that they bring.

Of their betrayal I will sing with fire,
of all the sufferings I have to bear
and all the tears of her whom I admire.

They will not let me sing of my despair,
but if they take from me my voice and lyre,
my music nevermore shall fill the air.

9.

My music nevermore shall fill the air
with marble temples or with golden rays
nor bring delight and laughter to the face
of him who listens, but why should I care?

The sound of music that now fills the air
uncovers all the malice and disgrace,
the cheating manners and the evil ways
of gods and heavens, but why should they care?

To Cerberus I'll sing a lullaby,
and as he sleeps, I will just like a thief
sneak to the underworld where her I'll spy.

Then I'll meet Hades, and before I'll leave
he has to let her go or tell me why
they took away from me my song-in-chief.

10.

They took away from me my song-in-chief
into your kingdom, and you still refuse
to let me join her; why do you abuse
your power thus to make me weep and grieve?

You know yourself how hard it is to leave
your lover, but at least you never lose
your wife forever - so that's no excuse,
although your yearly love affairs are brief.

It's me she needs, and it is her I need,
so let my faithful beauty leave your care,
or let me stay here lying at her feet.

If still our separation we must bear,
at least allow me now and then to meet
my swan of swans, my rose of roses fair.

11.

My swan of swans, my rose of roses fair,
how long I longed to touch, beloved one,
your gracile body, how I longed to run
again my fingers through your golden hair.

We're free, my love: we can go anywhere,
so let's get out of here to face the sun -
forgotten be the harm that they have done
to us, and now our gladness they shall share!

Again the air is filled with cheerful sound
by him who leaves with you this cave of grief -
but notice that he must not turn around.

For if he turned his head for just a brief
moment he'd lose the happiness he found
who neither knows submission nor relief.

12.

Who neither knows submission nor relief
until at last he gets you out of here
will go ahead, so you just follow near
till once again our freedom we'll receive.

There'll be no tears and no more need to grieve
when from the shadows' vale we disappear
to see the sun, our friends and live the dear
recovered life that now we did achieve.

Let's go now, and if your beloved man
does not turn round, don't think he doesn't care:
he'd have to leave his wife to Hades then.

If he looked back to see if you're still there,
the artist, losing everything again,
shall hide his art forever in despair.

13.

Shall hide his art forever in despair
the singer who is now restored to life?
With him the joyful love songs shall survive,
his lyre shall play again a merry air!

And she shall spread the tidings everywhere
that after all his struggle and his strife
her master is united with his wife,
his song of songs, his rose of roses fair!

Now look at Cerberus: he's still asleep.
Sweet dreams of Life and Love he may conceive
as he is resting there in slumber deep.

But still we have to cross the Styx to leave,
still one false move, and I'd be left to weep:
Oh lost! Oh lost! The world shall share my grief!

14.

Oh lost! Oh lost! The world shall share my grief
if at the gates of Hades we should fail -
I'm weak, my blood runs cold, my cheeks grow pale
to think our gladness we might not retrieve.

But none of that: our freedom we'll receive,
and over evil powers we'll prevail:
the Styx is silent, Charon sets the sail,
and for the better brighter world we leave.

Aboard, my love! His boat waits at the pier
that’ll bring us back to see the flow’rs of spring.
Are you still there? Aye, there you are, my dear!

Come back, my love, my one and everything!
She will not come - forever she'll stay here:
oh lost! oh lost! I nevermore will sing.

15.

Oh lost! Oh lost! I nevermore will sing -
the magic of my lyre shall now decline,
my trembling lips won't utter any line
to praise a girl, a hero, god or king!

Oh lost! Oh lost! I nevermore will bring
my kiss to lips as warm and sweet as wine,
my heart to one that is in need of mine,
no more to my beloved one I'll cling.

My music nevermore shall fill the air:
they took away from me my song-in-chief,
my swan of swans, my rose of roses fair.

Who neither knows submission nor relief
shall hide his art forever in despair:
oh lost! oh lost! The world shall share my grief!


Daedalus

King Minos drove his cart through Knossos
and watched the crowd at the bazaar,
bald peasants with their noble spouses
and acrobats from near and far.

And in a busy street he spotted
a carpenter who moved with grace
and couldn't help but staring at the
long golden curls that framed his face.

'I want this boy,' the King demanded;
his soldiers soon found Daedalus,
and he was summoned to the palace
where Minos asked him for a kiss.

'I could not love a man,' he answered,
'not even if it meant my life;
my King, don't think me disrespectful,
but I would rather have your wife.'

With this he glanced across the courtyard;
a carpenter's dream, Pasiphae
flaunted her flawless sylphlike body
and raised her dress for all to see.

'Talking of which,' the King imparted,
his solemn mien all sorrowful,
'with men she neither can be bothered,
because she loves my strongest bull.

'Since months she's trying to seduce him
though he won't even look at her,
and still her deviant intention
she is not willing to defer.

'Pasiphae now does my head in
with all her whimpers and her sighs,
and I will have no peace on Gaia
unless she gets her way or dies.

'For anyone who solves this problem
to see my peace of mind restored,
for anyone prepared to help me
I have a wonderful reward:

'An ebon Linear B tablet
which I have signed myself, and this
in aeons will be worth a fortune -
if it should last that long, that is.'

So Daedalus set out and slaughtered
the most attractive cow in Crete,
hollowed her out and trussed her carcass
in which the Queen abode her treat.

And when she learned that she was pregnant,
she reassured the child within,
'Although your father is surrounded
by walls, you'll never be fenced in!'

She calved one sultry summer's evening
(after some labour pains, I trust),
but when she saw her bovine love child,
her face contorted with disgust.

The King perceived her disappointment,
'That's what I've told you ever since -
if you select a brute as father,
you can't expect to bear a prince.'

And yet Pasiphae decided
to breast-feed it when it was born;
one breast she fed it on its arrival,
the other one the following morn.

It grew up in the royal gardens
and people called it Minotaur,
but as it lived on human beings,
they left the island by the score.

Again the desperate King required
the help of Daedalus, 'Once more
I need you; have my golden necklace,
if you can stop the Minotaur!'

So when it was asleep, he started
to build a wall around the beast,
keeping his eyes skinned for the monster;
he was afraid, to say the least.

But just before Daedalus finished,
its mother had its rights secured,
'You cannot close that wall - I promised
that he would never be immured!'

Daedalus only shrugged his shoulders
and left the gap, but round the wall
he built another and another;
he didn't cease to work at all.

Most gaps were leading to blind alleys;
he didn't rest a single day,
until his dreadful fears subsided
the Minotaur might find the way.

'My King, the isle of Crete is safe now,'
the architect gleefully smiled;
that day Pasiphae decided
to pay a visit to her child.

And from that day the Queen went missing;
the King wept at her terebinth
and minted coins commemorating
the Lady of the Labyrinth.

Alone he had to walk his gardens,
alone he had to sleep at night -
though this had been the case already,
he turned against his acolyte,

'No matter which it was that swallowed
my wife, you have created it,
and I will have you executed
to terminate your noxious wit!'

So he was thrown into the tower
in which he had to share his cell
with Icarus who was expecting
his jaunt from Life to Death as well.

'It doesn't pay to spurn a monarch,'
the youngster said. 'Don't you agree?' -
'It certainly does pay,' he answered,
'I just don't like the currency!'

Two vultures nesting in the window
checked on the inmates every day:
they clearly were anticipating
a special treat being on the way.

And every time they left the tower,
Daedalus climbed up to their nest,
collecting all their giant feathers
which he was hiding at his chest.

Then, on the night before their hanging,
still being legally alive,
he called the guard and told him, 'Listen,
as we will be expunged at five,

'We need to talk about our future;
could we not get your torch to keep
our minds awake?' - The guard consented,
'As long as you don't oversleep.'

As soon as he was gone, they acted:
they covered arms and hands in wax
and stuck the feathers in it, cursing
and ridiculing Minos Rex.

Before they jumped out of the window,
Daedalus said, 'We're safe, but shun
the lethal laser beams of Helos:
make sure you stay out of the sun!'

They flew all night. The sun was rising
as Icarus rose eagerly;
his wings caught fire, the wax was melting,
and soon he plunged into the sea!

So Icarus' example shows us
once more evocatively that
those who are easily enkindled
are very likely to get wet.

Daedalus made it to the mainland,
but still he wasn't meant to find
peace, for wherever he was going,
King Minos followed close behind.

The King lay in a bath one evening
which he expected to be filled
with water through a pipe; thereafter
his foe was to be found and killed.

Upstairs was Daedalus, preparing
a kettle which he filled with oil;
he placed the kettle on the fire
and gently brought it to the boil.

I needn't tell you what has happened
when finally the bath arrived;
suffice to say King Minos perished
that night while Daedalus survived.

Thus he became the famous hero
of whom we hear in songs and books,
prevented from the love of woman
by hair growth, intellect and looks.


The Bells Of Nagnata

In a valley near the ocean
stood the city of Nagnata,
heart of commerce and devotion;
here, in Erin’s thriving gem,
the Dagda lived and his inamorata
beside the shrine his people built for them.

In a mill the men were grinding
corn while bards gave their renditions
at the streamlets that were winding
through ravines down to the sea,
from near and far the traders and musicians
arrived, becoming what they strove to be.

Mansions, roads and public places
yielded its distinguished aura,
fishermen with ruddy faces
sat on stones and cast their rods,
and over them the deities’ restorer,
the Dagda governed, Father of the Gods.

But one morning when the silence
of the birds engendered pity,
when the mist rolled from the highlands
and the streets were glazed with rain,
the tidings spread like wildfire through the city
that Patrick was arriving with his train.

Chanting hymns, the Lord’s battalion
marched and noisily descended
while the Dagda on his stallion
Acein knew he faced his fate,
and anxiously he held his arm extended
and told his men to close the city gate,

‘With this town I have created
one last haven of traditions,
and it won’t be desecrated
by a foreign god or priest;
Nagnata is no place for Christian missions –
we shall not be invaded from the East!’

But the clerics were no mortals
of the common disposition,
and they walked right through the portals
like a host of phantoms, and
with sheer determination and ambition
they took control of every inch of land.

Patrick and his monks selected
the location where their abbey
was supposed to be erected
while the Dagda turned around,
telling his citizens, ‘Don’t let these flabby
intruders violate this holy ground!’

Yet no weapon could undo them:
knife and axe caused no destruction,
and their arrows went right through them
like a brooklet through the fen -
at night they would dismantle their construction,
but in the morning it would stand again.

Soon Nagnata lay defeated
and strange laws were promulgated.
When the belfry was completed,
the old god warned with a frown,
‘With the first bell that tolls, this celebrated
city shall perish and its captors drown!’

On that sunny Easter morning
after they had raised the steeple,
still ignoring every warning,
Patrick’s monks felt they were blessed;
but as they rung the bell to call God’s people,
they heard a distant rumbling from the West.

Then the sky was set in motion,
and a sudden rain cascaded
down the vale, the savage ocean
pushed landinwards to reshape
the valley; on a hill the Dagda aided
his friends in building boats for their escape.

And he watched the waters rising
in the city he had founded,
watched the wild and jeopardising
torrent that had been a brook,
and while the bells below his feet still sounded,
he gave his work of art the parting look.

Poignantly he took his magic
harp, and he commenced to strum it
as his city met its tragic
end; the pensive god grew pale,
and as the raging waters reached the summit,
the Dagda and his followers set sail.

- Where the hawks and crows examine
every chimney in the mountains,
only stirred by swans and salmon,
lies the surface of Lough Gill,
and on clear days their buildings and their fountains,
their streets and homes can be distinguished still.

You may see the desolated
market where they used to barter,
next to it the consecrated
shrine and abbey, ne’er to wake,
and if you hear the church bells of Nagnata,
they call you to the bottom of the lake.


The Fatal Love Spot

1. The Wedding

Hundred grooms prepared the stables,
hundred servants spread the bedding,
hundred maidens laid the tables,
hundred brewers sent their bill;
a thousand guests were coming to the wedding
of Finn and Grainne on the Holy Hill.

From the rocky coast of Kerry,
from the plains of Connemara,
from the murky woods of Derry,
from the hills and vales of Meath
the noblemen and ladies came to Tara,
while champions left their sword's blade in the sheath.

When the High King led his daughter
to the Fianna's chief whose power
could be felt in peace and slaughter,
Finn took Dorraing to the side,
'You've told the truth - she is the fairest flower
of Erin's gardens and a worthy bride!'

But when Grainne saw him staring
at her body, smiling smugly,
she was instantly declaring
her dislike for Dorraing's plan,
'You've lied to me - he's old and grey and ugly,
and I shall never lie beside this man!'

Grainne had a reputation
for her wit, and it was rumoured
that in any situation
her reply would be the best;
as Finn was fond of riddles and good-humoured,
he challenged her and put her to the test.

'What bites more than a bad habit?' -
'That's a cursed man's apprehension.' -
'Who hears better than a rabbit?'
and she said, 'A man who's blind.' -
'What alters faster than a good intention?'
and Grainne answered him, 'A woman's mind.'

On the lawn the harpist gently
touched the strings and sang of beauty,
long-legged waitresses intently
served the bacon and the ale,
and while the fools and jugglers did their duty,
Finn entertained his guests with many a tale.

But the ladies' eyes were resting
on the champion with the bonnet
while the girls and maids were jesting,
and the men were even worse;
Finn realised their interest in the bonnet
and spoke of Diarmait's life and of his curse.

'Once in Angus' famous houses
I was feasting with some other
champions, with their friends and spouses
and with Diarmait's father Donn,
while Diarmait played some games with his small brother,
his father's steward's and his mother's son.

'Suddenly the hounds were fighting
o'er the meat - they were frustrated,
they were growling, scratching, biting,
each one raged, and each one bled;
amongst the hounds, as they were separated,
we found the steward's son, and he was dead.

'But we found no tooth-mark on his
corpse, no sign of any hassle
with the hounds, no bruise upon his
body, on his back or side;
I took a chess-board and a golden vessel
of water to discover how he died.

'It was shown that he was playing
near the hounds, but soon he noted
their bad blood as they were baying,
and he fled to nearby trees.
Donn saw him running through his legs; he gloated
and crushed the little boy between his knees.

'With a druid-rod the father
touched the corpse, mournfully sighing,
and it turned into a rather
huge and fright'ning earless boar,
„Kill Diarmait when he's strongest, and the dying
hero shall kill you as you'll kill before!"

'He is wild and evil-tempered,
and destruction is his feature,
he knocks down the strongest rampart,
and he makes the Fianna blush:
the earless boar is Erin's fiercest creature
and kills two hundred champions in a rush!

'Diarmait grew and joined the forces
of the King - no foot is lighter
than his own, he tames mad horses,
and his spear would never miss;
he is the Fianna's most inventive fighter,
and only four are stronger than he is.

'Once we met a man - a poet,
as he claimed; he told a riddle,
and he asked me would I know it,
and I found the puzzle's keys.
„A feast's prepared for you right in the middle
of Lochlann's woods among the Quicken Trees."

'Four men came along. The pleasant
house was empty and the stable,
but there was some fruit and pheasant,
and a fragrant fire did burn;
our host had spread soft sheets around the table,
so we sat down, awaiting his return.

'Soon the fire stank to heaven
while the food decayed, and banished
was our joy; instead of seven
open gates there was one door,
and it was locked - the precious sheets had vanished,
and we were sitting on the naked floor.

‘Then we found we were unable
to get up; King Miodac's hated
host had reached the nearby stable
while we languished on the ground,
and so we sounded the Dord Fiann and waited,
because we knew the Fianna was around.

'Fighting bravely to deliver
us from Miodac's foul enchantment,
they were cornered at the river,
even though they struggled well;
then Diarmait came, took over the commandment,
and with the traitor's blood he broke the spell.

'Conan said, as he was near him,
„Bring the food he was preparing!"
but, pretending not to hear him,
Diarmait stopped and took a rest.
„I wish I were a maid," he was declaring,
for Diarmait never spurns a girl's request.

'For the night an agèd shepherd
gave us lodging, and his daughter
gave us lamb sticks, richly peppered,
and a smile, intent and bright;
she gave us bacon, self-brewed ale and water
and told us we would share her room that night.

'She was tall; her chestnut tresses
framed her beauty, and her gentle
eyes were warm as the caresses
of the fearless mountain deer,
her slender neck was soft and transcendental,
her endless legs announced a heaven near.

'We retired soon; the setting
sun had set, the day had ended,
and we hoped that we'd be getting
all the boons a man desires:
a meal, a bed, a woman, as the splendid
custom of hospitality requires.

'Conan sneaked up to the naked
beauty, and he introduced him-
self as Conan Mór the Wakèd,
and he looked into her eyes.
„I want to sleep with you," but she refused him,
„You've had me once, and no one has me twice."

'So I walked up to the maiden,
but her luring eyes confused me,
and my heart was passion-laden
as I looked into those eyes.
„I want to lie beside you" - she refused me,
„You've had me once, and no one has me twice."

Diarmait tried, and he was smiling
as my crude attempt amused him
greatly; with his most beguiling
gaze he looked into her eyes.
„I want your love tonight!" but she refused him,
„You've had me once, and no one has me twice."

'Slowly she removed her cover,
„I am Youth, your short-lived shady
romance, and you were my lover."
Then she held him in her arms
and put a love spot on his head; no lady
who ever sees it can resist his charms!'

'Let us see your love spot, Diarmait!'
all the women chanted loudly.
'Let us see your love spot, Diarmait!'
Grainne shrieked with wild delight.
'I can't, for if I did,' said Diarmait proudly,
'I'd probably be loved to death tonight!'

As the silver moon was rising
in the sky, the celebration
still continued, and surprising
deeds were told of olden days,
but Grainne's mind had left the conversation;
she couldn't turn her eyes from Diarmait's face.

2. The Geis

Late at night the feast was over;
watchmen closed the city gates,
Grainne went into her chamber,
languished and dismissed her maids.

In the House of Swords slept Diarmait,
in the yard the restless hounds,
and along the gates of Tara
Finn, as usual, walked his rounds.

Grainne sneaked up to the courtyard;
there she threw a juicy bone
o'er the wall. The hounds were barking,
and she picked a little stone.

Diarmait came to separate them,
Grainne aimed the stone she found
and cast off the champion's bonnet
which was falling to the ground.

Grainne saw the famous love spot,
and she couldn't help but feel
in her heart the piercing passion
like a blade of icy steel.

