A cold coming we had of it, Just the worst time of the year For a journey, and such a long journey: The ways deep and the weather sharp, The very dead of winter.’ And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory, Lying down in the melting snow. There were times we regretted The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, And the silken girls bringing sherbet. Then the camel men cursing and grumbling and running away, and wanting their liquor and women, And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly And the villages dirty and charging high prices: A hard time we had of it. At the end we preferred to travel all night, Sleeping in snatches, With the voices singing in our ears, saying That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley, Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation; With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness, And three trees on the low sky, And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow. Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel, Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, And feet kicking the empty wine-skins. But there was no information, and so we continued And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember, And I would do it again, but set down This set down This: were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, With an alien people clutching their gods. I should be glad of another death.
So much of what delights and troubles you Happens on a surface You take for ground. Your mind thinks your life alone, Your eyes consider air your nearest neighbor, Yet it seems that a little below your heart There houses in you an unknown self Who prefers the patterns of the dark And is not persuaded by the eye’s affection Or caught by the flash of thought.
It is a self that enjoys contemplative patience With all your unfolding expression, Is never drawn to break into light Though you entangle yourself in unworthiness And misjudge what you do and who you are.
It presides within like an evening freedom That will often see you enchanted by twilight Without ever recognizing the falling night, It resembles the under-earth of your visible life: All you do and say and think is fostered Deep in its opaque and prevenient clay.
It dwells in a strange, yet rhythmic ease That is not ruffled by disappointment; It presides in a deeper current of time Free from the force of cause and sequence That otherwise shapes your life.
Were it to break forth into day, Its dark light might quench your mind, For it knows how your primeval heart Sisters every cell of your life To all your known mind would avoid,
Thus it knows to dwell in you gently, Offering you only discrete glimpses Of how you construct your life.
At times, it will lead you strangely, Magnetized by some resonance That ambushes your vigilance.
It works most resolutely at night As the poet who draws your dreams, Creating for you many secret doors, Decorated with pictures of your hunger;
It has the dignity of the angelic That knows you to your roots, Always awaiting your deeper befriending To take you beyond the threshold of want, Where all your diverse strainings Can come to wholesome ease.