Ceridwen’s Candle

Manifestations of the Muse – 1

There is a candle burning –
it burns both day and night;
it burns when I am sleeping,
and when the day is bright.
And what it seeks I know not,
except that seek it will,
and why it burns is strange to me,
but burn and burn it will.
It yearns I think for something
outside this soul of mine,
outside this coiled mortality …
but speaks and speaks inside.
And when it speaks it whispers
of things my heart would know,
of things my heart would understand
but cannot, for both glow
and voice are tongueless, and lost
upon the air, and fall
as flakes in winter fall
through dumb unheeding air;
and fail all unrequited
in pale insensate air.
But sometimes, as an afterthought
of this undeciphered voice,
sometimes, in an afterglow
at the fading fringe of light,
at the fading fringe
of that half-lit land
– dear God! –
a holy beauty stands.

From ‘Manifestations of the Muse’

In Welsh legend and literature, Ceridwen appears in more than one role, but the general and lasting conception of her is as the Goddess of Inspiration (Welsh ‘Awen).

This poem had its origin when in the semi-darkness of a winter’s morning many years ago I awoke suddenly, and my eyes settled upon the steady flame of a candle which had been burning in the room throughout the night. I found myself staring into the flame, and without conscious thought, the first eight lines of the poem formed themselves in my mind. I arose, and putting pencil to paper, quickly scribbled them down. Within a short while, all the rest of the words had fallen into place.

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