As he walked back to his chamber,
she awaited him inside,
'I have seen your love spot, Diarmait,
and I want your love tonight!'

'Finn's my friend and my commander;
I will never touch his bride,
and it's from your wedded husband
you shall get your love tonight!'

'No one ever has rejected
what I offer till this day;
from the time I was begotten
I have always got my way!

'But as you refuse to take me,
I shall put a geis on you:
that you flee with me from Tara's
halls before the night is through.

'There's a door beneath my bower,
and a narrow passage leads
to a clearing in the forest
with a cabin made of reeds.'

'If I have to leave the city,
I will take another course;
it is not a champion's habit
sneaking out of secret doors.

'If I flee the Hill of Tara
now, I must be seen by all:
with my sword I'll cut the bushes,
with my spear I'll jump the wall!'

Grainne hurried to the cabin
with a sparkle in her eyes -
meanwhile Diarmait scoured the chambers
of his friends for good advice.

'As you're under bonds,' said Oisin,
'there's no choice. You must give in;
I suggest you follow Grainne,
and you stay away from Finn!'

'You can not be blamed,' said Osgar.
'You must go with Grainne now;
there's no mercy for a champion
who would break a geis or vow.'

'You must follow her,' said Caoilte
with a sneer upon his face.
'You'll be hunted for a lifetime,
but I'd love to take your place!'

'There is no escape,' said Dorraing
who was struggling for his breath.
'You will have to go with Grainne,
and through her you'll meet your death.'

'Thank you for your help,' said Diarmait
to his friends. 'Farewell, ye all!'
With a curse he left the building,
and he leapt across the wall.

3. The Pursuit

Across the woods, the meadows and the river
the fleeing couple headed for the West.
The night was cold, and she began to shiver,
'I'm tired,' said Grainne, 'let us have a rest.'

Diarmait looked up and said, 'The moon is dead now
and pale; it's time for getting tired all right,
so let us turn around and go to bed now,
and Finn shall never know about tonight.'

'I won't go back, and I will never leave you!
I want to share your fate and share your curse;
I'll always love you, and I won't deceive you!' -
'But you'll deceive your husband, which is worse.'

He gathered branches from the trees and bushes
and built a hut with seven doors around,
he spread a bed of birch tree tops and rushes
for Grainne to lie down upon the ground.

They had to leave each lodging in the morning:
Finn followed them through forest, plain and bog,
but when he came, they got an early warning
from Diarmait's friends, Finn's hounds or Angus Og.

The love god then would fly away with Grainne
into his marble house through time and space,
while Diarmait would be fighting with the Fianna
and then collect her from his patron's place.

He was aware her raging spouse would find him,
and even though he knew he couldn't win,
he always left unbroken bread behind him
to show he kept his loyalty to Finn. -

One early morning, while the High King's daughter
was sleeping, Diarmait's name upon her lips,
he climbed a grassy hill to watch the water,
and in the West he saw a fleet of ships.

They anchored in the bay, and from a vessel
the leaders with their weapons went ashore;
he greeted them, aware there might be hassle,
and asked them straight what they were coming for.

'Green Champions, we're considered an ill omen;
we're their three kings, and all these men are chiefs.
Finn asked us for support against his foemen,
because he wants to rid the land of thieves.

'One in particular, who tries to flee him:
we're looking for the man who took away
his wife. His name is Diarmait; did you see him?' -
'I've seen a girl who saw him yesterday.

'Bring me a cask of wine,' adjured the charmer.
'I want to show a brilliant trick to you,
and anyone shall get my sword and armour
who manages to do what I will do!'

The cask rolled down the hill; as Diarmait threw it,
he balanced on it, and no wine was spilled.
'This is no trick, for anyone can do it!' -
But those who tried fell down, and they got killed.

Next morning he went back to them, brave-hearted,
and saw the men preparing for the fight.
'Have you seen Diarmait, stranger, since we parted?' -
'I've seen a girl who saw your man this night.'

He put his sword between two trees, and lighter
than birds' feet were his own. He walked with ease;
'I'll give my sword and armour to the fighter
who walks upon the sword between the trees!'

'This act may be a trick in foreign places
where people know no champions,' laughed the men.
They climbed the tree, a sneer upon their faces,
and in two pieces they came down again.

Next morning they received him in a stately
manner. A chief approached and raised his brow,
'No tricks today! Have you seen Diarmait lately?' -
'I see a man who sees your man right now!'

He drew his sword before he grasped the answer
and with a sudden blow removed his head;
and every champion, every chief and lancer
attacking Diarmait soon as well was dead.

He captured their three kings amidst the battle
while all the champions fled the raven's croak;
he led the hostages away like cattle
and tied them to the root of Ogma's Oak.

Then he told Grainne of his feat, the hurry
of knights, and how their leaders begged and moaned.
'And did you kill those Kings?' - 'Why should I worry?
There's four men who could loose them, and they won't.

'Let's go to Tara now and beg Finn's pardon:
I never touched you, and I never will.
I do not want Finn's heart and mine to harden -
he will forgive me, and he'll love you still.'

'We won't go back! You know you have to hide me
a lifetime, and I swear to all our gods
that Finn mac Cumhail will never sleep beside me,
not if he whipped me with his druid rods!'

‘It's not too healthy being on the razzle
with the whole Fianna following our tracks:
your stubbornness will make us see Hy-Brasil!
But then,' he sighed, 'you're of the stubborn sex.'

Meanwhile the Fianna reached the Western Ocean,
and at the foot of Ogma's Oak they found,
without a sign of life, without a motion,
the kings Diarmait had fastened to the ground.

Finn said to Oisin, 'Will you loose these three that
the man has tied who stole away my bride?'
'I won't,' said Oisin.' There's a geis on me that
I never free a man whom Diarmait tied.'

So Finn was turning to his strongest fighter,
'Now Osgar, bring their suff'rings to an end!' -
'I'd rather make their bonds a little tighter
since they have tried to kill our dearest friend.'

'If Diarmait tied them, he has had a reason,'
said Lugaidh's Son and disobeyed his chief.
'I don't believe that he committed treason,
and I will never fall from my belief.'

'He stole my wife, and he humiliated
my friends, and he shall pay for every bruise!
Now Conan, loose their bonds!' But Conan stated,
'My hands were made to tie and not to loose!'

'Oh, how I wish that I could find this goner
who took my wife, and, by the gods, I will!' -
'We think that it is Diarmait you should honour;
we think that it is Grainne you should kill!' -

In Dubhro's Wood there lived a mighty giant
who guarded sacred berries for the Dea:
the Surly One was vicious and defiant,
and e'en the Fianna feared to hunt out there.

But Diarmait sought him and spoke up before him,
and soon the Surly One came to agree
that he could hunt his forest if he swore him
to stay away from the forbidden tree.

One morning at the brook he scented danger
and saw a champion on the other side.
'What are you looking for?' he asked the stranger.
'Your head, if you are Diarmait, and your bride.

'My father killed Finn's father - since this action
we are at war, and Finn is asking me
to bring him Diarmait's head for satisfaction
or berries from a guarded quicken tree.'

'But he's avenged since Finn has killed your father,
and he knows well that you will not survive
the effort to get either. You should rather
remain at war with him and save your life.'

'So it was not enough to capture Grainne,
his wife, but you must speak of him like that?' -
'Why are those berries,' interrupted Grainne,
'that you are on about so hard to get?'

'They're from the Country of the Everliving:
a giant lives among the mighty roots
to guard the quicken tree, for it is giving
eternal youth to those who eat its fruits.'

'I want those berries,' shrieked the girl. 'I'm sorry,'
said Diarmait, 'but I shall not break my vow;
and while he guards this wood, we needn't worry' -
'I want those berries, and I want them now!'

'It's not too healthy being on the razzle
with the whole Fianna following our tracks;
your greediness will make us see Hy-Brasil!
But then,' he sighed, you're of the greedy sex.'

'You come to break our peace?' the giant shouted.
'It's that this woman caught me in her spell.
Just pass a handful - I have never doubted
the two of us would get on very well.'

The Surly One just raised his club and spitted,
'You want to fight me with that tiny sword?'
But Diarmait leapt and grabbed his club and hit it
upon its owner's head; the giant roared.

His roar awoke Killarney's water fairies,
but after two more blows he roared no more,
and Diarmait climbed the tree and picked some berries
and left the giant lying in his gore.

He gave a fistful to the grateful quitter,
'Tell Finn you picked those berries, and make haste!'
while Grainne spat them out, 'Those fruits are bitter
and hard, and I don't like their pungent taste.'

Finn met the anxious champion at the river,
'I won't make peace with you, for as it stands
you did not pick those berries you deliver -
they carry still the smell of Diarmait's hands!' -

The night was rough and wild, and Grainne felt her
soft skin go cold beneath her wanting dress.
A Fomor came - he asked the two for shelter
and challenged Diarmait to a game of chess.

'So what's the stake?' asked Diarmait. 'Are we playing
for swords?' And Grainne, tossing back a curl,
smiled at the gloomy man as he was saying,
'I'll play for nothing else but for the girl!'

He put his arm around her, and the lampion
adorned her as she sat upon his knee,
'For years I've been the mistress of this champion,
and still he never came that close to me.'

'It's not too healthy being on the razzle
with the whole Fianna following our tracks;
your fickleness will make us see Hy-Brasil!
But then,' he sighed, 'you're of the fickle sex.'

Thus Diarmait raised his sword against the stirrer,
'I'm sorry that I have to kill you now!'
The sword came down, and in the dusky mirror
of Grainne's eyes his head dropped like her vow.

She screamed with terror as the head was falling
into her lap, and with a plaintive cry
she leapt and rid herself of the appalling
remnant and stabbed a knife in Diarmait's thigh.

Without a word he left the cave and wandered
aimlessly through the stormy winter night,
while Grainne - looking at the weather - pondered,
and soon the man she loved was out of sight.

Then she ran after him, and in the morning,
her flimsy garment soaked with rain and dew,
she found the runaway. The day was dawning,
and he was sleeping tight beneath a yew.

'I'm sorry, Diarmait,' Grainne whispered lowly,
'with you I am, with you I want to stay!'
He sourly smiled at her and answered slowly,
'Since when do wolves apologise to prey?'

'I love you, Diarmait, even though you're showing
less warmth than all those distant stars above.
My love for you is strong and ever growing;
I'd rather die than live without your love!'

'I was a champion and a dear companion,
I was a hunter - now I am the prey.
Because of you the warrior and Fennian
is forced to shun the night and flee the day!

'You separated me from all I cherish:
my friends, my lands, my houses - I'm undone,
and in the wilderness I have to perish
in flight from him who loved me like a son!'

'Oh Diarmait of the golden hair, I love you:
to no one else I'll ever give my heart.
I love the air you breathe, the sky above you,
the world around you - never let us part!'

'Oh you whose smile is like the summer breezes,
whose heart is like the coldest moonless night,
whose deed destroys, and yet whose language pleases,
oh you who never took one step aright,

'You worthless woman of the frightful fetter,
voracious vulture dressing as a dove,
even your hatred would have served me better
than this obscure emotion you call love.

'Your heart is but a nuisance for the living,
your love declining sooner than the sun
behind the Western Sea as you are giving
your love to Finn and me and anyone!'

'I'm hungry,' said the girl to end the crisis.
'There's bread,' said Diarmait, 'but it's old and dry.' -
'I wish we had a knife to cut the slices.' -
'The knife is where you left it - in my thigh.'

4. The Victory

I'd run off with the High King's wife
and fear not for my name and life,
but I won't hurt a friend of mine,
and Finn knows well that I'd decline
the precious gift that came to me,
as long as he my friend would be.
He is no more: he wants my head
and will not rest until I'm dead.
So build our house of twigs around
and spread sweet blossoms on the ground,
for I have to take you tonight!

Now I shall pull the raven-hair
and bend the stubborn neck and scare
the evil eye of nightly gloom
and chew the mouth that sealed my doom
and hold the arms that stabbed my thigh
and grip the heart that bound my tie
and tear the dress that dares to hide
the temple of my wicked bride
and squeeze the hips that now lie free
and grab the legs that ran with me
and part them on our flower bed
and leave a trace of broken bread,
for I have to take you tonight!

5. The Defeat

The High King sent for Finn mac Cumhail
and raised his mighty hand,
'For years you've undermined my rule,
endangering our land!

'The Fianna's duty's to protect
my country and my life,
but you have caused them to neglect
their job to chase your wife!

'The gates of Tara stand ajar
for armies to come in,
while all the Fennian champions are
away to fight for Finn!

'I want them back! I also claim
the bravest of them all –
he took your wife, but all the same
this man obeys my call!

'Oisin, your son, is very smart
and clever, one can tell:
a champion after my own heart,
he'll lead the Fianna well!'

'What do you mean?' asked Finn. His knees
were weak, his voice was low.
'I mean that if you don't make peace
with Diarmait, you must go!'

So Finn made peace with Diarmait and
restored his house and lands.
The Fennians greeted their old friend,
and Diarmait hugged his friends.

And soon the wedding was prepared
for Grainne and for him:
no meat, no fish, no ale was spared,
and only Finn looked grim.

The people came from everywhere
after the news went out
to meet this most illustrious pair
they heard so much about.

The High King and his men were pleased,
the brewers sent their bill:
a thousand guests came to the feast
upon the Holy Hill.

The bride, content with life’s design,
took Diarmait's hand and said,
'Now I am yours, and you are mine:
show everyone you're glad,

'And do not leave my side until
the wedding guests are gone,
and tell me that you love me still,
and leave your bonnet on!'

6. The Hunt

The sons of Diarmait played the Tailltin Battle,
his daughter tried to crawl across the floor,
and Grainne lit the fire beneath the kettle,
as Finn mac Cumhail was knocking at the door,
'Hail Diarmait! I am here with many friends;
we're asking for permission to go hunting through your lands.'

'If you go hunting through my forests, will you
not take me with you?' Diarmait asked his guest.
'We hunt the earless boar that's bound to kill you,
and therefore you should stay and have a rest.
The beast would crush your bones like autumn twigs;
thus Angus put the geis on you that you shall hunt no pigs.'

'I never heard of such a geis' the raging
champion replied. 'You are the Fianna's head,
and I am well aware you are engaging
the High King's army just to see me dead.
You planned this hunt to bury me today,
because you know that I would rather die than run away!'

So Diarmait took his coat, his hounds and weapons,
ignoring Grainne's warnings and her sighs.
He kissed his wife goodbye, 'Whatever happens:
I shall be dying as a hero dies!'
He went with Finn who told him not to go;
‘There's one man who can kill him - that is me, and this you know!'

He saw him, grabbed his spear, and with the other
hand Diarmait loosed his hounds who ran away.
He aimed and threw the spear against his brother
who got a scratch; the boar, without delay,
run towards the champion who fell on his back,
the mighty tusks stirred up the ground beside the hero's neck.

Now Diarmait drew his sword, and he was trying
to stab the beast before his blood was spilled.
It broke; he grimly laughed as he was lying
beneath the boar with nothing but the hilt.
The boar turned round to where the Fianna stood,
but Diarmait grabbed his hind legs and was hauled across the wood.

In order to get rid of him he jolted
and jumped the streams; his foe held on, but then
he lost his grip. The beast turned back and halted
and charged the stubborn hunter once again.
His tusks ripped Diarmait open, but the hilt
sliced through his guts which covered Diarmait as the boar was killed.

'I wish the women saw you now,' Finn smugly
commented as he rested on his sword,
'if they could only see how vile and ugly
that body turned that they so much adored,
if Erin's girls and ladies only knew
about this scene, they'd be disgusted at the sight of you!'

'You must not stand there feeding on your passion,
insulting victims, bound in Grainne's ties.
Come to your wits! Remember your profession,
and heal this champion now before he dies.' -
'And how?' Finn asked his son and almost swooned.
'I know a drink of water from your hands heals every wound.'

'This man does not deserve a drink of water,'
Finn answered him, referring to his wife.
'He robbed his leader of the High King's daughter,
and he deserves no drink to save his life!' -
'You know he does!' Finn's son looked stern and grim;
'He had no other choice since Grainne put a geis on him.'

'There is no water in this wood,' Finn muttered.
'You know that there's a well beyond the hill.
If you delay, I'll kill you,' Oisin uttered,
'and bring the water in your hands, I will!'
Finn fetched the water while he thought about
his wife; it trickled through his fingers, and he came without.

'He is not worth a drink,' the chief repeated.
'But when he saved you twixt the quicken trees,
you would have deemed him worthy,' Osgar pleaded.
'Now go and get the drink, or you'll feel these!'
Finn fetched the water while he thought about
his wife; it trickled through his fingers, and he came without.

'You will not save me; I was shown you'll settle
my death after I risked my life for yours
so oft, but in the coming days of battle
you'll miss my service like your nanny's cures.
You hate me for what Grainne did to you,
but yet you know that I oppose her actions as you do.'

'She put him under bonds, for Diarmait never
intended to obey her faithless call.
Therefore he has to stay with her forever;
maybe he doesn't love his wife at all.'
With this in mind the chief suppressed his hate
and brought the water to the hero, but it was too late.

7. The End

Hundred grooms prepared the stables,
hundred servants spread the bedding,
hundred maidens laid the tables,
hundred brewers sent their bill;
a thousand guests were coming to the wedding
of Finn and Grainne on the Holy Hill.

Diarmait's sons had great ambitions:
with the bulls in the arena,
in the champions' competitions
Grainne always saw them win;
she made them swear, before they joined the Fianna,
that they'd revenge their father and kill Finn.

But the power and the pleasures
made her weak; she took a liking
to her status, and the measures
of her hatred emptied out
while Finn opposed and disobeyed the High King
with the whole Fianna echoing his shout.

Soon the High King lost his patience
with the Fianna. At the border
soldiers stood from foreign nations
to protect the High King's right;
paying some Fennians, Grainne gave the order
to kill the sons of Diarmait in the fight.


Nerthus

The sacred snow-white cows speed up their pace,
and Nerthus' carriage flies; the days of war
are over now, and warriors embrace
each other where they cruelly fought before -
the goddess now brings peace unto their shore.
The herald is approaching on his roan:
The goddess is descending from her throne!
And they all wish as they are standing by,
while sensibly the horn of peace is blown,
to see the goddess' beauty and to die.

Both men and women tremble at her grace
and want to look at her whom they adore;
the priest may lift the veil to see her face,
the chief may talk to her about the lore
and gods and battles in the days of yore.
Some ask to see her face in gentle tone,
but even when they start to beg and groan,
with none of their requests she will comply:
it is the honour of the slave alone
to see the goddess' beauty and to die.

