Song of Burning
From all flesh I walk a-sundered here beneath a shrouded sun,
Every dream and every waking thought askew
Like the light that breaks in water or a symmetry undone,
Half a heartbeat, half a breath behind the true.
Far away the fire-mountain sits upon the world’s last mile,
Sending out its sullen breath in roiling fume;
And it settles on the cinder-slopes like dark and poison bile,
Black defilement clinging lovingly to Doom.
I have set my will to iron, but my heart turns more to clay
With each step that takes me further from the West;
For the evil that comes with me waxes stronger day by day
And its menace rides like lead upon my breast.
The world without no barer than the one I have within,
With such drear and dismal furnishings of stone,
Til I wonder at the wasteland - is it out or is it in?
This desert that I stumble through alone.
A voice comes knocking, knocking on the doorpost of my soul,
Asking questions that I scarce can understand;
His words are meant to comfort, words to cosset and cajole,
But they crawl like wounded things upon the sand.
Bits and scraps endure to reach me in this empty place I hold
And I wonder at the shapes upon my ear,
For they bring a brief remembrance of forgotten things of old
Ere they melt into the desolation here.
Frantic, questing little mem’ries on my heart and on my mind,
Dancing, prancing little yearnings on my night,
Hunting eagerly for pathways to the world they left behind,
To a place of springing green and summer light.
I can feel the little mem’ries as they dance against the gloom,
Searching out the door they hope will set them free,
And their prancing makes me weary in this barren prison-room
Even as I long to join their company.
There was color once and song, if these rememberings speak true,
Buried deep beneath the rubble of old dreams;
Rainy meads like honey-water, blossom yellow, sky of blue
Scent of pine and pebbles washed by eager streams.
But the Road I walk is deep with poisoned earth and bitter ashes,
And the ashes leach the scant remembrance grey,
Like as the wind sears useless tears from sorrow-laden lashes,
The memories dry up and blow away.
But the voice comes knocking, knocking on the doorpost of my heart
And the emptiness is gentled for a time,
As I watch him break the wafer and give me the greater part,
As I swallow water dry as ancient wine.
Weary feet and weary marches, day by dreary day and dim,
And the fire-mountain coming ever nigh;
But the flame upon the mountain is now answered from within,
Spinning fierce and wild about my inward eye.
The Fire rises sudden with a surging, pounding will,
Blazing round the cardinal acre of my soul;
Illuminating nothing and I walk in shadow still,
A fragment dark against the darker whole.
Whirl of flame and wheel of burning red against a starless night,
Whispers murmuring and singing into thrall,
Calling back the perished memories, the morning and the light,
Even as I tremble by the crimson wall.
One by one the sweet rememb’rings cut the darkness like a knife
And I smell again the meadow wet with dew.
From the bleached bones of my present I am all at once in life,
Tasting all the lovely things I ever knew.
It lies! comes word of warning from the deepest of my heart
And old habit turns me swiftly on my heel,
But at my fore new memories spring out in sudden start,
New-bright and clear and quickening and real.
From the cruel and fiery mountain I can hear the tempter calling
Crooning promises as fragrant as the rose,
While the dear, enchanted petals of my yesterdays are falling,
Swirling round in drifts as deep as mountain snows.
I see doorways in the circle, pathways through the Ring of Fire
And beyond the grass grows greening in the sun,
Like the hills and little valleys of the lost-forever Shire,
And the Fire whispers urgent, Hurry! Run!
Then the voice comes knocking, knocking at the doorpost of my mind,
Bringing succour with its small and daily things;
Even as I leap to refuge like a hurt and bleeding hind,
From the edges of my soul the Fire sings.