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    Ralph Hodgson

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    The Bull

      See an old unhappy bull,
      Sick in soul and body both,
      Slouching in the undergrowth
      Of the forest beautiful,
      Banished from the herd he led,
      Bulls and cows a thousand head.

      Cranes and gaudy parrots go
      Up and down the burning sky;
      Tree-top cats purr drowsily
      In the dim-day green below;
      And troops of monkeys, nutting, some,
      All disputing, go and come;

      And things abominable sit
      Picking offal buck or swine,
      On the mess and over it
      Burnished flies and beetles shine,
      And spiders big as bladders lie
      Under hemlocks ten foot high;

      And a dotted serpent curled
      Round and round and round a tree,
      Yellowing its greenery,
      Keeps a watch on all the world,
      ALl the world and this old bull
      In the forest beautiful.

      Bravely by his fall he came:
      One he led, a bull of blood
      Newly come to lustihood,
      Fought and put his prince to shame,
      Snuffed and pawed the prostrate head
      Tameless even while it bled.

      There they left him, every one,
      Left him there without a lick,
      Left him for the birds to pick,
      Left him there for carrion,
      Vilely from their bosom cast
      Wisdom, worth and love at last.

      When the lion left his lair
      And roared his beauty through the hills,
      And the vultures pecked their quills
      And flew into the middle air,
      Then this prince no more to reign
      Came to life and lived again.

      He snuffed the herd in far retreat,
      He saw the blood upon the ground,
      And snuffed the burning airs around
      Still with beevish odours sweet,
      While the blood ran down his head
      And his mouth ran slaver red.

      Pity him, this fallen chief,
      All his spendour, all his strength,
      ALl his body' breadth and length
      Dwindled down with shame and grief,
      Half the bull he was before,
      Bones and leather, nothing more.

      See him standing dewlap-deep
      In the rushes at the lake,
      Surly, stupid, half asleep,
      Waiting for his heart to break
      And the birds to join the flies
      Feasting at his bloodshot eyes, --

      Standing with his head hung down
      In a stupor dreaming things:
      Green savannas, jungles brown,
      Battlefields and bellowings,
      Bulls undone and lions dead
      And vultures flapping overhead.

      Dreaming things: of days he spent
      With his mother gaunt and lean
      In the valley warm and green,
      Full of baby wonderment,
      Blinking out of silly eyes
      At a hundred mysteries;

      Dreaming over once again
      How he wandered with a throng
      Of bulls and cows a thousand strong,
      Wandered on from plain to plain,
      Up hethe hill and down the dale,
      Always at his mother's tail;

      How he lagged behind the herd,
      Lagged and tottered, weak of limb,
      And she turned and ran to him
      Blaring at the loathly bird
      Stationed always in t skies,
      Waiting for the flesh that dies.

      Dreaming maybe of a day
      When her drained and drying paps
      Turned him to the sweets and saps,
      Richer fountains by the way,
      And she left the bull she bore
      And he looked on her no more;

      And his little frame grew stout,
      And his little legs grew strong,
      And the way was not so long;
      And his little horns came out,
      And he played at butting trees
      And boulder-stones and tortoises,

      Joined a game of knobby skulls
      With the youngsters of his year,
      All the other little bulls,
      Learning both to bruise and bear,
      Learing how to stand a shock
      Like a little bull of rock.

      Dreaming of a day less dim,
      Dreaming of a time less far,
      When the faint but certain star
      Of destiny burned clear for him,
      And a fierce and wild unrest
      Broke the quiet of his breast,

      And the gristles of his youth
      Hardened in his comely pow,
      And he came to fighting growth,
      Beat his bull and won his cow,
      And flew his tail and trampled off
      Past the tallest, vain enough,

      And curved about in spendour full
      And curved again and snuffed the airs
      As who should say Come out who dares!
      And all beheld a bull, a Bull,
      And knew that here was surely one
      That backed for no bull, fearing none.

      And the leader of the herd
      Looked and saw, and beat the ground,
      And shook the forest with his sound,
      Bellowed at the loathly bird
      Stationed always in the skies,
      Wating for the flesh that dies.

      Dreaming, this old bull forlorn,
      Surely dreaming of the hour
      When he came to sultan power,
      And they owned him master-horn,
      Chiefest bull of all among
      Bulls and cows a thousand strong.