One day the goddess has to leave this place,
exhausted of the homeliness she bore.
The slave goes with her; in the bog's wide space
he'll bathe her and remain for evermore,
while Nerthus flies to Asgard. Peace is o'er:
the women and the children start to moan,
the men sneak out into the woods and hone
their battle axes and their battle cry;
their vain desire has turned their hearts to stone
to see the goddess' beauty and to die.

Take off thy veil, take off thy dress. Not shown
to men nor gods is what I see - mine own
bare hands will wash thee, and they'll rub thee dry.
Thou grantst the only wish I've ever known:
to see the goddess' beauty and to die.


The Doorstep of the Gods
- A Bohemian Odyssey -

Left on the doorstep of the gods, he never
knew who he was and what he was about,
and so he looked for ways of finding out
rather than roam his guardians’ cloud forever.

One morning, just before the Earth was rising
and after having coffee with the stars,
he packed his toothbrush and his mem’ry jars
which held the arts of dream and self-surprising.

A gentle weirdness settled on the mountains
as a new trial galaxy was hedged,
the birds went to their worlds, and fully-fledged
deities gathered daisies at the fountains.

They didn’t notice him as he was crawling
past them across the pixie field with care -
or probably they did but were aware
he had to find the planet of his calling.

He took the night train to a constellation
on the horizon of the universe;
he heard men say their pray’rs and women curse
behind the styles and trolleys at the station.

And in the middle of the bustling city
the skilful carpenters pursued their trade,
and as he watched, the craft that they displayed
spoke out to him, a voice sincere and witty.

Soon he had learned their art and was respected
as one who wove his magic into ships
and carts; always a song upon his lips,
he built the chariots the prince selected.

Invited to the court, he found the beauty
of life in wealth embezzled from the mob,
but when he caught him singing on the job,
the prince himself released him from his duty.

Instead he was employed to play the lyre
before the lords, the princes and the king,
but as they picked the songs he had to sing,
he fled their world to find his mind’s desire.

And after many years of frugal squand’ring
he settled in the nursery of stars
and in that galaxy of chocolate bars
gave birth to what he called the child of wand’ring.

‘Who are you? And make sure you’re not mistaken,’
he whispered in his ear and gently smiled,
‘because it’s easy to mislead a child
onto the path the elders would have taken.

‘You may become a carpenter or singer
because I am and let your true gifts fade;
maybe you are but choose another trade
‘cause your old man’s a carpenter and singer.’

The autumn planets shed their wisdom lightly,
enfogged in ages of the universe;
he went where gods and demigods rehearse
their judgment days and let their grace shine brightly.

He laid his son, as the last leaves were falling,
into a basket made of willow rods;
he left him on the doorstep of the gods
and sought again the planet of his calling.


Invitation to the Afterlife

After his victory Ahmose held
a meeting with the priests. ‘Now, thanks to my
campaigns, we have defeated and expelled
the Hyksos, but we’re still surrounded by
enemies who would love to get their hands
on Egypt’s treasures and our fertile lands.

‘The Hatti and the Nubians just wait
for signs of weakness,’ the young pharaoh said,
‘so we must think of ways to shield the state
from more invasions; foreigners should dread
a dedicated army, and I fear
this is the problem, to be blunt and clear.

‘We are conscripting peasants to defend
our realm and offer little in return,
so what incentive have they when we send
them off to fight for us? We have to learn
that taking them away from home and field
turns them against us, as the past revealed.

‘What difference does it make to them if they
are subjects of a foreign nation or
of Egypt; they still have to serve and pay
their fees and tributes as they did before.
So if we order them to lift our sword
we’ll have to offer them some small reward.’

The priests objected. ‘We can’t possibly
pay all our soldiers,’ one exclaimed. ‘We’ve just
emerged from war, and now we’ll have to see
to the restructure of the state. You must
be realistic!’ But the pharaoh said,
‘What I’ve in mind won’t cost a slice of bread.

‘I think of fully compensating all
the commoners for their hard work and strife
by tearing down the penetrable wall
of birthright, giving them the Afterlife,
so those who can afford embalming are
able to travel on the boat with Ra.’

‘The Afterlife for peasants? That’s insane!
The sacred scriptures clearly are at odds
with this idea, and no one can ordain
such edicts but the everlasting gods.’ -
‘And am I not a god myself? In that
capacity I’ll sign the concordat!’

And since that day the commoners enjoy
the prospect of a paradise for poor
but loyal subjects; nothing can destroy
their ardour as they patiently endure
all hardships and injustices they face
in expectation of a better place.


The Birth of God

Son, the questions you are asking
are beyond your understanding;
where we’re from is hard to answer,
where we go to no one knows,
and with the dismal story of our people
a child your age should not be put to sleep.

Many hundred years ago our
forefathers have roamed the country,
led their cattle to new pastures
every now and then and brought
their family or tribe along; they worshipped
the gods that their own fathers served before.

But their growing population
caused a lot of other peoples
to take over all lush pastures,
settle down and work the land
till finally no place was left where nomads
could rest and graze their cattle for a while.

Yet one family was lucky
as they were allowed to settle
on the fertile soil of Goshen
in the Kingdom of the Nile,
tax-paying subjects of a genial pharaoh;
word spread, and soon all families were there.

Over many years they managed
to gain influence and power,
even to become advisers
to the Pharaoh and his court,
treasurers of the fabled gold of Egypt
and generals expanding his domain.

As the gods were feared, the priesthood
were the ones who ruled the country;
therefore Pharaoh Akhenaten
banned all gods bar one: the Sun
or Aten was to be the sole creator
in Pharaoh’s monotheon at the Nile.

Soon each reference to Amun
and the deities beside him
was removed, their names were chiselled
out of History; the priests
who could escape the sword went into hiding,
Thebes was deserted and its temples robbed.

Akhenaten built the city
Akhetaten for the Aten
and appointed us, his trusted
councillors, the Aten’s priests:
we were to organise the new religion,
its rituals, its creed and offerings.

Yet the subjects of the pharaoh
ridiculed his silly concept:
Why would man and beast be struggling
if there only were one god,
how could the planet’s driving force of discord
have been created by one pow’r alone?

Ay, his grand vizier and uncle,
urged him to restore the other
gods and to abolish Aten;
Akhenaten wouldn’t hear
of it, but then our halcyon days were over
when Akhenaten died, no one knows how.

Tutankhamun, his successor,
was a boy, so the rapacious
grand vizier now ruled the Kingdom -
he brought back the ancient gods,
erased each trace and symbol of the Aten
and slew the priests who didn’t get away.

We still sacrificed to Aten
in the caves where we were hiding,
but we openly refused to
worship any other gods;
though we were persecuted and imprisoned
and even killed, we never lost our faith.

As he came of age, the pharaoh
rediscovered the religion
of his father. First he worshipped
secretly and hid the priests;
when he reintroduced the cult of Aten,
his skull was smashed and Ay was back in charge.

He destroyed the Aten’s city,
massacred the priests and servants
he could find and quickly buried
Tutankhamun; the young king
and everything that had remained of Aten
were jammed into the tomb which then was sealed.

Many of our folk suggested
that we leave the hostile Kingdom,
but we had no place to go to,
so we had to stay and hide
our god from everybody else, for even
speaking of Aten meant a person’s death.

As his name could not be mentioned,
the believers called him Yahwe
(‘He whose name can not be mentioned’),
and we prayed to him each day
that he’d deliver us from persecution
and let us worship free and openly.

When the Nile turns red in springtime
and the birds sing in the palm trees,
everybody knows that Nature
has rung in another year
of teeming fish and overflowing harvests
that fill the granaries up to the brim.

But that year the Nile was redder
than it ever was, more shallow,
and its surface close to boiling,
teeming with dead fish, and some
Egyptians claimed it was the curse of Yahwe,
demanding that we all be put to death.

And as Egypt’s drought continued,
tension rose against our people
who were blamed for flies, eclipses
and increased mortality;
our call grew stronger for a forceful leader
who would restore us to our rightful place!

Atenmoses was our high priest
who had lived in exile after
having murdered one of Amun’s
priests. He now returned and said,
‘They’re scared of Yahwe! We shall turn the tables
and threaten them until they let us be!’

Shortening his name to Moses,
he approached the grumpy ruler;
Ay, distracted, barely listened
to the lunatic who claimed
his god had turned the Nile to blood and even
blocked out the sun and slain their families.

Down in Midian he witnessed
the destruction of the harvest,
and he figured that the locusts
soon would travel to the Nile.
He prophesied, ‘Locusts will take your harvest
unless you let us worship whom we want!’

Ay was bored and yawned, but Moses,
led away by soldiers, shouted,
‘And the plague will take a member
of each family this year!’ -
They threw him into prison and forgot him,
but children died, and then the locusts came!

Rotting corpses filled the delta
and could not be moved; the locusts
darkened Egypt’s skies, and no one
saw their hand before their eyes:
now Ay remembered Moses and gave order
to bring the lunatic before his throne.

‘It appears your god has power
over Egypt as he showed us;
you shall be allowed to worship
any god you like as soon
as you have cleared the fields and skies of locusts
and stopped the plague that kills our families!’

Moses, falling to his knees, gave
thanks to Yahwe, and he praised him
for the multitude of wonders
that had proved him god of gods;
he then petitioned him to end the suff’rings
of Egypt since he had achieved his goal.

Nothing happened. Moses gathered
Yahwe’s other priests who helped him
to erect a stony altar
where they sacrificed a lamb;
once more they thanked their god and prayed to Yahwe
to end the drought, the locusts and the plague.

But the children kept on dying
and the locusts multiplying;
Ay got restless, and his people
chanted, ‘Kill them! Kill them now!
They either can’t control their god, or Yahwe
does not have any powers after all!’

They threw stones, and nervous soldiers
waited as their tense commander
looked at Ay who slowly nodded...
‘Kill those mad heretics now!’ -
Army and people raged and stormed against us:
the sole escape route left was the Red Sea!

Never looking back, we hurried
towards the shore, jumped in the water
and implored our god to help us,
but we didn’t stand a chance:
the army killed our children, men and women,
the escapees were butchered by the mob.

We were swimming in our brothers’
blood, a handful of survivors,
and of those who reached the middle
of the Red Sea, many drowned;
of the ten thousands who had fled from Egypt
only a few have reached the other side.

So today we roam the desert,
nomads once again who have no
home and who must live as outcasts,
and we’re bound to wander on
until we find a people who are weaker,
kill them and have a country of our own.


Jephtah's Lament

Why hast thou abused my faith, Lord?
After victory in battle,
fought for thee, it was my daughter
who was waiting at the door.
How couldst thou do this to thy faithful servant,
how couldst thou do this to thy people's judge?

Every time I was returning
home from battle with the laurel,
it would be my wife who's standing
at the door to greet her man,
to sling her massive arms around my shoulders
and tell me that she's happy I am back.

With her childish voice she'd ask me
if I missed her hugs and kisses
on the battlefield, and if I
killed a lot of enemies,
then she would hide my face beneath her wrinkles
and drag me up the stairs to prove my strength.

Now the Ammonites were fighting
to restore the land their fathers
populated, and I promised
that to thee I'd sacrifice
the person who would meet me at my doorstep,
if thou wouldst give them all into my hand.

Thou hast heard my earnest prayer
and delivered them, but bitter
turned the victory at Mizpah,
when I saw my daughter's smile
as she awaited her beloved father
and kissed me at the threshold of my house.

Never will her blooming body
know Love's pleasures, never will her
songs delight a lover, never
will I see her smile again.
Why must it be my wife who gives me comfort,
why must it be my girl who climbs the pyre?


John the Baptist

Healing blind and curing hunchbacks,
fractures, plagues and evil spirits,
Jesus Christ was busy when he
was disturbed by two young men.

John's disciples came to Jesus,
and they said, 'Our master sent us
who prepared the way for you
and whom you have now forgotten.

'In the dungeon of King Herod
he is suff'ring for his teachings:
there he never sees the daylight,
there he lives amongst the rats.

'He who prophesied our saviour
lies in chains and wants to know if
you're the one, or if Judea
has to wait for someone else.'

Jesus said, 'Go back and tell him
what you see: the blind can see now,
and the lame are swiftly walking,
and the lepers have been cleansed.

'Deaf can hear, the dead are rising,
and the poor can hear good news,
and the man is blessed forever
who takes no offence at me!’

Simon came to him with Judas,
and they said, 'Whatever happened,
John deserves to hear the answer
from yourself or your disciples.

'He has prophesied your coming
and prepared the way for you,
and if we are talking to him,
we might even save his soul.'

So they went to see the baptist
in the dungeon of King Herod,
and a servant with a torch
led them through the narrow hall.

'I smell treachery,' a thund'ring
voice was chanting through the darkness,
'treachery against Judea,
treachery against the world!’

'John, calm down! It's only us,
Judas Ischariot and Simon
Peter, for our master sent us
to give answer to your question.

'He whom you prepared the way for
is the saviour and messiah
of the world: the blind can see,
lame are walking, lepers dance.

'Deaf can hear, the dead are rising,
and the poor can hear good news,
and the man is blessed forever
who takes no offence at Him!’

'And how many has he cured?
Three, or ten, or even hundred?
Did you count the ones who still are
blind and lame and sick and dead?

'Who of those he raised from death
will from now on be immortal,
and whose thirst for right was quenched
by his talk of Heaven's realms?

'I'm not blind, and I can't see,
I'm not lame, and I can't walk,
I'm not dead, and I don't live,
and I never hear good news!

'Any mountebank heals sick
and turns water into wine,
but the saving of the world
is a bit more serious!

'I was preaching of the saviour
who would crush the serpent's head,
who'd relieve the world of evil,
as the Lord, the Lord has promised!'

'He'll go back and see His father
to prepare His children's mansions,
and from there He will return
like a thief who comes at night!'

'We awaited the Messiah
many thousand years, and now
the Messiah comes and tells us
we shall wait for his return?

'How much longer? Yet another
thousand years or even more?
If he has the will and power
to release, he won't delay!

‘Tell your master I would rather
sacrifice myself to Baal
than remain the servant of a
god who doesn't keep his word!'

And the thunder of his mighty
voice kept sounding through the dungeon;
thoughtfully the two disciples
left his cell and went away.

As they left, the prophet's angry
words still echoed in their hearts,
and they trembled with each forte
they remembered of his speech.

But outside the air was sweeter,
and the day was bright and sunny,
and the vineyards stood in blossom,
and their Christ was son of God.


Blood on the Saviour’s Hands

At Calvary Mary was watching
the soldiers who hammered the nails
through the flesh of her son, and as darkness
enshrouded the mountains and vales,
she said to herself, ‘His disciples
will always remember this day;
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!’

In his name, with a passionate fury,
the Emperor Constantine
assaulted the Didyman temple
and oracle of the divine;
the priests of Apollo were tortured
to death and then left to decay;
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!

In his name Charles the Great went to Verden
where the Saxons who would not submit
to Christianity had been assembled
to be judged as the monarch saw fit.
Later four and a half thousand bodies
lay headless on gory display;
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!

In his name multitudes of crusaders
ventured out to rob, without qualm,
the ‘Holy Land’ from its natives,
conquer realms or extinguish Islam.
The crusades of the past killed two millions
(not including crusades of today);
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!

Even those who follow his doctrine
disagree about details and killed
one another about the correctest
way to worship; the Old World was filled
with the corpses of millions whose credo
diverged from the faith of the day;
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!

In his name intellectual, envied
and unwanted people around
were accused of practising witchcraft;
some were burnt, some were hanged, some were drowned.
A few hundred thousands have perished
since hysteria cast her grim ray;
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!

In his name his disciples from Europe
taught all nations without their request;
they massacred hundreds of millions,
took their land and made slaves of the rest.
To this day these are being exploited
by the people who prey as they pray;
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!

In his name the church persecuted
the Jews for rejecting his creed
for centuries, culminating
in genocide, furthered by greed.
With gypsies, disabled and critics
six millions were slaughtered like prey;
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!

And still there are Christians who murder
because of their faith and who spew
their hate in the name of Jesus
who’ll save us from what he will do
if we do not accept him but punish
the ones who refuse to obey;
the blood on the hands of the saviour
can never be washed away!


The Ballad of the Jester and the King

The king sat on his throne and raised his glass,
and all the peers around his table cheered,
he welcomed everybody of his class,
and soon the dishes that were served were cleared.
He told his most outstanding deeds to pass
the hours and often smiled with pride or sneered,
and as they got into the mood for jests,
he called his Jester to amuse his guests.

The jester rang his bell, arranged his gown,
and, pointing at the King, he grinned and said,
'This man has robbed me of my cherished crown
and put a fool's cap on my head instead;
the noblest man is forced to act the clown,
meanwhile the meanest plays the country's head!'
The monarch listened to those postulates
and giggled like a schoolgirl who's in fits.

The jester rang his bell, 'His Majesty
talked of his deeds. I'm sure he hasn't told
you he has stolen everything from me:
my garments and my treasures and my gold!
There was a time when I was just as free
and rich as he in merry days of old.'
The king enjoyed the floorshow with his train
and held his waist as if he was in pain.

The jester rang his bell with knitted brows,
'I've loved the fairest woman in the land -
we had some fields, a garden and a house.
We were a cheerful couple: hand in hand
I used to walk the meadows with my spouse,
or I would lie beside her on the strand.
Then came the king and took my loving wife;
he'll pay for this betrayal with his life!'

The monarch burst out laughing with his crew
and, choking on the wine he gulped, fell down
beneath the table while his face turned blue.
Straight his physician came, but with a frown
he felt his pulse, 'There's nothing I can do.'
The jester took his wife, his gold and crown;
and happy minstrels evermore will sing
the Ballad of the Jester and the King.


The Spirit of Jealousy

Swiftly walking hill and meadow
where my restless spirit found me,
deep in silence with my shadow,
I strolled nowards, open-eyed:
the peace of azure heavens still around me,
the whisper of the ocean by my side.

Water fairies swam their races
till the King called in his daughters,
for they should not show their faces
to a man without a tail.
The sun was melting into quiet waters,
my mind grew weary and my shadow pale.

In the woods I saw a willow
where the little brook is streaming,
and I found my hermit's pillow
in some ancient castle's walls;
there I lay down, and soon my heart was dreaming
about the fame and splendour of its halls.

