Monday, December 22, 2014

There Is No Happiness in Things

There is no happiness in things,
Image credit:
No lasting beauty, peace, or joy,
Except in spells poor bards deploy.
The world’s a song the thrasher sings:
All improv with no melody,
A tune that holds our hearts in thrall
And that our minds cannot recall
But try—and only parody.

A bubble rides upon the stream
Of mind from peak to valley floor
Then bursts, released to rise once more
Into the airy realms of dream.
Just so, whatever can be got,
Perceived, or else believed can be
No more than desert nomads see:
Oases born when brains get hot.

So sweet the springtime breezes blow
Like leaf-clad revelers made drunk
By nectar sipped from blossoms sunk
Into the sparkling dew below.
They twirl and raise the summer’s fire,
Which stokes the seeds to bear their fruits
Till harvest time, so too the roots
To gather strength for winter’s ire.

The seasons’ magic circle spins,
Not halting once to catch its breath;
Since any pause would bring its death,
It only ends where it begins.
And round about the new year’s birth,
When winter tucks its tail to run
And green grows gold beneath the sun,
New life peeps out from frozen earth.

But ever after snow must come,
And frost must nip the boldest bud,
And northern winds must chill the blood
Till bones are ice and flesh goes numb.
Remembered warmth becomes a sin
Indulged in secret, shadowed cells
As devils watch from flaming hells
To see how many souls they’ll win.

This sin, which tears the tender hearts,
Must be the first of mortal kind:
The wish for simple peace of mind
Though sorrow comes, though peace departs.
This stain cannot be cleansed by tears,
By bless├ęd waters washed away:
The mark passed on from day to day
Through thoughts and feelings, loves and fears.

Thus bittersweet is every bliss
(Though pure ambrosia on the tongue),
And on and on the lips are stung
By thorns within the softest kiss.
These pains, borne on in hopes they’ll ease
And somehow make their victims whole,
Reveal that no one can control
What next may come, and nothing please.

A faith will crumble, touched by doubt;
Perfection fall to chaos, too,
If something shifts the well-known view
Or closes off the normal route
One walks each day through wood and field;
And safety turn to utter war
Despite the blood shed long before
From wounds reopened, never healed.

The knotted scars that ever burn
With every pulse’s steady beat
May be at once the great defeat
And final triumph left to earn:
The bearer’s choice alone can change
A self-made curse to saving grace
And greet the world with smiling face
In vibrant, natural exchange.

Alas, for any gain is loss
Within the tightly binding chain
Both forged and worn by every brain,
And each a nail within the cross
Of molded dust and skulls that glow
So pale beneath the setting sun
That sinks to sleep, its journey done,
In dreams its earthen sheets bestow.

But here the waking watch and fret
For light to lift its head and shine
While shadows creeping close confine
Their thoughts to dwell in dark regret
Until, at last, their watchman wakes,
Relights his lamp, repels the night,
And makes the caverns fully bright
Till every gladdened heart partakes.

Then all upon the Earth rejoice
To feel their burdens slightly lift
And think their lives a precious gift;
Unnumbered lives unite to voice
Their praises—and the Earth replies
In birdsong, thunder, waterfall!
Now every life, from large to small,
Inspired by breath that never dies,

Arises to the clearing skies
On wings of pinions gilded gold
To soar with glee no fears withhold
And view the world with newborn’s eyes.
At times it seems the cosmos rings
With angels striking fairy strings—
But still the pensive wood thrush sings:
There is no happiness in things.