      And in all the tramping herd
      Not a bull that barred his way,
      Not a cow that said him nay,
      Not a bull or cow that erred
      In the furnace of his look
      Dared a second, worse rebuke;

      Not in all the forest wide,
      Jungle, thicket, pasture, fen,
      Not another dared him then,
      Dared him and again defied;
      Not a sovereign buck or boar
      Came a second time for more.

      Not a serpent that survived
      Once the terrors of his hoof
      Risked a second time reproof,
      Came a second time and lived,
      Not serpent in its skin
      Came again for discipline;

      Not a leopard brght as flame,
      Flashing fingerhooks of steel,
      That a wooden tree might feel,
      Met his fury once and came
      For second reprimand,
      Not a leopard in the land.

      Not a lion of them all,
      Not a lion of the hills,
      Hero of a thousand kills,
      Dared a second fight and fall,
      Dared that ram terrific twice,
      Paid a second time the price. . . .

      Pity him, this dupe of dream,
      Leader of the heard again
      Only in his daft old brain,
      Once again the bull supreme
      And bull enough to bear the part
      Only in his tameless heart.

      Pity him that he must wake;
      Even now the swarm of flies
      Blackening his bloodshot eyes
      Bursts and blusters round the lake,
      Scattered from the feast half-fed,
      By great shadows overhead.

      And the dreamer turns away
      From his visionary herds
      And his splendid yesterday,
      Turns to meet the loathly birds
      Flocking round him from the skies,
      Waiting for the flesh that dies.


    The Song of Honour

    I climbed a hill as light fell short,
    And rooks came home in scramble sort,
    And filled the trees and flapped and fought
    And sang themselves to sleep;
    An owl from nowhere with no sound
    Swung by and soon was nowhere found,
    I heard him calling half-way round,
    Holloing loud and deep;
    A pair of stars, faint pins of light,
    Then many a star, sailed into sight,
    And all the stars, the flower of night,
    Were round me at a leap;
    To tell how still the valleys lay
    I heard a watchdog miles away. . . .
    And bells of distant sheep.

    I heard no more of bird or bell,
    The mastiff in a slumber fell,
    I stared into the sky,
    As wondering men have always done
    Since beauty and the stars were one,
    Though none so hard as I.

    It seemed, so still the valleys were,
    As if the whole world knelt in prayer,
    Save me and me alone;
    So pure and wide that silence was
    I feared to bend a blade of grass,
    And there I stood like a stone.

    There, sharp and sudden, there I heard --
    Ah! Some wild lovesick singing bird
    Woke singing in the trees?
    The nightingale and babble-wren
    Were in the English greenwood then,
    And you heard one of these?

    The babble-wren and the nightingale
    Sang in the Abyssinian vale
    That season of the year!
    Yet, true enough, I heard them plain,
    I heard them both again, again,
    As sharp and sweet and clear
    As if the Abyssinian tree
    Had thrust a bough across the sea,
    Had thrust a bough across to me
    With music for my ear!

    I heard them both, and oh! I heard
    The song of every singing bird
    That sings beneath the sky,
    And with the song of lark and wren
    The song of mountains, moths and men
    And seas and rainbows vie!

    I heard the universal choir
    The Sons of Light exalt their Sire
    With universal song,
    Earth's lowliest and loudest noes,
    Her million times ten million throats
    Exalt Him loud and long,
    And lips and lungs and tongues of Grace
    From every part and every place
    Within the shining of His face,
    The universal throng.

    I heard the hymn of being sound
    From every well of honour found
    In human sense and soul:
    The song of poets when they write
    The testament of Beautysprite
    Upon a flying scroll,
    The song of painters when they take
    A burning brush for Beauty's sake
    And limn her features whole --

    The song of men divinely wise
    Who look and see in starry skies
    Not stars so much as robins' eyes,
    And when these pale away
    Her flocks of shiny pleiades
    Among the plums and apple trees
    Sing in the summer day --
    The song of all both high and low
    To some blest vision true,
    The song of beggars when they throw
    The crust of pity all men owe
    To hungry sparrows in the snow,
    Old beggars hungry too --
    The song of kings of kingdoms when
    They rise above their fortune men,
    And crown themselves anew, --