And the grass turned into heather,
and a gentle breeze was blowing,
and the ruins grew together,
and the castle stood once more;
into the court the silver moon was flowing,
a blooming rosebush stood beside the door.

Scent of centuries behind us,
taste of all forbidden sweetness,
sultry visions, come and blind us,
magic of a banned desire -
assure the yearning hearts of your discreetness,
but fill the blunted souls with secret fire!

Lead us to your scarlet garden,
let us smell each luring flower;
neither punishment nor pardon
ever spoils the lover's deed.
Should for the naked fear of human power
divinities refrain from holy need?

Suddenly I heard a rattle
from a distance, coming nearer:
there, returning home from battle,
rode a tall and haughty knight.
I saw his eyes, and nothing could be clearer:
for want of flesh alone they shone so bright.

Victories and laurels counting,
he looked down on his attendants;
finally he was dismounting,
and the human was restored:
they took his banner, symbol of dependence,
they took his armour, and he kept the sword.

Then he chopped one of the longest
roses from the bush, and flying
up the stair he went: the strongest
craving had affected him.
I followed him at once, for I was dying
to meet the lady who expected him.

In her room she was rejoicing,
but not over his survival,
for another part was voicing
pleasure, nude from head to shin:
they had drowned out the noise of his arrival
and didn't even see him coming in.

Quietly he watched the lovers;
loudly they announced their passion
as they crumpled up the covers,
while the knight stretched out his arm
and, following contemporary fashion,
removed their heads with expertise and calm.

As he turned, he caught me standing
in the doorway - he came leaping,
cornered me upon the landing,
and he pushed me down the stair;
from there into the courtyard I was creeping
to get away from his dismissive glare.

'Since four hundred'n'eighty-seven
years this act has been repeated
every single day, for Heaven
has no mercy on our souls!
Because our lord is vengeful and conceited,
we'll always have to play our given roles.

'How I hate his horse and saddle;
if he only would be able
to refrain from their beheadal
for one night, we'd be released!'
Thus spoke the groom and led into the stable
his master's stallion... My perception ceased.

Soon the sun flowed through the mountains,
reddening the veil of morning,
gilding all the happy fountains
and the winding little streams;
the ruins of the castle walls adorning,
he swept away sad thoughts and fearful dreams.

I recalled the foolish vision
of the curse upon the castle,
how the knight's unwise decision
caused him still this earth to roam;
then I sat down, unwrapped my breakfast parcel,
and, picking broom and daisies, I limped home.


The Changeling

The fairy mother told her little daughter,
‘It’s time you learned the ways we deal with man;
tonight I’ll take you with me to their village,
and we will help the good ones where we can.

‘A child just perished in her sleep which happens
occasionally, and if we fairies make
it there in time, we will replace their baby
with one of ours before the parents wake.

‘Her loving parents then won’t have to suffer
their newborn’s loss,’ she clarified her aim.
‘But won’t they notice that the child is different?’
her daughter asked. - 'No, she will look the same.’

‘When she grows older, will she not remember
in time that she’d been one of us before?’ -
‘She sometimes may experience the feeling
she’s from a fairer place, but nothing more.’

‘And will the way she acts not be quite different
from humans?’ - 'Now and then her kin may find
her odd, yet they would not suspect their children
are not their children but a different kind.

‘Changelings help humans, though they rarely notice,
because they question things and bring our range
of kindness, art and knowledge to the people;
changelings are needed so the world can change.’

She and her daughter sneaked into the bedroom.
They gently placed the changeling in the cot
and took the human child to have her buried;
they heard a noise and rushed to leave the spot.

The mother stirred. ‘I feel that something happened;
could you please see if baby is all right?’
Her husband checked the cot; he reassured her,
‘Siofra is fine,’ and kissed their girl goodnight.


The Blood of Verden

The priest addressed his frightened congregation,
the children, men and women in their grief,
‘Though we are tested by the powers of darkness,
we shall not waver in our firm belief!

‘We do not know why Donar kept his silence
when the barbarians marched in and felled
his sacred Irminsul, and why the heaven
did not fall down on those who have rebelled.

‘We do not know why Wodan hasn’t punished
the faithless infidels, why Freyja stays
away from us, but this we know for certain
in all: the gods work in mysterious ways.

‘These unbelievers worship inside houses
their gods can’t enter, and they pray to cold
and lifeless images, but in their wisdom
our gods will soon repay them hundredfold.

‘The preachers of false gods now seem to triumph,
but we all know that in the gods’ great plan
these strangers in the end will meet their downfall
and see the one true faith prevail again.

‘Wodan, in his eternal grace and mercy,
though our own land be watered with our blood,
eventually will sentence the intruders
and kill them in an even bigger flood.

‘Though we be slain today as Wodan’s martyrs
we shan’t allow them to achieve their goal:
we must not bow to any graven image
to save our lives lest we should lose our soul.

‘Should we betray the ones who gently guided
our lives? How could we possibly renounce
the gods who have so generously blessed us
and those we cherish on so many counts?

‘Those who submit will never see Valhalla
nor meet their faithful loved ones at its hearth;
therefore don’t cast away your life eternal
for the few years you may have left on Earth.

‘Preserve your piety; the blood of Verden
will scream out to the everlasting gods
to be avenged against the cruel invaders -
naught shall remain of them but earthly clods.

‘The blood of Verden on their hands will mark them
as long as they shall live, but like a gust
they’ll soon be gone, and if they are remembered
it’ll be as persecutors of the just.

‘Dying for Wodan is the greatest honour,
and entering his hall we’ll feel no loss;
we’ll yield our earthly lives instead of kneeling
before those silly idols or the cross.’

Put to the sword, the dauntless congregation
used their last breath to praise the gods and pray;
four thousand Saxons proudly died as martyrs
for their unshakeable belief that day.


The Flight of Alice Kyteler

Dame Alice, stern and with aplomb,
lived lavishly, we can infer,
well financed by the fortunes from
four husbands who'd bewidowed her.
Her stepchildren, however, stated
their deaths had been premeditated.

Accused of having killed the lot
of spouses for their money, she
in turn accused them of a plot
to blame her out of jealousy
so they could get their hands on treasures
that were not theirs by any measures.

To strengthen their convincing case,
the children claimed that she had used
witchcraft; on hearing this His Grace
Bishop of Ossory, infused
with ardour since the pope had listed
witchcraft as heresy, persisted.

He, as officials clipped his wings,
saw all attempts to gaol her fail,
but then Dame Alice pulled some strings
and had the bishop thrown in gaol.
On his release His Grace predicted
she finally would be convicted.

And proof of witchcraft soon was found
within her seaside home, below
her mansion's floorboards and around
the public house she owned, and so
authorities removed Dame Alice
from her own moneylending palace.

She was condemned without ado
as were some other ones among
her coven which included, too,
her own son William and her young
maid Petronilla, and by fire
the dame was sentenced to expire.

She hied into the skies that night,
leaving her servant girl to take
her place in history and right
her wrongs by burning at the stake,
the first of many who would suffer
this treatment as the Church got tougher.

The only ones Dame Alice brought
along with her to share the bliss
of freedom were, as we are taught,
her daughter and her incubus;
they headed for a place where witches
are not exposed to courts and snitches.

But sometimes on a rainy night,
as atmospheric currents spin,
she may, beneath the moon's dim light,
peep through the window of her inn,
reminding us of all the malice
we find in humans and Dame Alice.


Around the World in Eighteen Years

No one knows his name. A native
boy of the Visayan Islands,
he had led a happy childhood
till the day another tribe
raided his village, massacred the adults
and sold the children into slavery.

After many years we find him
on the market of Malacca
where the Muslims and the Christians
buy their spices and their slaves;
his odyssey continues as he’s being
sold to a Portuguese adventurer.

First to India, then to Lisbon
the Malay is forced to travel,
and Magellan, his new master,
names his polyglot young slave
Enrique after the prince who had the vision
that one day man would sail around the world.

Through a Moor war in Morocco
and his idle years in Lisbon
Ferdinand Magellan figures
there must be another way
to the Spice Islands where the Muslim pirates
could not be threatening the Christian trade.

From another expedition
he has secret information
of a strait in Patagonia,
leading through America;
his monarch doesn’t show the slightest interest,
so he reveals his plans to the king of Spain.

Many years of preparations
follow and a lot of quarrels;
finally his fleet is leaving
the Sevillian port, led by
the mariner who dreams of being remembered
as the first man to sail around the world.

The Canaries and the western
coast of Africa behind them,
they are crossing the Atlantic,
and they anchor in Brazil;
as this is Portuguese terrain, the sailors
are ordered to abstain from violence.

Further south they can return to
the routine of the explorers:
raping, plund’ring, Christianising
and abducting samples for
the Spanish monarch’s human zoo (which rarely
survive the trip but can be fun to have).

Then they come to Patagonia
and the strait Magellan heard of,
but it soon turns out to be the
mighty mouth of the River Plate,
so he turns south, following bays and rivers
to find a passage through America.

Being stuck for one cold winter,
running short of food and water,
quenching mutinies, the captain
finally has found the strait -
a Stygian labyrinth, but the Pacific
with its exotic treasures lies ahead!

Hundred days they sail the ocean;
hundred days of thirst, starvation,
scurvy, scorching heat and dying
men before come to Guam
where they stop briefly, stock fresh food and water,
and soon another island is in sight.

Natives in their boats surround them,
and Magellan thinks they’ve come to
the Spice Islands, but Enrique
speaks the language of these men:
they have arrived at the Visayan Islands
where both their voyages would come to end.

Here the crew receive a welcome
from the king who is maintaining
they are free to trade as soon as
they have paid the fee, and though
Enrique warns him of the consequences,
the king insists on being paid the fee.

Then an Arab trader tells him
of the power of the Christians,
of the countries they invaded
and the terror that they spread,
and now the king gives in; the other islands
are soon annexed and Christianised as well.

But on Mactan they’re objected
to becoming slaves and Christians,
so Magellan burns their village
down and fumes as they strike back;
Enrique watches as they kill his master,
knowing Magellan’s death will set him free.

Reunited with his people
he escapes the ghastly nightmare
of Christianity and exits
from the face of History,
the slave whose name will never be remembered
and the first man to sail around the world.


The Flying Dutchman

The fate of man in silence guiding, the evening sky embraced the briny,
and on the waters, softly gliding, there sailed the shadow of a wreck.
The sails hung loose, the mast was creaking, the rotting planks smelt foul and piney,
the seagulls cried, the rats were squeaking, but there was not a man on deck.
The empty crow's nest kept on whining, no pilot was on guard, no post;
the crew had gathered in the dining room: everybody was a ghost.

They raised their horns; the drink had mellowed the sailors as they sang their shanty,
but suddenly the captain bellowed, 'Another hundred years are o'er;
another hundred years of squand'ring our time which we have had in plenty.
I have to save our souls from wand'ring: I must ashore, I must ashore!
Set sail for Holland in the morning, make Odin's heavens blue and wide,
and when the afterday is dawning I'll find myself a faithful bride!'

The others laughed. 'You must be joking: you'd rather find a four-leaved clover!'
The captain sneered at their provoking comments and bawled, 'Set sail tonight!'-
'You browbeat us and asked to stop you if you should try your luck all over
again; girls cross their heart and drop you as soon as you are out of sight.
Their minds are fickle, and they nestle on every shoulder that is near:
they have a sailor on each vessel and pledge their love at every pier!'

'I know what I have told you'; laden with hope he said, 'I have been erring,
for somewhere there must be a maiden, a lassie of the faithful creed!
Have you observed the seagull sailing and darting down to catch the herring?
Ninety-nine times you see her failing, but finally she will succeed!
We've nothing left to lose; the morrow may see us languish like before,
and it might end our doom and sorrow: I must ashore, I must ashore!' –

'There may be faster ways to harden the metals in the smith's profession,
there may be new beliefs that pardon the evildoers who have sinned,
there may be vessels that are flying, there may be wealth or a recession,
new drugs preventing you from dying and ships that sail without the wind,
even a war that rearranges our native country and its name;
there may have been a lot of changes, but woman always stays the same.

'For every conman there's a lection to learn from any girl's performance:
she hovers round you with affection and makes you think you bought a gem,
she marries you, and she'll desert you and swap your passion for the doorman's,
for womankind has many a virtue; fidelity is none of them.' -
'That's what I've told you, full of rancour, but don't we all aspire to die?
There's nothing we could lose; weigh anchor! - I have to try, I have to try!'

So they sailed home. The captain faltered as he embarked; although still pretty,
the city's charm had sadly altered - it seemed the buildings grew and grew,
a new religion with new preachers attempted to convert the city,
but, being used to changing features, to Aubrey this was nothing new.
The captain passed the new-built churches and strolled across the rampant grass
to the cathedral at the birches where as a child he want to Mass.

'There is a man,' the priest was chanting, 'whose soul was doomed for generations.
And there's a person,' he kept ranting, 'whose love can save him from his doom!'
The sombre captain felt invited to look around for his salvation's
deliverer until he sighted a gracile nymph in fullest bloom.
She seemed naive and full of passion, her mien showed fervour and surprise -
his gaze was fixed on her expression; in vain she tried to cast her eyes.

He grabbed his hat when Mass was over and tried to talk to young Elvira.
Her parents said, 'Don't heed that rover, or he may give you some disease!'
They took their daughter by the shoulder and dragged her from her old admirer,
but as they passed, the captain told her, 'I'll wait for you amongst the trees.'
Amongst the birches he debated whether to trust one of her kind;
for three long days and nights he waited until the girl made up her mind.

But when he thought he'd been deserted, she met the captain in his bower,
'I've left my parents,' she asserted and greeted Aubrey with a kiss.
'They locked me in 'cause they disparage all sea dogs for their cryptic power
to raise a fate much worse than marriage, and I have wondered what that is!'
He gave the girl the breath that quenches the thirst for Himeros' fair land;
the birches rustled, and their branches touched them as with a long white hand.

Enraptured by the lambent stellar allure she answered his embraces;
under the moon's illustrious pallor he squeezed her rigid mammaettes,
thanks to her passion's manumission they journeyed through all times and spaces
and on Philotes' expedition discovered worlds of no regrets.
As they cooled down, she knew that never her feelings could be reconciled;
she pledged to love her man forever, and Captain Aubrey sadly smiled.

They married secretly and rented a little room. 'When you are near me,
I feel that Heaven has presented me with all blessings from its hands.
I haven't kept the Ten Commandments because my family won't hear me:
I listened to my heart's enchantments and left my parents and my friends.
But things are changing for the better, and have been since we said 'I do'",
for what do friends and parents matter as long as I can be with you?'

'I must away!' - Her man entreated his bride to cease her sobs and grouses.
'You're leaving me?' Elvira greeted as Aubrey gently dried her tears.
'But I suppose that a sojourning husband's the lot of sailors' spouses;
tell me, when will you be returning?' - 'I shall be back in hundred years.
Of all the women I have married you are the one I love the most;
this is the reason I have tarried - now I must go, 'cause I'm a ghost.

'Once we were sailing the Atlantic. A calm impeded us for ages;
the restless crew was taut and frantic, and I was getting to the brink
of death. There was no wind for seven long weeks: a proof too rough for sages,
the sun was burning down from heaven, no food was left and naught to drink.
I swore I'd eat the first thing failing to get away, and it occurred
that one just perched upon the railing: I killed the bird, I killed the bird!

'Hard is the punishment,' he ranted, 'impossible my own salvation;
once every hundred years I'm granted leave from the ship to join the mart,
and then again I steer the shoddy accursed barque of my soul's damnation
until the time I meet somebody who's loving me with all her heart.
Unless I find a faithful lover, there'll be no pardon nor release:
under the firmament's blue cover I have to sail the seven seas.'

'This sounds too strange to be a fable, my captain, and I do believe you,
and I assure you that I'm able to end your voyage; trust your wife!
I won't go near another suitor or gallant, for I won't deceive you;
to carnal love you've been my tutor - there'll be no other all my life!' -
'I do not doubt your good intentions, but woman changes every day,
and faith was none of her inventions; I must away, I must away!'

Aboard he roared, 'Did I not tell you to keep me from my foolish mission?
I wish that you could go to hell, you poltroons who disobeyed my calls!' -
'There's other orders that you gave us! As Odin knows of our petition,
there's still a chance that she might save us!' - 'Then you just wait till evening falls!'
The anchor from the ground was lifted, the mariners coiled up the rope,
and with a gentle breeze they drifted out of the harbour of their hope.

'I'll save your souls!' the girl proceeded as she addressed the pensive seamen,
and on the highest cliff they heeded her silhouette against the sky.
'There is a way,' Elvira shouted, 'we can be faithful to a leman,
and I, the woman that you doubted, I shall be faithful till I die!'
And as her body touched the billow, the vessel sank with all her men;
they're resting on Poseidon's pillow, and neither ever rose again.

(based on Heinrich Heine's version of a Dutch legend)


The Lost Race in the Tobacco Field

'Quittin' time,' a sweet voice calling
through the man-sized leaves declared;
as the slaves went to their quarters,
Tucker legged it, unprepared.

But the master saw and shot him
in the leg, rode up and leered.
'That will stop you rogue from running
for a little while,' he sneered.

'Even now I could outrace you!' -
Tucker's master laughed with glee,
'If you win a race against me
in that state, I'll set you free.'

'Give me time to get a bandage
and a bite to eat; at gloam
I will meet you at this furrow,'
Tucker said and hobbled home.

'Dad, today the massa shot me
just before I reached the gate:
dress your thigh and shave your beard off,
and tonight we'll celebrate!'

'Have you lost it altogether?' -
'No, but massa's fate is sealed;
he accepts my challenge to a
race through his tobacco field.

'If I win that race against him,
massa said he'll set me free;
you'll be waiting on the other
side, pretending to be me.'

'That's ridiculous! I'm certain
that he'll see right through your game.' -
'Father, to them fancy white folk
all us niggers look the same.'

'On the count of three,' the master
in his furrow grinned; on three
both were dashing off, but Tucker
soon turned back quite leisurely.

'Wonder if he'll ever get here,'
thought the master with a sneer
as he reached the end where loudly
he was greeted, 'I'm right here!'

Frozen to the spot, the baffled
master unbelievingly
dropped his jaw and tied his laces
as he gasped, 'Best out of three!'

'I was sergeant in the army,'
he was mumbling. 'Now I'll be
beaten by a wounded negro;
everyone will laugh at me!'

