I  :  The Summoning

In sleep I trod a pitch-black plain
and nowhere could I seek the sod beneath my feet, nor feel
the air against my cheek,
and near nor far I could not know …
I walked in darkness, all alone.
And monstrous silence reigned.

A plain, I thought – but could not tell;
I trod, I thought, the Waste of Hell
Dimensionless – no touch, no sound,
no breath of wind, no near, no far –
bound by the void, devoid of sight.
A prisoner of the dreadful night.

I cast me down, I hung my head,
and in despair cried out in torrent madness, fell enough
to wake the sleeping dead.
There was no answer to the cry,
nor echo; it remained a stifled prisoner in my head
as I was in the plain.

A plain, I said. How was it then
there was nowhere to keep my body anchored to this place?
I stood athwart a deep!
I stood athwart a gaping maw  –
the blackness of the Pit! And poised upon some slender strand
that spanned the breadth of it!

But trust my steps or trust them not,
I knew that I must pass across.
An aspen voice within me gave
a tremulous command to cross the gulf and cross it now,
or perish on that strand.
As through my veins the dark blood raced
I ventured forward on that space
that hung across black Hell.

A bridge, was it? What bridge is it
that soars in sable space? Invisible, intangible,
across what cursed place?
And as man swims to save his life
and out of sight of land, and knows when mind surrenders hope
he sinks, I walked that strand,
step by wretched step – I thought
the steps would never cease – tremendous darkness piled above
and Sheol down beneath.

Across black Hell I walked, I thought,
I walked across black Hell …
until – God help! – there came some sound,
and glimmer from below unlike to hellfire’s livid red
and groans of tortured souls.
A soft, a gentle luminance,
a murmuring of air… dear God! I caught my breath and cried
as breeze played in my hair!
And I stood still, and stood amazed –
the moon stood in the sky! The silver goddess, sister moon,
and brushed by leaves, went by!
And flowers’ fragrance round about,
and lilies spread around, and any flower I could conceive
lay bright upon the ground!

But I would sacrifice my soul
a million times, and more, to exorcise them from my mind;
they’ll haunt me evermore.
Dimensionless … but now I know
dimensions warped and wild; and stark unhallowed consciousness,
and vast, unfettered time.
I know a truth that no man knows,
a truth he could not bear, revealed to me when first I saw
those flowers growing there.
What I beheld… how can I tell?
It will not suffer rhyme… and Lord, my heart is bursting –
all sanity a lie.

Each blossom was in motion –
a fascinating dance which wreathed within the bloom itself
and I transfixed, entranced
to see each petal moving,
each petal changing shape, and changing size and changing hue
within a moment’s space.
A lily was an orchid,
and then it was a rose, in subtle variations  –
a myriad of them posed
in countless transformations
until I thought I’d seen all flowers’ generations  –
all that had ever been
since the dawning of creation
in bewildering array… but as I stared, astonished,
all passed away… away.
Any I could conceive, I’d thought  – 
but not conceived for me; not in this way, this beauty
that changed too constantly.
They passed from sight. I touched my brow
and asked how it could be that nature’s flowering glory
could cast that spell on me.

The thought had barely come to me
when suddenly and near there came the hum of voices.
Yes, voices! I could hear
their gentle susurration
and laughter pealing through, and out of darkness people came,
and smiling, into view.
They came to me; they stood around.
I was struck dumb to see the loving kin of my lost youth
all crowding close to me,
the ones I loved from years gone by,
and I too youthful then to know how much they’d meant to me
until too late, and when
they’d gone I’d cherished them
and thought if time could bring back treasured old ones from those years
I’d relive everything
so differently, and all my words
be gentle words, and all my thoughts be kind, and all my acts
be generous, and small
or great they’d inculcate the love
that callow youth denied. I held them close.
And helplessly, I cried.

Oh, precious moments, gone from me
when scarcely had they come! For now my loved ones’ voices slurred,
their faces one by one
grew vacant and they shrank from me
into that cursed realm of dark that has no end to it.
God, help me! Overwhelmed
I sought to clutch them close again,
I strove to hold them tight. But one by one they slipped from me
into the awful night.
How can the grief be washed away
that cleaves the very soul? I faltered, shaking, to my knees
and gulped for breath. I knew
no words that could express the loss,
the feeling of such pain I felt when wretched darkness took
my dead kin back again.

The light of moon, of clean, dear moon
shone down on where I grieved. I looked to her to heal my grief,
but Christ! Oh, Christ! The leaves!
And then I knew that I was caught
in some infernal net where time and sense are riotous,
where borders break and let
unknown dimensions wander free
and aeons drift like sand, where death is life in puppetry,
and visions great and grand
in jugglery and argument
with insubstantial things, and lost, apostate splinters flee
the centuries, and fling
the phantoms of forgotten times
with spectres yet to come. And then I knew that I was caught
where naught and all are one.

The leaves roared high and clashed against
the moon, now ashen-grey, and wrapped in ragged cerements
of cloud, she passed away.

The second part
of The Apocalypse of Gweir, entitled The Visions, will shortly appear in The Igam-Ogam Mabinogion. 

Part 1, above, was initially inspired by a recurring dream in my young manhood, in
which I walked across a bridge, it seemed only inches wide, invisible, and which could not be distinguished in any way from a black, yawning, limitless abyss below. Some two-thirds of the way through, ‘The Dream of the Dead Kindred’ is an account of another recurring dream experienced in more mature years. The imagery and metre  are both to an extent influenced by my readings of Scottish poet James Thomson (1834-1882): i.e., by his remarkable XXI canto poem The City of Dreadful Night. It is indebted in no small way, too, to William Hope Hodgson’s 1908 tale of cosmic displacement, The House on the Borderland.


    1. Thank you, Romataff. I’m happy that this had that kind of impact, as I wrote it a long time ago, have revisited it a good many times over the years in conjunction with Part 2, and whatever impact I intended has been somewhat dulled for me. That’s good news for me. Sleep well.


    1. Yes, I suspect that Eddie was lurking somewhere there in the background … ! But, Jac, great to hear from you! Been thinking about you, wondering whether you’re still writing these days. I strongly suspect that you are, but I haven’t been able to get hold of anything since your superb, hard-hitting column on Facebook stopped, and that’s something I miss very much. I see there’s a ‘Twitter’ reference above, but I’m afraid I know zero about that. A lot has happened since we last had contact, and really good to hear from you again. So, what’s the best way to get news of what you’re about at present? And the best way just to make contact again?


    1. That’s a great compliment, Tuskar Rock, and surely the best I have ever received. Thank you; it makes a great difference to me when I’m wondering what’s the use of continuing with The Ig-Og.


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