    The song of courage, heart and will
    And gladness in a fight,
    Of men who face a hopeless hill
    With sparking and delight,
    The bells and bells of song that ring
    Round banners of a cause or king
    From armies bleeding white --

    The song of sailors every one
    When monstrous tide and tempest run
    At ships like bulls at red,
    When stately ships are twirled and spun
    Like whipping tops and help there's none
    And mighty ships ten thousand ton
    Go down like lumps of lead --

    And song of fighters stern as they
    At odds with fortune night and day,
    Crammed up in cities grim and grey
    As thick as bees in hives,
    Hosannas of a lowly throng
    Who sing unconscious of their song,
    Whose lips are in their lives --

    And song of some at holy war
    With spells and ghouls more dread by far
    Than deadly seas and cities are,
    Or hordes of quarelling kings --
    The song of fighters great and small,
    The song of pretty fighters all,
    And high heroic things --

    The song of lovers -- who knows how
    Twitched up from place and time
    Upon a sigh, a blush, a vow,
    A curve or hue of cheek or brow,
    Borne up and off from here and now
    Into the void sublime!

    And crying loves and passions still
    In every key from soft to shrill
    And numbers never done,
    Dog-loyalties to faith and friend,
    And loves like Ruth's of old no end,
    And intermission none --

    And burst on burst for beauty and
    For numbers not behind,
    From men whose love of motherland
    Is like a dog's for one dear hand,
    Sole, selfless, boundless, blind --
    And song of some with hearts beside
    For men and sorrows far and wide,
    Who watch the world with pity and pride
    And warm to all mankind --

    And endless joyous music rise
    From children at their play,
    And endless soaring lullabies
    From happy, happy mothers' eyes,
    And answering crows and baby cries,
    How many who shall say!
    And many a song as wondrous well
    With pangs and sweets intolerable
    From lonely hearths too gray to tell,
    God knows how utter gray!
    And song from many a house of care
    When pain has forced a footing there
    And there's a Darkness on the stair
    Will not be turned away --

    And song -- the song whose singers come
    With old kind tales of pity from
    The Great Compassion's lips,
    That makes the bells of Heaven to peal
    Round pillows frosty with the feel
    Of Death's cold finger tips --

    The song of men all sorts and kinds,
    As many tempers, moods and minds
    As leaves are on a tree,
    As many faiths and castes and creeds,
    As many human bloods and breeds
    As in the world may be;

    The song of each and all who gaze
    On Beauty in her naked blaze,
    Or see her dimly in a haze,
    Or get her light in fitful rays
    And tiniest needles even,
    The song of all not wholly dark,
    Not wholly sunk in stupor stark
    Too deep for groping Heaven --

    The alleluias sweet and clear
    And wild with beauty men mishear,
    From choirs of song as near and dear
    To Paradise as they,
    The everlasting pipe and flute
    Of wind and sea and bird and brute,
    And lips deaf men imagine mute
    In wood and stone and clay;

    The music of a lion strong
    That shakes a hill a whole night long,
    A hill as loud as he,
    The twitter of a mouse among
    Melodious greenery,
    The ruby's and the rainbow's song,
    The nightingale's -- all three,
    The song of life that wells and flows
    From every leopard, lark and rose
    And everything that gleams or goes
    Lack-lustre in the sea.

    I heard it all, each, every note
    Of every lung and tongue and throat,
    Ay, every rhythm and rhyme
    Of everything that lives and loves
    And upward, ever upward moves
    Form lowly to sublime!
    Earth's multitudinous Sons of Light,
    I heard them lift their lyric might
    With each and every chanting sprite
    That lit the sky that wondrous night
    As far as eye could climb!

    I heard it all, I heard the whole
    Harmonious hymn of being roll
    Up through the chapel of my soul
    And at the altar die,
    And in the awful quiet then
    Myself I heard, Amen, Amen,
    Amen I heard me cry!
    I heard it all, and then although
    I caught my flying sense, oh,
    A dizzy man was I!
    I stood and stared; the sky was lit,
    The sky was stars all over it,
    I stood, I knew not why,
    Without a wish, without a will,
    I stood upon that silent hill
    And stared into the sky until
    My eyes were blind with stars and still
    I stared into the sky.


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