He was running like the devil;
when the finish line was near
he saw Tucker smoke his corn pipe
as he shouted, 'I'm right here!'

'Tucker, you're not even sweating
while I barely am alive.'
Once he caught his breath, the master
told his slave, 'Best out of five!'

Soon he faltered and he panted,
everything before his eyes
flickered, and his fatal heat stroke
hardly came as a surprise.

At their quarters son and father
told the others of their day,
'If we want to leave by midnight,
best start packing right away.'

(based on the fable De Haas un de Swinegel ['The Hare and the Hedgehog'])


Edgar and the Assassins

I first noticed the Assassins when I wasn’t even three
and we children all were gathered at our mother’s bed as she,
never suffering senescence, closed her eyes for evermore
and her spirit hence was tethered to the Night’s Plutonian shore.
Clothed in black, with sombre faces, they awaited her demise,
disappearing in the darkness once they had secured their prize;
since your humble servant chases happiness with bated breath,
left forever in the starkness of a life entombed in death.

Feeling grown in adolescence I became courageous and
eagerly and fiercely courted Jane, the mother of a friend,
but the hideous Assassins soon appeared again and claimed
her who has inspired, supported and reviewed my not yet famed
poems written to entreat her into feeling what I felt.
In the evenings, armed with flowers, oft afront her plot I knelt,
wishing I once more could meet her, feel the comfort that she gave,
and I cannot count the hours I spent weeping at her grave.

As a sergeant major, serving far away, I once received
news that my dear foster mother, like the one for whom I’d grieved
long before her, whose unswerving love protected me, was ill
with consumption. Like no other she perceived me; in the still
of that eve I saw her lying in the dim caliginous light;
the malign Assassins’ shady shadows led her into night.
Knowing that she’d soon be dying, sharing my true mother’s fate,
I took leave to see the lady once again but came too late.

Then the tide, it seemed, was turning: happiness approached my life
on the day that I got married to Virginia, and my wife
lit a torch that kept on burning in the dungeons of my mind
as the joyfulness she carried took me over with its blind
blissfulness that knows no error, never asking when or why.
Once she sang for me and others in our sitting room when I
heard her cough and then, in terror, saw a blood drop on her lip:
the disease that’d killed my mothers held Virginia in its grip!

And behind the grand piano the Assassins stood and smirked
who had left their place of hiding where so many years they’d lurked.
They extinguished her soprano, watched her suffer and decay;
when it looked like she was gliding into nothingness one day,
suddenly they disappeared and soon my wife seemed on the road
to recovery and cheating death from what he thought she owed.
Gradually her symptoms cleared and she felt better, but I learned
soon enough all hope is fleeting: the Assassins had returned.

Many years they kept on playing their perverse sadistic game,
hide and seek with one who’d gladly give his life, his soul, his fame
to redeem the one decaying in his very arms who then
shows improvement just to sadly fall into decline again.
As malicious tongues were speeding up the process with their art,
hope and sheer despair were ripping heart and mind of mine apart;
then her body kept receding and her pupils lost their spark
till the one I loved was slipping into everlasting dark.

Two years later as I travelled to the Richmond of my youth
I looked up my childhood darling; finally the ugly truth
of our split was being unravelled - though we’d been engaged, her stout
father who was always snarling at me had, as she found out,
intercepted all our letters, told her to forget me which
she found futile, called her wild and married her to someone rich.
Widowed like myself, no fetters bound Elmira - eagerly
I proposed to her; she smiled and after weeks said yes to me.

We decided I’d collect my aunt and my entire estate
from New York, and by November we would set a wedding date.
But I started to suspect my fortune, knowing life forsook
me too often, and remember all the darkness as I took
leave of her and heavy-heartedly prepared to say goodbye,
pondering why fate dictated that the ones I love must die.
Was she spared because we parted timely? Must my love be feared?
- Then, as if they long had waited, the Assassins reappeared.

‘Edgar, darling, you have fainted!’ I could hear Elmira yell.
‘You should stay right here,’ she pleaded, ‘for a while until you’re well.’
But I could not get acquainted to the thought of more delay;
furthermore, some business needed looking after on the way.
I believed that I could handle such a trip, against her will,
and I told her I’d be taking the next boat; my fever still
held no candle to the gnawing inner illness that I bore,
and although my limbs were shaking I set off to Baltimore.

There I took the train to flatter an aspiring poetess
up in Philadelphia, finding that she wasn’t home; I guess
that she didn’t get my letter to discuss her work. I went
to see friends who kept reminding me that I should not torment
my sick body and who nursed me for some days until I packed
my belongings; I felt bad to turn them down despite being racked.
Even though the fever cursed me and my compass lost its torque
I informed them that I had to travel onwards to New York.

Walking to the railway station I reflected on my case:
Must I watch my sweetheart perish till she rests in night’s embrace?
Witness her annihilation? Could I free her if I died?
I might save the one I cherish, I concluded, if I tried.
And I reached into my pocket where I had been keeping some
laudanum for my depression, for the times I’m feeling glum,
next to dear Elmira’s locket, my fresh source of joy and woe,
whom I love with all the passion of some twenty years ago.

Maryland would hold elections on the third, and so I changed
plans, rode back to Baltimore and thought my end could be arranged
in a way that my connections think that I’d been drugged and cooped.
On the train a transient wore and fondled tattered rags and whooped,
‘Mister, can you spare a quarter?’ - I just smiled at him and rose,
‘I don’t have a cent,’ I told him, ‘but you’re welcome to my clothes.’
Shielded by a friendly porter we swapped clothes, which was my plan;
may a better outfit mould him to become a luckier man.

After I’ve been sleeping rough to stay unknown, all I desired
was my death; I once had tried this when my darling wife expired.
This time I shall take enough to make well sure my end is quick,
and the bottle that’s inside this coat should neatly to do the trick.
Laudanum, my sweet Nepenthe, set my troubled spirit free,
let me leave this vale of dolour in a shroud of mystery.
Heavens, heavens, kindly send the angels down to her to bless
dear Elmira, Hebe’s scholar: may she age in happiness.

Now my selfishness of living ends beside a polling place,
and I soon shall see the meadows of the underworld, embrace
deities who are forgiving and, far from this planet’s dearth,
meet my loved ones in the shadows who have haunted me on earth.


From Thebes to Lisheenacooravan

The watchful guardian awoke Tutmosis,
‘The queen was taken from her sacred tomb;
if she is not returned before the Khoiak,
she’ll be condemned to amaranthine doom!’

The pharaoh started up, breathed deeply, rose from
his sealed sarcophagus, and he exclaimed,
‘Not Neferura, dearest wife and sister!
No peace shall be on him who’s to be blamed!

‘My chariot at once,’ Tutmosis ordered.
‘Make haste, make haste, don’t leave me in the lurch!’ -
‘Where will you search for her?’ - ‘Her ba is shining
bright as a star, I do not have to search!’

When Owen Phibbs at last returned from Egypt
home to Lisheenacooravan he brought
a treasure of old daggers, swords and mummies,
attracting more attention than he’d thought.

He laid them out upstairs beneath the skylight
and called it his museum. ‘You’re a grave
robber,’ his father said. ‘Have you not heard of
the punishment?’ - ‘I’m back now, so I’m safe.’

The pharaoh’s chariot raced through the night sky
en route to Sligo and approached the bay,
reached Seafield House and burst into the chamber
where his beloved Neferura lay.

As the foundations trembled and the china
broke into pieces, all the Phibbses, in fear
of burglars or an earthquake, went to follow
the unholy noise, ‘What’s going on in here?’

Tutmosis faced the family in anger,
‘You robbed my consort from her resting place
and of her afterlife; unless I take her
back home, I’ll ne’er again shall see her face!’

That very moment, through the open skylight
an owl flew in; it rested on the queen
and pecked her heart out. ‘Dammit, Ammit!’ shouted
the king but couldn’t stop it fleeing the scene.

‘What in God’s name was that?’ - ‘That owl was Ammit,
a demon. Now,’ the pharaoh caught his breath,
‘without her heart, my consort can no longer
travel with Ra; she died the second death.’

‘I am so sorry,’ Owen told Tutmosis,
‘I wish that there was something we could do.’
His mother blessed herself; the fuming pharaoh
yelled from his lungs, ‘She died because of you!

‘I won’t find peace without her, yet I have to
travel with Ra until the end of days,
but I’ll send back my chariot each midnight
which shall remind you of your sinful ways!’

And back it came, night after night. The clamour
soon drove away the gardener who enticed
the other servants, and the Phibbses followed,
unable to expel the poltergeist.

Time watches. Seafield House is long abandoned,
and birds nest in the trees that grow inside,
the winds blow harshly through its stately ruins,
and all one hears at daytime is the tide.

But after dusk, a grim unearthly clatter
shakes its foundations every night anew
as, drawn by passionate Arabian horses,
the pharaoh’s chariot is passing through.


Mr Thirteenth

Charity Butler claimed her freedom
and that of her two children since
she’d spent six months in Pennsylvania
which, she attempted to convince
a sceptic jury, did entitle
them to demand their freedom and
refuse the order of their owner
that they return to Maryland.

Thaddeus Stevens, representing
her owner, in a sober tone
explained, ‘She’s been on some short visits
with Mrs Gillegand, unbeknown
to Mr Bruce, not on his orders
as is required; it’s also fact
the stay must be uninterrupted
to satisfy the cited act.’

He won the case. The devastated
young mother then was dragged away;
Thaddeus Stevens kept on hearing
her muffled screams throughout the day.
They never left him; he decided
his mission was the futile fight
against an evil institution:
‘This is a wrong we have to right!’

Henceforth he never represented
slaveholders but their slaves instead,
and anyone who couldn’t pay him
was still looked after. Once he had
to stop at a provincial guest house
in Maryland whose smug and sly
owner he knew; he signed the guest book
and heard one of his slave girls cry.

‘What is it?’ Stevens asked the woman.
‘He’ll sell my husband,’ she replied.
He turned around and faced the landlord,
‘You sell your flesh and blood?’ he tried
to keep his temper as he shouted.
‘I need the money urgently,’
so Stevens reached inside his pocket,
purchased the slave and set him free.

As Pennsylvania legislator
he saved the public schooling act
from being repealed by demonstrating
the rich saved money as an effect,
the boons of educated voters,
the fate of children left behind:
‘Build not your monuments of marble
but of an everlasting mind!’

He set up house with a mulatto
lady in Lancaster who brought
her sons along, and they provided
a safe house for the slaves who sought
shelter as they escaped to freedom
via the secret Underground
Railroad where they were fed and cared for,
ensuring they would not be found.

The Compromise of 1850
saw many a concession for
the slave states, and a disappointed
Congressman Stevens took the floor,
‘I’m rational, and though I welcome
a compromise when it unites
opposing parties, I abhor it
where it refers to human rights.

‘Since you believe this institution
is but a blessing for the slave
who is looked after, fed and happy,
how would it matter if you gave
the man a choice about his future?
Then let the slaves who choose go free
and freemen who so choose be chattel,
and either will be fine with me.’

Should Women, Too, Hold Civil Office?
This touchy subject was explored
at length in Fulton Hall, and Stevens
the radical went overboard
once more and claimed, ‘I’ve no objections,
for women are, if I may note,
not only fit for public office
but also fit to have a vote!’

A congressman from California
proposed a tariff on cleaned rice,
and Stevens pointed out the measure
intended to increase its price:
‘Your state has been discriminating
against Chinese Americans
for long enough!’ - The vote that followed
put a quick end to Sargent’s plans.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected,
the Southerners who, at a glance,
feared rising taxes, higher tariffs
on produce and his party’s stance
against the further spread of thralldom
despite the clear and solemn pledge
of Lincoln not to interfere with
their institution, felt on edge.

And so the Southern states seceded,
as was their constitutional right;
Lincoln invoked the Perpetual Union
for which he was prepared to fight.
When shots were fired against Fort Sumter,
he went to war for unity;
his zealous party colleague Stevens
supported Lincoln eagerly.

Stevens proposed a resolution
to free all slaves who choose to leave
their masters or support the Union
which failed, but still it did achieve
attention, and he begged of Lincoln
to set the slaves of the nation free:
‘Don’t let this be about the union,
make it a war for liberty!’

‘Now’s not the time for such an action,’
Lincoln replied as oft before.
‘You can’t take on an institution
like this and think you’ll win the war.
You radicals are too impatient,
and with your ardour you just may
risk this great country’s fast reunion;
tomorrow is another day.’ -

‘You call me radical for stating
all homo sapiens are the same;
regardless of our rank and station,
our race, our origin and name,
we all belong to one fine species.
If, as our fathers did decree,
all humans are created equal,
they must be treated equally!

‘They laugh at us all over Europe,
even before this war began,
where slavery has been abolished
for decades as a blight on man.
I once believed I had to follow
the most revolting of our laws;
since then I’ve fought against this evil,
not waiting for the crowd’s applause.’ -

‘I wouldn’t call a slave my equal,’
Lincoln replied, ‘but nonetheless,
in time we shall address this matter;
soon after victory, I guess.
Besides, we have to find a country
for them, a land with open gates,
since we can’t have a flood of freedmen
let loose on the United States.’ -

‘Sir, your society deported
thousands of former slaves so far
and colonised them in the regions
of Haiti and Liberia;
soon, hopefully, there’ll be four million
freed slaves who, I insist, should stay;
you could not justify nor finance
your plan to send them all away.’

One year had passed since Stevens’ motion
when Lincoln’s proclamation freed
the slaves outside his jurisdiction
(not in the border states) to speed
the process up as it encouraged
Confederation slaves to flee
and join the troubled Union Army,
knowing that henceforth they’d be free.

General Early rode to Stevens’
mills where he planned to hang him, cut
his bones and send them out in parcels
to the Confederation, but
he wasn’t home, and so the soldiers
burned down his ironworks instead.
’If we accomplish abolition,
it is a bargain price,’ he said.

Thaddeus Stevens kept on pushing
for an amendment, and the House
eventually voted for the second
time on the matter. ‘Don’t arouse
allied conservatives by claiming
more than it offers,’ he was urged.
‘Don’t talk of blacks as equals, voters
or congressmen lest we be purged!’

His heart was clenched as he asserted
views that weren’t his and even lies,
and semi-willingly he tasted
the nausea of compromise.
The Thirteenth passed. This was the moment
when all the nation’s slaves were free -
the House broke into celebration
with freemen on the gallery.

When Lincoln was assassinated
amidst the nation’s discontent,
the negrophobic Andrew Johnson
became the country’s president
who vetoed every motion granting
rights to the blacks and others while
Thaddeus Stevens kept on fighting
for them in his distinctive style.

A bill to put the Indians under
state laws for being hostile had
been tabled. ‘Do you mean the carnage
of white Chief Chivington?’ he said,
referring to the recent slaughter
of Indians by the army who
had massacred and scalped a peaceful
village. The bill did not go through.

Because he sabotaged all progress,
President Johnson was impeached;
Stevens, in failing health, was carried
into the Senate he beseeched,
‘This offspring of assassination
turned on the Senate - make him pay!’
The President was not convicted,
and Stevens soon got carried away.

Weeks later Stevens voted for the
Fourteenth which he had drafted, though
it had been watered down and only
addressed citizenship. ‘I know,
I live with men and not with angels;
let’s take the offered slice but still
demand the cake.’ Once more he’d suffered
a compromise with his firm will.

Before he died, he learned the graveyard
his plot was in accepted whites
only and chose an interracial
burial place instead. ‘My fights
for human dignity are over
at last, and their rewards are small;
I shall be buried with my brothers
and sisters, black and white and all!’


The Decline of Sitting Bull

‘What am I doing in this place?’ the aging
chief wondered loudly and laid down his pen.
‘I should be with my tribe instead of staging
my own defeat to entertain white men.

‘I fought when white invaders violated
the treaty after they discovered gold
upon our land rather than watch the hated
intruders massacre our young and old.

‘Their rifles couldn’t quell our angry voices,
we didn’t budge when we were being mobbed.
They told us, “Sell or starve – these are your choices”,
and when we chose to starve our land was robbed.

‘And yet we held out longer than all others
in Canada before we were undone,
and I shall be remembered by my brothers
as the last Sioux forced to lay down his gun.

‘And now I’m but the pale invaders’ flunkey,
riding around the theatre each night,
performing like a broken circus monkey
for the oppressors that I used to fight.

‘These days I’m merely travelling, rehearsing
and putting on a show for old and young,
my only pleasure being that of cursing
the audiences in my native tongue.

‘I was the last to stand against the traitors
who foully breached our treaty, that’s for sure,
and here I’m sitting charging some spectators
for signing autographs to feed the poor.

‘I shall rejoin the people of my nation,
I shall return to where my tribe was thrown:
the barren wastelands of our reservation
to suffer, starve and die amongst my own.’


The Ghost Dance

‘We need protection and we need it now. Indians are dancing in the snow.’
- Daniel F. Royer, Indian Agent

Stand in the circle and hold hands and shout,
dance, sing and pray until you all pass out!

My brothers, I bring news from your departed
fathers the ghosts who march to join your fight
together with the kind and tender-hearted
Messiah who has listened to your plight.

The white man will become the world’s pariah,
and you will see your prophecies fulfilled
with the assured return of the Messiah
who first appeared to them and whom they killed.

And this time he will not be disappearing
into the clouds the way he did before
but stay with you, his chosen people, clearing
your land of the invaders, shore to shore.

Stand in the circle and hold hands and shout,
dance, sing and pray until you all pass out!

He led me up to Heaven on a ladder
of clouds; there Wakan Tanka and his wife
showed me the lavish camping grounds of gladder
red men and told me, ‘This will be your life.

‘Come spring, your land will once again be teeming
with grass and trees and buffalo galore,
and once again clear rivers will be streaming
across the prairie as in moons of yore.

‘The new world I’ll create will be a better
one than the one before the white man came
whom I’ll drive out so he may never fetter
your happiness again but dwell in shame.’

Stand in the circle and hold hands and shout,
dance, sing and pray until you all pass out!

‘Your noble brothers’ teepees will be spreading
across a smiling land between the coasts,
and in this world there will no more shedding
of blood and no more military posts.

‘And in that life which I shall be attending,
you will be reunited with your kin
who have passed on to live in never-ending
rapture and peace with no more crime or sin.

‘But don’t attempt to fight the vile aggressor
yourselves, although your souls be clenched and grim;
don’t raise your hand against your pale oppressor:
it’s the Messiah who will deal with him.’

Stand in the circle and hold hands and shout,
dance, sing and pray until you all pass out!

He gave me ghost shirts which will be protecting
the dancers from the bullets of the foe,
and if you dance, he soon will be erecting
his kingdom where there’ll be no pain nor woe.

Then the Messiah brought me back from Heaven;
before I left, the mighty Lord of Hosts
taught me the dance which must be danced in seven
directions to invoke your fathers’ ghosts.

Dance East and South and West and North with passion,
dance skywards and towards Earth without complaint,
dance inwards in the holy prophets’ fashion,
dance, sing and pray for peace until you faint!

Stand in the circle and hold hands and shout,
dance, sing and pray until you all pass out!

Another movement teaching that the answers
to life are found in spirituality,
the Ghost Dance died with hundreds of its dancers
one frosty winter’s morn at Wounded Knee.


Building the Trans-Siberian Railway

How to build the longest railway in the world without the funds
is a story that needs telling, and I’ll only tell it once.
From the port of Vladivostok to the Muscovite arcades
one cheap set of tracks was thought to be sufficient, and brigades
of surveyors were sent out to chart Siberia far and wide;
using their imagination, no one set a foot outside,
and their laziness and caution that excused them from the freeze
led to many complications, setbacks and fatalities.

As the natives were unwilling, convicts had to do the work,
labourers from China, Persia, Italy and many a Turk:
armed with picks and wooden shovels we attacked the frozen ground
to prepare it for the railway with the elements around.
In the evenings we’d be eating unidentifiable soup,
oft with added meat from prostrate horses to delight the group,
and then go to sleep in shabby tents or shacks prepared on site
with the convicts being shackled to wheelbarrows for the night.

Never knowing what’s around the corner in this hostile land
we were in for some surprises: rivers, mountains, forests and
bogs where tundra was expected so we had to watch our steps,
and quite often we were falling for the vast Siberian Traps.
Building bridges over rivers was the most ungrateful task
and most dangerous because there was no man who dared to ask
for a safety line, so many of the workers lost their grip
or their foothold in the arctic cold and took their final slip.

We dug tunnels through the granite rock formations with just picks,
hatchets, hand drills and whatever we could find out in the sticks.
Modern countries have pneumatic drills and lots of dynamite;
we, as we removed the debris, pulled wheel barrows through the tight
tunnels just like beasts of burden, struggling hard for strength and breath,
and it’s hardly a surprise that many a worker met his death.
Here, as anywhere along the railway, tragedies were rife,
and Tunguska was the only site that never claimed a life.

In the taiga there’s a forest darker than the world of yore
with its trees so tall and dense that sunlight never touched its floor.
When we felled the trees, the warming sunbeams reached the ice below;
thus the place became a stream which carried with its forceful flow
both our men and our equipment downwood to an unknown fate
like a punishment for humans who have dared to desecrate
Nature’s jealously protected last arboreal sanctuary,
ruling that it would be taking one of us for every tree.

Places mapped as steppe quite often turned out to be swamp or wood
where we’d fight mosquitoes, and the thickest lay’r of clothing could
not protect us from the nasty sting of the Siberian gnat;
thus infections spread like wildfire which reduced our numbers at
an alarming rate and added to the casualties of those
who had lost their lives in grisly accidents and those who froze
to their deaths throughout the winters, and I swear upon my soul
there has been no undertaking of mankind with such a toll.

Hundreds of thousands built the railway, thousands died along the way
as we spread six thousand miles of brittle steel so others may
travel on the rails that angry natives call the ‘Iron Scar’;
as you ride the Trans-Siberian train, the brainchild of the tsar,
you may well enjoy the comforts that the operator boasts,
but while touring through the sleeping land you may espy our ghosts,
scattered through the vast Siberian landscape where we risked our necks,
where we laboured, where we suffered, where we died and left our tracks.


The Final Stop of Casey Jones

Casey Jones, a railroad man,
used to do things his own way,
like the whistle which he had
made himself from tubes one day.
When his piercing whistle wailed
far across the peaceful glen,
folk were turning in their bed,
‘There goes Casey Jones again.’
Always punctual, Casey deemed
being late a social crime
and was proud that all his runs
reached their final stop on time.
Station masters, engineers,
operators on their phones
and his passengers alike
set their watch by Casey Jones.

Once his fellow engineer
drove the train as Jones climbed out
to adjust the spark screen and
saw some children play about
on the tracks. They scattered soon,
but one girl froze to the spot;
seeing that she wouldn’t move,
Casey, who was getting hot,
rushed up to the pilot where,
to protect the child from harm,
he awaited impact and
caught the youngster in his arm.
Never one to count his feats,
not afraid of sticks and stones,
keen to do his job and help
others: that was Casey Jones.

When an engineer got sick,
Casey volunteered to drive
his night train from Memphis to
Canton which was ninety-five
minutes late, ‘We’re screwed, just try
to catch up a little, Son!’ -
‘I’ll convey the mail on time.’ -
‘That would be a record run!’
With Sim Webb, his fireman, Jones
set out through the rain and fog,
dashing down the sodden tracks,
‘Sim, put on another log! -
You remember,’ he recalled
to the engine’s busy moans,
‘those two railmen who have died
on this line?’ mused Casey Jones.

More than half of the delay
was made up, to Jones’ content,
in Grenada, and he sped
to Winona and Durant.
Just five minutes late, they left
Goodman as his men did reel,
‘Someone’s showing off again!’ -
‘Sim, I promised you that we’ll
make it on the advertised,’
Casey Jones was glad and thrilled.
Sim clung to the nearest bar,
‘Lest you get somebody killed!’ -
‘We’re in Vaughan, and only two
minutes late, now stop your groans:
we’re as good as back on time!’
celebrated Casey Jones.

‘Something’s on the tracks!’ Sim screamed.
‘What the devil can we do?’
Jones replied, ‘We’ll crash! Jump out!’
Sim jumped out, ‘And how ‘bout you?’
While afraid he’d cause his own
wife and children grief and pain,
Casey’s thoughts went out to all
wives and children on the train.
As his howling whistle warned
everybody in the night,
he reversed the throttle and
pulled the brake with all his might!
He held on until his own
train, emitting many sones,
smashed the other train’s caboose
with a curse from Casey Jones.

Since the speed had been reduced
by some forty miles, between
all the cars that were derailed
helpers coming to the scene
found amongst the many sprains,
bruises, cuts and broken bones,
only one fatality:
that of driver Casey Jones.


Never To Return

'One equal temper of heroic hearts,
made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.'

-ALFRED TENNYSON

We're almost there! Just one more mile to go,
and we will be where no man was before,
just one more mile across the endless snow,
and Life won't be the same for evermore!
We were withstanding Nature's wild resistance,
survived the terrors of the mind and soul.
It must be near that black spot in the distance! -
So cold, so cold is the pole.

Again we pull our sleighs and travel forth,
five dauntless heroes on their way to fame,
and everything we see is in the North.
We'll soon be there to stake the coldest claim,
the first to reach the world's most southern snow bank;
but who put up the tent, who left his sheet
and put a foreign flag atop the snow bank? -
So cold, so cold is Defeat.

We should be celebrating in the field
of ice and snow, for we fulfilled our vow
to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield:
we were the second! Second, but somehow
don't feel like runner-ups; the five explorers
now turn their back on this perfidious day,
eight hundred miles of ice and snow before us. -
So cold, so cold is the way.

Evans looks wild; there's madness on his face,
Oates suffers from exhaustion, strain and frost,
while short-legged Bowers hardly keeps the pace
and snow-blind Wilson hurt his foot. We've lost
the energy that brought us here; we faltered
to our first depot, but the glacier’s vice
awaits us, and it seems the weather altered! -
So cold, so cold is its ice.

It starts to snow. We argue where to go;
a labyrinth of crevasses now extends
before our eyes. We've never been that slow
and weak, our feet are frozen and our hands.
We are not sure of the precise location
of our next depot - there, it is in sight!
Now every man will get a proper ration. -
So cold, so cold is the night.

Now Evans stays behind like every day,
so we look back and see him at the bend,
his eyes wide open, kneeling at the sleigh;
we bring him with us and put up the tent.
He doesn't wake, and everyone is worried
about our friend. In vain we try to save
his life; beneath eternal snow he's buried. -
So cold, so cold is his grave.

'Why don't you go ahead? I'll be okay.'
We wait for Oates. We wouldn't leave his side,
although we're losing precious time. Today
we'll reach the place where our poor ponies died.
There is the mark - the depot is below it!
We empty it: the ponies' meat is there,
but where's the petrol? There was more, I know it! -
So cold, so cold is the air.

'You'll have to leave me to survive'; the same
discussion every morning, every night!
A snowstorm stops us; Oates is not to blame,
but he is pacing up and down inside
the tent, as restless as a spotted lizard,
'Nice day to take a walk; it might get late.'
He lights his pipe and walks into the blizzard. -
So cold, so cold is his fate.

Eleven miles to our last depot; we
know well it is unlikely, still we plan
to reach it by tonight - but suddenly
a blizzard keeps us in our place again.
There's food for some more days if we are sparing,
but there's no petrol left to keep us warm,
and chilly are the clothes that we are wearing. -
So cold, so cold is the storm.

Ten days passed by, and still the blizzard's rage
remains unbroken while we cannot stay:
unfit to fill discovery's last page,
unfit to live; the others passed away,
and I am left to pray for the departed
between their corpses, under hostile skies,
alone, away from all and broken-hearted. -
So cold, so cold are their eyes.

It won't be long before I'll be relieved
of all the pains of hunger and despair,
and, thinking of the things that I achieved,
I'll leave you. Falcons perish in the air;
the homely pigeons die beneath the steeple.
I'm ready, I'm prepared to meet my end
tonight; for God's sake, look after our people! -
So cold, so cold is Death's hand.


The Silent Defeat

Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves,
lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'

-Genesis 11, 4

Sombre and black, without a single motion,
without a single tender wind to blow,
still, calm and harmless lay the sleeping ocean,
the patient iceberg waiting for his foe.
- Silent was the sea.

And there she came; the dockyard's noblest daughter,
the tallest of the sisters in her day -
gracefully steaming through the quiet water
the mighty beauty proudly gathered way.
- Silent was the sea.

Some older couples stared at the Atlantic,
some honeymooners gazed into the moon,
and while the restless youth became romantic,
the band did play a merry ragtime tune.
- Silent was the sea.

The diners clapped their hands and joined the chorus,
and someone heard a member of the crew
say, 'There’s an iceberg starboard waiting for us -
they say that you can smell 'em, and I do.'
- Silent was the sea.

'Last orders,' rang the bell at half eleven,
because the time to say goodnight was near;
before the blackness of the sea and heaven
a shadow even darker did appear.
- Silent was the sea.

'Iceberg ahead!' the lookout got excited,
and three times the alarm bell he did ring -
he felt the ship was doomed when it was sighted,
and thus he trembled as he pulled the string.
- Silent was the sea.

'Port! Full steam backwards!' cried the navigator:
too late, too soon - the wrong time anyway,
for just some seconds earlier or later
his order would have saved the ship that day.
- Silent was the sea.

The prow turned left - how softly she was gliding;
a smile of his relief he could not hide,
but as he thought he saved her from colliding,
a grating sound came from the starboard side.
- Silent was the sea.

The noise disturbed some poker-playing brothers,
so one of them went out into the cold -
he soon returned, and he informed the others,
'We just did graze an iceberg, I was told.'
- Silent was the sea.

'Oh, is that so,' they said and kept on playing,
enjoy'ng their peaceful and relaxing trip,
for they felt safe as everyone was saying
that even God himself can't sink the ship.
- Silent was the sea.

The frightened skipper ran as fast as never -
somebody looked at him and raised his drink,
'An iceberg on the maiden trip - how clever,
a brilliant chance to prove she cannot sink!’
- Silent was the sea.

'This game of bridge is nothing but a bother -
let's go on deck, we’ll have a little fun,'
and gladly throwing ice at one another
some adults played like children in the sun.
- Silent was the sea.

A snobby undertaker rolled his eyeball
and called the waitress, 'Please excuse me, Miss:
I've ordered some more ice for my large highball,
but not that much - this is ridiculous!’
- Silent was the sea.

'This is unreal, mate: on the upper deck sits
our president while we are going down.’ -
'So close the bulkheads and the third class exits
and tell the others we're about to drown.'
- Silent was the sea.

'Come, women, bring your children!' they implored them,
but very few saw the necessity,
and as the men were not allowed to board them,
some half-full lifeboats soon put out to sea.
- Silent was the sea.

Up to the deck a doubtful crowd was guided,
but soon the passengers did realise
that those few life jackets that were provided
as well as the few boats would not suffice.
- Silent was the sea.

A storied moneygrubber took a jacket,
another one for his Lolita bride,
and yet a third to cut it and to wreck it
and show the girl what it was like inside.
- Silent was the sea.

He said, 'That boat seems fragile and unstable
and bound to capsize with the slightest wave.
Enjoy your trip as long as you are able -
I'll stay right on the ship where I'll be safe.'
- Silent was the sea.

A salesman's widow left with grateful thinking
after she killed her husband in a fight -
she could not wait to see the colossus sinking,
for with the ship her guilt was out of sight.
- Silent was the sea.

'Now here's the lifeboat. Madam, won't you enter?' -
'I can't as I would leave my husband then!' -
'For Christ's sake, Mister, take your wife and enter!' -
'I will not leave before the other men.'
- Silent was the sea.

'We've almost for a lifetime been together.
We may survive this night or we may drown:
I'll stay with you in sun and stormy weather!’
and so they took two deck chairs and sat down.
- Silent was the sea.

'No' said the priest to his young wife with fire,
'there's many other things for us to do;
this is no time for honeymoon's desire,
so come, let's help, and God will help us, too!’
- Silent was the sea.

'No one will help us, neither all your brothers
nor any grateful power from above.
You spent your life to give your love to others -
now be a man and let us die in love!'
- Silent was the sea.

She foundered with the water she was gaining;
the women, children and some first class men
were sent into the lifeboats still remaining,
and no one dared to turn his head again.
- Silent was the sea.

She called for help, but no one heard her calling,
though many of her sisters were around,
and some survivors saw a White Star falling
and quickly sinking to the ocean's ground.
- Silent was the sea.

The captain told the telegrapher, 'Hey man,
the CQD's a signal of the past.
Now there's a new one, simpler for the laymen:
the world's first SOS will be our last.'
- Silent was the sea.

A sudden gush of water was surprising
the diners who laid down their fork or spoon,
and while the water in the lounge was rising,
the band did play a merry ragtime tune.
- Silent was the sea.

All those who could not board the overcrowded
boats died at once in Neptune's gelid den,
and the Atlantic currents soon enshrouded
three hundred dogs and fifteen hundred men.
- Silent was the sea.

After she disappeared, there was no motion:
the overcrowded lifeboats left the scene,
and calm and harmless lay the sleeping ocean
where just before the pride of man had been.
- Silent was the sea.


To the Slaughter

‘It was a good fight anyhow.’ – The O’Rahilly

On Good Friday he burst into Patrick Pearse’ study
and brandished a rifle, ‘Whoever should plan
to kidnap me, too, better be a bloody
quick shot!’ he exclaimed at the terrified man.

‘Calm down,' Pearse replied. 'It is hardly surprising
that you are upset, but Hobson is safe.
He’s only detained; he caught wind of the rising,
but we’ll free him on Sunday - now stop your chafe.’

The O’Rahilly laughed, ‘You have got no equipment
nor weapons; you’ll pay a terrible price!’ -
‘We’ve a chance, for tonight we’re expecting a shipment
from Germany.’ - ‘Hell, what a blood sacrifice!’

On Saturday calls for a cancellation
were made since the shipment was lost, and a fierce
O’Rahilly travelled the South of the nation
all night, countermanding the orders of Pearse.

On Easter Monday he rose and, finding
out the rising was going ahead, just like
a dart he dashed over, ‘Since I’ve helped winding
up the clock, I have come here to hear it strike!’

He was welcomed, and Constance asked him with gladness,
‘Did you not denounce this as mad?’ - He replied,
‘It’s madness all right, but it’s glorious madness!’
and joined the rebels with presage and pride.

From Liberty Hall, to remove Ireland’s gargets,
some four hundred passionate volunteers
spread out to seize their respective targets;
The O’Rahilly was assigned to Pearse.

They entered the GPO and gently
led staff and customers out of the door;
The O’Rahilly and some others intently
took up their posts on the busy first floor.

In a phone box he found a young soldier, unable
to post greeting cards at this awkward time
since Mick Collins had tied him with telephone cable;
‘Untie him – this man has committed no crime.’

Patrick Pearse proclaimed the Republic under
the Tricolour out on Sackville Street;
some sniggered at him and some gazed in wonder,
but most took no heed and kept moving their feet.

With the post office fortified, those in attendance
heard O’Rahilly say, ‘We’re dead meat now and thus
human sacrifices to Independence;
let’s hope that the Brits will accept them from us!’

A small troop of soldiers was sent to get answers
as to what went on and got caught in a blaze
of gunfire; the rebels shot four of the lancers
and a horse which lay dead on the road for five days.

The O’Rahilly watched as a crowd of civilians
entered shops through the broken windows and doors
and plundered fur coats and jewels worth millions;
‘We die for their freedom, and they loot the stores.’

On Tuesday evening Lord Wimborne, in writing,
declared martial law as the army clamped down
on the rebels; the GPO saw no fighting,
but they heard the gunfire throughout the town.

On Wednesday affairs got a little more iffy
when, being done with Liberty Hall,
a gunboat named Helga attacked from the Liffey
and artillery answered the rebels’ call.

Surprised at the heavy bombardment, the gritty
James Connolly took a deep breath and swore,
‘I didn’t expect them to shell the city
centre, being capitalists to the core.’

By Thursday when Sackville Street was burning
and the city centre cordoned off,
the lads came to terms with the very concerning
awareness of pending defeat and scoff.

On Friday afternoon, on the border
of doom, with the GPO on fire,
The O’Rahilly calmly received his last order
and remarked, ‘They keep saying that God loves a trier.’

Being asked to lead a small band as the curtain
for the rebels fell and attempt one last bold
dash for shelter he said, ‘It’s the end for certain;
but what if we’d missed this and died of the cold?’

With a dozen men he ventured the sally,
but he was gunned down and collapsed in pain;
he managed to drag himself into an alley
and lay on a doorstep in Sackville Lane.

An ambulance passed in the night; the alerted
young driver got out to assist and went near,
but an officer ordered him back and asserted,
‘He’s important, we’ve orders to leave him here.’

On Saturday morn to his wife whom he cherished
he composed a note as he lingered on, clothed
in green uniform; then The O'Rahilly perished
for a cause he endorsed in a battle he loathed.


How to Become a Hero

Was it because the last surviving Tommy
became the centre of attention with
warmongers drooling over him who vainly
tried to convince him to endorse the myth
of wars being justified while he kept stating
that war is organised mass murder? No,
that’s not how Harry Patch became a hero.
Was it how the unworthy did bestow
titles and tinsel on the man they’d call
a hero for his service? Not at all,
that’s not how Harry Patch became a hero.

Was it because when Harry was conscripted
to fight in World War I, he made a pact
with fellow soldiers, pledging he would never
kill? Keeping his humanity intact
came at the risk of facing a court martial
and firing squad if he had been found out,
and yet he never took a life, defying
his orders with convictions firm and stout.
His silent but effective bravery
was disobeying rogue authority;
yes, that’s how Harry Patch became a hero!


Armistice

The church bells all rang out to celebrate
the armistice that morning; getting dressed,
Harriet watched the people pass their gate:
‘Wilfred will soon be home now,’ she professed.

The war to end all wars had ended, and
a happy crowd rejoiced out on the street.
Harriet gently touched her husband’s hand:
‘Wilfred will soon be home; we’ll be complete.’

His poems on the savagery of war
had made their son a small celebrity,
and shortly he’d be standing at their door:
‘Wilfred will soon be home with you and me.’

A messenger then rang the doorbell: ‘Ma’am,
I am afraid I bring a telegram.’


The Migrant

The Mediterranean was in motion:
hundreds of thousands fled,
and thousands drowned amidst the ocean
that won’t return its dead.

Escaping war and prosecution,
they brought naught but their skin;
the boat trip seemed the sole solution
to save their lives and kin.

From war-torn Europe they were pouring
into the Middle East;
one man arrived, set on restoring
his pride - his life at least.

Ashore, a Syrian provided
refreshments, nice though plain,
for him and others, and he guided
the people to their train.

Wrapped up in blankets from the depot
they waited, quite amazed,
for their transferral to Aleppo
where shelters had been raised.

He told the Syrian, ‘I never
met such goodwill, it’s true,
and we can not repay you ever
for everything you do.’

The Syrian replied demurely,
‘Relax and stop that fuss,
for if the tables turned, you surely
would do the same for us.’


Final Solutions

The guard sniffed Joshua like he was a turd.
‘You stink,’ he said and added with a smirk,
‘you should be whipped, but I’ll put in a word
for you to get a shower after work.’

The boy knew what this meant, for often he
had to dig trenches for the corpses which
came out of there while forced to joyfully
sing Onward Christian Soldiers in the ditch.

‘I can not wait for that great day to come,’
the fervent guard addressed the warder, ‘when
our country will be free of Jewish scum,
thanks to the tireless efforts of our men.

‘Praise God that in his wisdom he saw fit
to send a leader who, by Jesus’ grace,
will rid us of subhumans and won’t quit
until the master race reclaims its place.

‘These rats will nevermore control our lives
and stick their crooked noses in affairs
not theirs, nor interfere with virtuous wives
and daughters since we emptied out their lairs.

‘And now the enemy who tried to heist
our country lies defeated and will pay
the price God charges for rejecting Christ -
what are these heathens good for, anyway?’

‘Karl carved a world map on a Jewish hide,’
the warder winked at him, ‘which is no small
feat,’ and his colleague giggled and replied,
‘So they may serve a purpose after all.’

Joshua who feared the closing of the day
prayed for a miracle to happen, yards
from his tormentors, list’ning in dismay,
when the commander went up to the guards.

He told them, ‘I’m afraid I’ll have to damp
your merry spirits; Himmler has at last
sent orders to evacuate the camp
because the Soviets are approaching fast.’

A few years later Joshua led his troop
into the Promised Land, the rich reward
for suffering, and he addressed the group,
No mercy is the motto of the Lord!

‘We have been given half a country; now
we have to cleanse it of the parasites
it is infested with, and we shall vow
to slaughter those who disregard our rights.

‘The Palestinians who have refused
to leave their homes and flee the country must
be killed on sight, and any weapon used
is good enough for them; our cause is just!

‘God has commanded us, because we are
his chosen people, to exterminate
these foul abominable vermin bar
none for their sloth, their godlessness and hate.

‘And before long we’ll also take the rest
of what was promised to our people by
the Lord of Hosts, and there will be no nest
for the unchosen ones to hide; they’ll die.’

A family ran past them, and his men
managed to shoot two children in a trice.
The rest sought shelter in the mosque; that’s when
Joshua set off an anti-tank device.

And as he checked, there was no single trace
of any person in the empty hall,
but then he noticed, past the vacant space,
their flattened bodies sticking to the wall.

‘Come here,’ he told the others, ‘and admire
this stunning work of art; does it not look
like a Chagall? This image could inspire
our future artists to a children’s book.

‘All these barbarians don’t care about
our moral values and don’t know our pow’rs;
we shall not rest until they’re all wiped out
and the entire Holy Land is ours!'


Al-Nakba

This genocide is now officially declared
open, and there are many reasons to be scared:
the British ceased their occupation to replace
it with a foreign people to invade our space,
to take our land and exile us from where we’ve dwelled
from ages immemorial to be dispelled,
and those who lost their home will always have to roam.

Eight hundred thousand have to leave their homes behind;
Semites displaced by Semites who regard their kind
as the superior race and chosen people who
are justified by God in everything they do,
strongly supported by the powers that insist
that both our people and our country don’t exist,
and those who lost their home will always have to roam.

And so our exodus begins; we have to yield
each orange orchard, olive grove and mustard field
that has provided for our happy families
with its abundance over bygone centuries.
Villages are demolished and our blood is spilled
as those refusing to evacuate are killed,
but those who lost their home will always have to roam.

The never ending train of refugees leaves tracks:
Muslims and Christians are now forced to turn their backs
on their own heritage, not knowing where to go
nor how to get there, with their spirits being low.
While some find shelter in what’s left of Palestine
for the time being, most of us have no design,
and those who lost their home will always have to roam.

Of those who didn’t starve to death and who weren’t shot
there’s hardly anybody who will find a spot
to settle. An unwanted people, we endure
the knowledge that our lives will never be secure.
We’re outlaws in our stolen country; anyone
may kill us on the street with nothing being done,
and those who lost their home will always have to roam.

The future that awaits us will be bleaker still:
the scrap of land which the UN has left us will
be occupied as well. Millions of refugees
will languish in our neighbours’ camps; our future sees
two million people murdered for their native land
amidst a nescient world that fails to understand
while those who lost their home will always have to roam.


Dead Mountain

(The Dyatlov Pass Incident)

The nine skied hard against the wind that froze their every limb,
and as the air around them thinned and wintertime turned grim,
Sasha kept shivering and said, ‘They’re after us, it’s true:
they want you to believe I’m mad so they can take you, too!’

‘We have no choice but to turn back,’ Zena remarked. ‘We will
not be successful on our trek with Sasha being ill.
His hypothermia won’t allow him to go on for long;
we can not climb Otorten now, to do so would be wrong!’

‘I’d say we set up for the night,’ Igor put down his pack.
‘Tomorrow morning at first light we shall be heading back.’
But suddenly a blazing flash blinded the mountaineers;
‘My face feels like it’s burnt to ash!’ Ludmilla cried in tears.

The light that stung like thousand darts had caught them by surprise.
‘They’re testing weapons in these parts,’ said George and rubbed his eyes.
‘We’ll have to get away from here,’ Igor, regaining sight,
expressed, ‘Dead Mountain is quite near, that’s where we’ll spend the night.’

‘You know that was no accident,’ Sasha still wouldn’t quit.
The others soon put up the tent, and then the stove was lit.
They had their supper as outside the falling snow piled deep
and talked about their bumpy ride while Sasha fell asleep.

‘It’s called Dead Mountain,’ Zena told the others, unafraid,
‘because back in the days of old nine Mansi hunters stayed
here overnight and died, and yet nobody found out how.’
Yuri replied, a bit upset, ‘That’ll be sufficient now.’

Rustem suggested, ‘Let us sing instead of telling tales
of horror which will only bring us down to no avails.’
He led, the others soon joined in, and Zena said, ‘You know,
you shouldn’t have left your mandolin back at the cache below.’

Sasha woke up, he looked around and said, ‘How could I miss
the obvious? Just now I found out that you’re in on this;
you all are from the KGB and try to snuff me out!’
‘Sure, Khrushchev,’ laughed Ludmilla, ‘we are after you, no doubt.’

Grabbing a ski pole, Sasha rose, struck Rustem on the head
and cut the tip of George’s nose. ‘He’s gone completely mad –
get out!’ cried Igor frantically and punched him in the face;
the rest cut through the tent to flee and find a safer place.

Rustem got up, and even though he still felt slightly dazed
he fended off another blow using his knife and gazed
at Igor who knocked Sasha out, then both of them were good
to join the rest who were about to run into the wood.

Dressed for the night, they now were left out in the arctic cold;
freezing, they found themselves bereft of warmth and reached the bold
decision to put up a fire despite the jeopardy
that they were in, and the entire group sat beneath a tree.

Nick tried to climb the cedar where he could observe the tent
to see if Sasha was still there, but all the branches bent
or broke under his weight, and so Simon and Igor tried
the same but landed in the snow, the branches by their side.

‘He couldn’t wander very far in his condition; if
he left the camp, then chances are that he’s already stiff,’
said Zena. ‘Igor, Rustem and myself will venture back,
and if it’s safe when we ascend we’ll shout and hit the sack.’

The three set out to reach the camp, but Igor soon broke down,
heavily shaking in the damp new snow as if he’d drown.
He said, ‘Just leave me, I beseech you!’ with deflated breath,
but neither of his friends would reach the tent; they froze to death.

When Simon woke up from a deep slumber, he saw that Nick
and Ludmilla, too, were vast asleep, and almost became sick:
the elements had claimed a dire and terrifying toll -
Yuri and George slumped o’er the fire, their fingers burnt to coal.

‘They’re dead,’ he said, ‘we may as well take some of their attire
to keep us warm; I think we shall not light another fire
but look for a more sheltered place down there in the ravine:
it’ll be more difficult to trace us where we can’t be seen.’

They dug a shelter, and they laid it out with twigs they found
and warmed each other, dead afraid of everything around.
At that time Sasha stumbled on Igor and lunged, but when
he heard the others he was gone to find their hidden den.

Standing in front of them, he struck Nick’s head with all his might,
and Simon tried, without much luck, to grab his pole; the fight
continued till eventually Sasha crushed Simon’s chest.
Ludmilla shouted, ‘Stop it! We aren’t spies, you are possessed!’

‘You’ve always had the sharpest tongue,’ he said and cut it out,
he punched her in the face and swung his skiing pole about,
he smashed her ribs, and as she sunk into the blood-red snow
he staggered like a flustered drunk, collapsed and lay down low.

Simon awoke once more to be reminded, scared to look;
the last man, hardly standing, he froze bitterly and took
Ludmilla’s hat and coat, and when the world around turned white,
he slowly drifted off again into that frigid night.


The Spirit of Humanity

Once upon a time, or rather
in the gloomy future ages,
lived a kind and caring father,
loving husband, man of fame,
a scientist of Life who viewed the pages
of History and hung his head in shame,

Knowing of the awful slaughters
that attend all human cultures,
parents killing sons and daughters,
noble races, slain in wars;
men seeking carrion like hungry vultures,
yet not to feed themselves - what is the cause?

Genocide is somewhat newer:
soldiers fought for tribe or nation
when the men on earth were fewer,
but the knights would slay the knights;
yet since the world's Americanization
the innocent expire in pointless fights.

The contempt for life in cities
seems to be the worst: they care not,
while the countryman still pities
any neighbour in dismay -
but many townsmen fight and kill and spare not
the old and weak, while others look away.

Why is Life's esteem so clouded
and its value so rejected
when the place or time is crowded
and the people lack their space?
Could it not be that Nature has protected
herself against an all-consuming race?

So he learned of other jammings
leading into self-destruction,
watched the travels of the lemmings
and the rats that eat their brood:
he found the trace of Nature's self-reduction
and started to research in hopeful mood.

Soon he found the body's guidon
to the course of fatal features,
and he called it suicidon,
due to the effect it had:
its influence will cause the tamest creatures
to kill their kind and to go raving mad.

Any overpopulated
race must soon destroy her beauty,
therefore Nature has created
suicidon to assure
that no one ever keeps her from her duty,
for always Nature's balance must endure.

Every race she instituted
spreads it to a slight degree - she's
making sure it's well diluted
and its doses fairly small:
as long as there are few of any species,
their suicidon can't be sensed at all.

But in case the population
of a species is increasing
drastically, its concentration
will increase accordingly,
and, sensed by many creatures, its displeasing
effects will set their hate and anger free.

Those will turn against their brothers
and the families they live in,
kill the young and slay their mothers
and exterminate their kind;
the sensible of those who have to give in
at least to kill themselves make up their mind.

All the suicides, oppressions,
homicides, each hostile action,
all the wars and all aggressions,
children slain before their birth
show Nature's most destructive self-protection
to limit human beings on her earth.

All the battles of the nations,
poisoners of air and water,
all the nuclear power stations,
careless drivers and hard drugs
attest like priests of violence and slaughter
that suicidon turns us into thugs!

Soon the substance was located
by the scientist who sprightly
had a great deal isolated
from his subjects; with a gloat
he stored it in a flask and sealed it tightly
and started to prepare the antidote.

'Conflicts will disappearing,
and my children should be able
to grow up in peace!' - Then, hearing
breaking glass, he sensed the end:
the wind had blown the flask down from the table -
or was it Nature's own almighty hand?

'Why,' he thought, 'why should I worry?
Am I then my brothers' keeper?
If they want to fight and hurry
to their deaths, let them expire!
Mankind is low, and it will sink much deeper -'
He set his studies and his house on fire.


The Conversion of Norma McCorvey

‘You must get an abortion, Ronda,’
her mum and dad went wild.
‘What will our pastor and our brethren
think if you have a child?’

Her fiancé and future in-laws
continued, too, to urge
her, ‘We do have a reputation
to think of in our church.’

‘Once we are married, we’ll have children,
as many as you want,
but God does not intend our union
now to be blessed upfront.’

Facing such opposition Ronda,
finally giving in,
made an appointment to get rid of
the symptom of her sin.

But as she went to bed that evening,
the image of a friend
kept haunting her who had aborted
and started to descend.

She would be hearing children’s laughter
out of the blue and sigh,
‘I can’t believe I killed my baby,’
and start to sob and cry.

After a sleepless nightmare Ronda,
when she got up at morn,
decided that she’d keep her daughter,
and Emily was born.

When she was seven years, her mother
who volunteered with strong
emotions in the pro-life centre
brought Emily along.

Next door was an abortion clinic,
and in the weirdest twist
she, of all people, bonded with a
foul-mouthed abortionist.

Norma McCorvey was not only
assisting to abort
but had made history by winning
Roe vs Wade in court.

Returning Emily’s affection
still made her slightly sweat;
Norma had dealt with many children,
just not a live one yet.

Then, during their unlikely friendship,
Norma one day arrived
in Ronda’s office who informed her
how Emily survived.

As Norma listened to the story,
she felt her guts entwine;
the thought of Emily aborted
sent shivers down her spine.

Another day she passed a poster
displaying, bit by bit,
fetal development, and Norma
just stood and stared at it.

Looking at tiny eyes and fingers,
she realsied the plight
of children in the womb, declaring,
‘Good heavens, they are right!’

Distraught at such a heavy burden
her conscience had to face
all of a sudden, Norma started
reflecting on her case.

She couldn’t put, like other people,
her past upon a shelf,
‘My lie has made abortion legal -
I can’t forgive myself!’

‘But Jesus can and will forgive you,’
Ronda assured her friend,
‘and Christians fight to make abortion
illegal in this land.’

The thought of an authority with
the power to forgive
her what she’d done appealed to her and
restored her will to live.

She bowed to one whom she believed to
reclaim her soul from hell,
and who’d provide a better place for
the little ones as well.

Welcomed by Christian congregations
Norma commenced her strife,
and with her pastor and her brethren
she’s now promoting life.


Living with Pluto

Venetia, having had her breakfast, hovered
around the table where, intensively,
her granddad read the paper, 'They've discovered
another planet which we can not see
and seek a name for it.' - With a bright spark
the girl unwittingly approached the portals
of fame, 'I'd call him Pluto - he is dark
and makes himself invisible to mortals.'

A lifetime afterwards it has been noted
that Pluto was no planet, and instead
it was discussed that he should be demoted.
Asked her opinion, the old lady said,
'I'd like him to remain a planet, yet
I guess it doesn't really matter whether
he is or isn't.' - Shortly after that
Venitia and her godchild left together.


Early Heroes of the Third Millennium

They’re not heroes who kill thousands
for a governmental medal:
heroes risk their reputation,
their own safety and their lives
by standing up for what is right, regardless
of consequences they might have to face.

Weapons expert David Kelly
had to find some mass destructive
weapons as a British pretext
to invade Iraq - but there
were none, and Kelly, after going public,
conveniently ‘committed suicide’.

When Julian Assange created
WikiLeaks, exposing war crimes,
he had no idea he’d end up
with a trumped-up rape charge, but
was granted Ecuadorian asylum
and tarries in their London embassy.

Bradley Manning who supplied him
with a lot of information
of the wars was not so lucky;
when his sentence was pronounced
he had to realise exposing war crimes
will cost him thirty-five years of his life.

When Malala Yousafzai broadcast
how the Taliban closed girls’ schools,
the young girl was shot; she managed
to recover, and despite
continued death threats she still keeps campaigning
for girls’ and women’s education rights.

Edward Snowden told the public
how their governments are spying
on their citizens; accused of
espionage (the irony!),
he fled to Russia where he has been granted
asylum on a temporary base.

There are more - some that we know of,
others who’ll remain forever
unrevealed, but still their courage
makes this world a better place:
we should be grateful to our most distinguished
first heroes of the Third Millennium!


The Evil Host

Once a landlord in a pretty
valley ran its inn. His chilling
look was feared, and so the city
called his place 'The Evil Host's':
with every room he offered for a shilling
he used to moan about his halfpenny costs.

Constantly he was forgetting
salt and change for every table,
every room that he was letting
was minute and bare and cold,
his meals were small and dear, his chairs unstable,
his ale was flat and thin, his bread was old.

He was wealthy, he was greedy,
and he roamed the streets with pleasure:
there he robbed the poor and needy,
and he snatched the beggars' hats.
Another fav’rite pastime in his leisure
was kicking wife and children, dogs and cats.

On the outskirts of the valley
lived the rich and cultivated.
Once he walked along their alley,
and the host became upset:
he didn’t know them, for they celebrated
in their own mansions every time they met.

As the city's sole purveyor
he announced a public meeting
to appoint himself Lord Mayor
and proclaim the mayor's law:
no visit was allowed, no talk, no greeting
outside the city's inn for evermore;

Everybody had to render
contributions to his dive now;
every critic and offender
would be put to death at once;
no public enemy'd be left alive now;
the may'r will be succeeded by his sons.

Thus enforcing law and orders,
his regime was constituted,
and within the valley's borders
no one dared to talk again;
the few who did were swiftly executed,
and every night the inn was full of men.

Nothing passed unknown: no stealthy
visit and no word of gumption.
His new customers were wealthy,
so he charged a higher price:
this caused his guests to limit their consumption,
which activated once again his vice.

With a club he struck their heads and
took their money and possessions,
tore their mantles into shreds and
left them bleeding on the floor.
Nightclubbing was the strongest of his passions,
until they brought their valuables no more.

Soon some helpers were recruited:
his own wife, his sons and daughters
broke into their homes and looted
them and took what they could find.
The host was bringing them their ales or waters;
meanwhile his clann left not a nail behind.

Facing poverty, his latest
customers were now refraining
from their visits, and his greatest
business loss aroused his hate:
mere fractions of his profit were remaining,
and once again the host became irate.

Thinking of a vengeful gesture,
finally, one Sunday morning
after Mass he changed his vesture
and put on the mayor's gown.
He went to their estates; without a warning
he lit a torch and burnt their houses down.

Mighty flames were now appearing
which destroyed their living places;
after hours the smoke was clearing
where their mansions once had been.
In ragged clothes and with disfigured faces
the few survivors stood before the inn.

'Help us, please! Our living centre
is destroyed, and we are leaving
from the ruins - let us enter!'
But he laughed and held his spouse,
'You only want to share what we're achieving;
go home and get a job and build a house!'

Some preferred to die as quickly
as they could and started speaking
to each other while some sickly
went into the woods and prayed,
and some refused to leave; the host was freaking,
and with his guests he shot the ones who stayed.

Soon the city celebrated
with its self-appointed leader,
and the Evil Host created
loopholes for their hunting game.
I'll meet you in his inn tonight, dear reader:
the host still serves, and Europe is his name.


The Secret Word

The old magician wrung his hands in terror:
now that that the world was in the hands of one
it entered the apocalyptic era
that had been prophesied since time begun:
a world of tyranny and warfare and poverty unheard
of, should he not succeed to manage to find the secret word.

That word would bring prosperity and gladness,
that word would end all tyranny and wars,
the nations' and religions' raging madness
and render lasting peace to all our shores.
The word is known to just one creature, but she won't set us free:
she was the one who spoke the other and caused our misery.

Mankind's destruction is her only mission:
this planet's oldest demon, older far
than any god, brought greed and competition
to all her neighbours with the nasty scar
of losses for all losers, winners and those who stand aside
since her demand to be their empress was blatantly denied.

She waited for a little tiff with patience,
she spoke the word, and soon she looked upon
the first religion and the first of nations;
then Tiamat, the whore of Babylon,
set up her watching post where farmers declared themselves to be
rulers and kings and priests of others and shaped their destiny.

She saw mankind creating their first borders
and fight for every little piece of brush;
when man commenced to kill on others' orders
she watched with glee and wore their blood as blush.
The demon no one ever summoned has almost reached her goal,
and only finding out her secret can give us back our soul!

He read the tablets once again; a caustic
Sumerian hymn to Enki broke the spell.
The old magician shouted, 'An acrostic!
Now I can summon her, and she must tell!'
He drew the zodiac around him and said the words he'd found
by chance and called the vicious demon who entered through the ground.

'I summoned you! You must reveal,' he beckoned,
'the word to end all tyranny and war!'
He shrunk as she gained volume by the second
and filled his house; it was not long before
she covered the entire city, and still she seemed to grow,
and in a thund'rous voice she bellowed, 'The secret word is No!'


Prince Ledvi


Prince Ledvi of the Santa Cruifel Valley
at Bluezebbe Lake near Trichistan
was feared and hated by his country subjects,
his allies and his enemies.

No man nor beast dared to approach his castle
which lay in darkness night and day,
but everybody knew the tales and rumours
about the horrors on his hill.

They say he trained his wolves to feed on children,
he trained his bats to drain the blood
from human beings, that he had a dragon
who lived on cattle and on men.

At times the brute would rise; the earth would tremble,
and fire from his mouth would burn
the fields and houses, and his breath of iron
would blow the crops and woods away.

Dwarf Killgun was his dubious loyal servant,
saddling his horse, honing his axe:
he would have liked to kill his vicious master
but was afraid in case he’d fail.

At new moon, shrouded in the coat of Darkness,
the prince collected secretly
the creatures for his cabinet of horrors,
eager to find the source of Life.

At midnight you would find him in the churchyard
(only that no one looked for him);
he took the dead ones from their resting places
and buried those who were alive.

His dungeon was the final stop for debtors,
for enemies and passers-by,
where he approached the answer to the question
what organs man can live without.

Only the abbey where the saints awaited
what has been promised from the dawn
of Time, Lord Ghni’s victorious arrival,
was safe because he feared their god.

One day the prince rode out into the mountains,
his fretful servant by his side,
and on their way they passed the dusky castle
of Earl Druyhaggly and his sons.

He was supposed to be a black magician,
for no one knew his real age:
great grandads told the younger generations
that he was old when they were born.

‘He read the books I’ve read but has no wisdom,'
the prince remarked disdainfully. -
‘Are you not jealous of the way he managed
to cling to life, my script-mad prince?'

‘No! Jealousy is fear of competition,
and Earl Druyhaggly can’t compete
with me,' he said. ‘He tries to be a monster,
but all Black Masters laugh at him.'

‘Find out the times he lived - he is a demon,'
Dwarf Killgun uttered anxiously.
‘Outside - then, if he’s a demon, I’m the Devil!'
Prince Ledvi answered with a sneer.

‘He followed me the day I picked the black rose,
the secret to prolong one’s life
for up to thirteen years, and with this knowledge
he managed to survive that long.

‘And now I feel my strength again is fading,
and I must look for her at once -
I have to find the rose before the Earl does:
she’s rare here, for she needs the sun.'

Black clouds that rose up from the dale enshrouded
the murky hills of Trichistan
as they set out to find the vital flower
on Earl Druyhaggly’s mountain range.

And as they sneaked across the hostile churchyard
to take the shortcut through the woods,
a crow emerged and led them to her hideout
behind the chapel on the knoll.

Dwarf Killgun warned the prince, ‘Why do we follow
a crow, the messenger of death?'
But like in trance his master sauntered onwards
until the bird had reached her nest.

And suddenly some hideous apparitions
ascended from derelict graves,
decaying corpses in the eerie moonlight,
and slowly hobbled towards the prince.

‘You’ll die tonight, much slower and more painful
than any of your victims did,
and on the glorious day of Ghni’s arrival
you’ll pay for all our sufferings!'

The fearful prince produced a graven image
of Lord Adonikam to keep
the ghostly mob at bay, and with his servant
he turned around and said no word.

In timid silence they went on and, climbing
the steepest rock face, they could see
the black rose blooming on the highest mountain
where not a chamois dared to go.

The servant was the first to reach the summit
and stretched his hand out, but the prince
admonished him, ‘She just bestows her magic
on him who picks the rose himself!'

Dwarf Killgun watched him as he tried to grab her,
nine hundred yards above the ground;
he didn’t push him neither did he help him
until the Prince plunged down the cliff.

Now Earl Druyhaggly ruled the twilight country,
and the black heavens soon turned grey,
the yoke of death became the yoke of sorrows;
the horror ceased, the fear remained.

For many years the farmers' life continued
without the monarch of their woes
save oral lore, for in their rustic spirits
the Prince of Darkness stayed alive.

Whatever happened in the gloomy valley,
the village people always blamed
Prince Ledvi of the Santa Cruifel Valley
at Bluezebbe Lake near Trichistan.

One frosty winter evening a tornado
announced the advent of a fiend,
and, being darker than the night around him,
a man stood in the city gate.

The veil of Evil and the gloom of Molog
fell o’er the vales of many a slave,
the mood of Doom filled the Resort of Terrors:
the Demon gnomed, the Devil lived!


Returning to his tenebrous old castle,
Prince Ledvi called his battle chief
and told him to prepare the Sable Army
for what he deemed the War of Wars.

‘After my fall I had a revelation
that I shall be the emperor
of every other country, every kingdom
in every corner of the world.

‘All nations on this earth my hand shall conquer
and rule them with an iron rod:
their kings shall praise and fear the King of monarchs,
known by the name of Xoanon Rex!'

He sent for King Demirva of Alassys
whose realm lay next to Trichistan
and asked the fickle ruler to join forces
against his enemy of old.

‘Deep in the Rorie Wood there is a building
he calls his little Iron Core,
and all the shields and weapons for his soldiers
are manufactured in that forge.

‘He doesn’t know I know of it, and therefore
he doesn’t guard the place too well;
there we shall start the battle, kill the blacksmiths,
destroy the forge and take their swords!

‘While Earl Druyhaggly will await our armies
right at his country’s borderline,
we’ll sneak across the thickets of his forest
and then attack them from behind!'

So they agreed to meet before the sunrise
after the solstice in the woods,
and King Demirva left the dusky castle
like he had been attacked himself.

‘Why did you talk about the plan to enter
the province at the Rorie Wood
to set the little Iron Core on fire?'
Dwarf Killgun wondered with a frown.

‘He won’t believe a word I say, and therefore
I took the opportunity
to tell the truth in order to conceal it,'
Prince Ledvi answered with a sneer.

As he expected, all the troops had mustered
right at the foot of the mountain range
which separates the Santa Cruifel Valley
from the highland realm of Trichistan.

Meanwhile Prince Ledvi’s undefeated army
had sneaked into the Rorie Wood
and, covered by the bracing fog of morning,
they secretly besieged the forge.

And then the soldiers lit and hurled their torches
and with their arrows killed the posts;
within a minute everything was over,
the blacksmiths dead, the forge burnt down.

From there the troops approached the nation’s border,
hidden behind the many trees;
it was less than a chain that separated
the army from their enemy.

And as the signal sounded, they attacked them:
before the foe could turn around,
Prince Ledvi’s soldiers threw their spears, their halberds
and battle axes in their back.

Their helpless victims put up no resistance
as they were taken by surprise,
but still the Sable Army slew the soldiers
until no man was left alive.

The battle chief arrested Earl Druyhaggly
and King Demirva in the fort,
put them in chains, then marched them through the city
and made them kneel before the prince.

Their vanquisher looked at his former rivals
contemptuously and drew his sword,
decapitated them and gave the order
to have their heads exposed on poles.

‘This is but the beginning,' claimed Prince Ledvi,
‘for soon the name of Xoanan Rex
will make the nations on this planet tremble
with fear of him who rules the world!

‘Our people has been made to reign and govern
all other races on this earth,
and Xoanan Rex, your god-appointed leader,
will conquer all the world with you!

‘But for this purpose we require an army
much bigger than the one we have,
so all of you have to pick up a weapon
and struggle for our native right!'

Prince Ledvi had all citizens conscripted
to fight against their fellowmen,
and armed with pitchforks, shovels, spades and sickles
the peaceful farmers faced the war.

And all his subjects carried on their forehead
or their right hand the royal mark,
the King’s initials, and like branded cattle
endured his arbitrariness.

Prince Ledvi called a war upon the nations
who did not willingly submit;
the saints came down to pray and bless the weapons,
and everybody hailed their king.

His pastime soldiers spread in all directions
and butchered, looted, raped and burned
what they could find, and where the foe was stronger
the Sable Army came to help.

Soon every other country was defeated
and the known world was in his hands,
but still the raids and massacres continued:
Terror became the way of life.

But some put up resistance ’gainst the warfare
and tyranny of Xoanan Rex;
a group of dauntless rebels had beleaguered
and seized the fort of Trichistan.

Whoever sought to enter without weapons
or left them with the post in charge
was welcomed to the fellowship of humans
amidst a world of savage beasts.

Some undercover agitators ventured
to join them, trying to incite
the people to rebel against the rebels
who thought they could withstand the prince.

But they were sneered at every time they questioned
their zealous hosts' sincerity;
some stopped complaining, and they chose to stay there,
while their companions were expelled.

The Sable Army was brought in; unable
to get anywhere near the fort,
Prince Ledvi’s force besieged the rebels' stronghold,
and no one could get in or out.

Thirst and starvation soon set in; the rebels
rationed the water and the food,
but to make sure the fort could be defended
they claimed the bigger share themselves.

Some families decided to surrender,
hoisted the white flag and left the fort:
the soldiers let them pass without disturbance
and watched them as they left the scene.

A task force had to follow them in secret,
and when the fort was out of sight,
they massacred the children, men and women
before they were aware of them.

And after many weeks Prince Ledvi’s army
hauled an impressive catapult
up to the palisades from where Batgado,
his battle chief, addressed the crowd,

‘We do not fight against you,' he assured them,
‘we know you’re victims of a group
of marauding outlaws, bandits who deceived you
into opposing law and order!

‘Your leaders are ambassadors of Evil:
there’s food for all, but they let you starve,
and while you’re at your post and do your duty,
they rape your daughters and your wives.

‘We hate to see you suffer, and we’ll help you!' -
The sceptic crowd still stayed at bay.
Loaded with clothes, with food and bottled water
the catapult was being fired.

There was some dispute whether or not to trust those
who thought that poor wights were not worthwhile;
when finally the hungry crowd approached them,
the soldiers launched the burning coal.

The fort caught fire at once, and the survivors
who managed to escape the flames
were killed outside its walls by furious soldiers
who left no adult nor child alive.

The public cheered their army, and St Noelan,
the abbot, celebrated Mass
to thank Lord Ghni for having rid the empire
of its disloyal enemies.

Meanwhile one of Prince Ledvi’s many satraps
whom he himself had once installed
to fight and terrorise his peaceful neighbours
gathered an army of his own.

He hadn’t openly opposed his master
so far, but it was rumoured that
Oriac planned a coup against Prince Ledvi
who’d trained him in the ghastly arts.

In Zefna which was once a wealthy kingdom
and now the emperor’s colony
he ruled since he had slaughtered king and gentry
in the dreadful name of Xoanan Rex.

‘twas autumn in the Santa Cruifel Valley:
the children frolicked in the fields,
harvesters sang their songs and swung their sickles,
the market place was buzzing with life.

The fire started from all sides; nobody
survived apart from Xoanan Rex,
who, by some lucky accident, was hunting
the murky hills of Trichistan.

Without a word he watched the valley burning
till there was nothing left to burn,
and, looking at the crater, he asserted,
‘He’ll pay for that! He’ll pay for that!'

Assuring everyone it was Oriac
who’d masterminded this attack,
he asked his pliant vassals for assistance
in order to restore the peace.

‘We’re challenged to stand up for freedom and justice,'
he thundered in a public speech,
‘this man has killed defenceless women and children,
and he will have to pay for it!

‘There only is one punishment we know of
for the slaying of the innocent!' -
Thousands of subjects cheered their raging ruler
and called for vengeance and for war.

Having secured support for any action
’gainst Zefna and its citizens,
the lucifugous emperor decided
to fight the battle in the night.

Ten rivers flow across the realm of Zefna,
and hundred water springs supply
its residents, and all of them were poisoned
the night Prince Ledvi took revenge.

And at the sunset of the day that followed
the Sable Army combed the land,
searching all places and the streets and houses
to kill the ones who didn’t die.

But there was not a trace of Earl Oriac
nor of his soldiers to be found;
yet the contented emperor gave orders
to celebrate his victory.

And on the streets his subjects were rejoicing
and waving banners with his arms,
and without cease they all intoned the chorus,
‘Long live our emperor Xoanan Rex!'

The emperor received congratulations
from those he deemed to be his friends;
throughout the night the festival continued
till the last visitor went home.

Prince Ledvi then retired to his chambers
and went to sleep, the door ajar,
but in the middle of his dearest nightmare
he heard one of the hinges creak.

So he sat up, and through the sombre darkness
he saw that Lord Adonikam
stood in the door; without a word Prince Ledvi
fell to his knees and vailed his crown.

‘You’ve always been a dedicated servant,
and well I know of your pursuit
of immortality which you embarked on
a hundred and eighty years ago.

‘Since your return to the Santa Cruifel Valley
you’ve helped my cause enormously,
and as I need reliable disciples,
I now shall grant your vain request.

‘At full moon, walk up to the clerics' chapel,
bring the black rose, one of your locks,
take down the wooden idol of Lord Ghni
and burn them on his altar, chanting,

"Live for a staminal eon!" - when the wolf howls,
take the hot ashes in your hands
and gently blow them through the eastern window,
and you shall live for evermore!'

So when the moon completed his next cycle,
Prince Ledvi took one of his locks
and the black rose; he walked up to the abbey
and burnt them with the cross of Ghni.

‘Live for a staminal eon,' he incanted
and heard one of the hinges creak;
as he turned round, he realised the presence
of Noelan and the other saints.

He timidly stepped back as they approached him;
raising the cross against the prince,
and with a voice that made the belfry tremble
the abbot drove him to the door.

‘This world cries out against the King of Terror:
because of your atrocities
Lord Ghni condemned you, and the reign of horror
shall end before the moon goes down!

‘The morning sun shan’t see you in your empire,
for if she does, you’ll have to die
the longest death a man has ever suffered,
the hills will echo with your screams:

‘Make haste and walk beyond the farthest mountain
where human beings daren’t dwell,'
he told the prince and pushed him cross the threshold
from where he stumbled to the gates;

With crucifix, thyme leaves and Holy Water
the fierce twelve clerics sent away
Prince Ledvi of the Santa Cruifel Valley
at Bluezebbe Lake near Trichistan.


© Frank L. Ludwig