Northern Wasteland

Crueler than the harshest blast of winter,
May brings skies free of threat of snow,
Beguiling the mind with sun and warmth.
Then is the heart reminded of the South,
The fair land whence it fled in despair,
Few the friends there comprehending.
To An Tir I came then, where sang
A cauldron of unholy loves about my ears;
And there remained, sore heart uncaring.

A cold journey we had of it, the very worst time
For such a journey, the very dead of winter,
And snow threatening the Oregon passes.
There were times we regretted the sandy beaches,
The big cities and the warmth of the South.
In the end we decided to go in stages,
Stopping with family along the way,
With forebodings ringing in my soul, saying
That this was folly, ignorant of benefit.

Winter surprised us, coming over Siskiyou
In a fury of snow, sleeting on the Willamette.
Brief was our glimpse of the Columbia.
Improperly named, we yet dared bow
Before the throne of the Prince himself;
He was talking to the Baron, vested motley,
And paid us less than proper courtesy.
Twelfth Night was far from expectation:
Strange folk pounding tables in a strange land.

Where are the roots that feed, what grows
Amidst the ice and the gravelled sod,
Beside the path from despair to hope?
Hope was a fugitive lost among the pines
That litter here: so many, I had not thought
God had grown so very many.
The wise men found Stonehaven gravely courteous,
Michel friendly, Gernot jubilant;
The rest were better left unmentioned.

The unknown musician, three parts drunk,
Yet played the bransle quite creditably.
"Get to the bloody point!" he kept on shouting.
We slept at last, towards the dawn.
I should have known a better way to comfort you,
When you lay in my arms, eyes wet and full,
Lips trembling in an uncertain smile.
'Twas in Madrone you learned to dance;
In Lionsgate you learned how not to.

By the waters of the Sound, there I sat
And wept: when I remembered Caid.
How shall I sing songs of joy in an alien land?
Here is no friendship but only civility;
Here is no love but only convenience;
And ambition hidden by a mask of pride.
So viscounts defect, and seneschals despair,
Until false saints hear no breath of homage,
And forgotten Laurels cease to chant the De Profundis.

The world turns and the world changes;
Sos Karth loved a fair-haired lady
Who wanted only friendship, not love,
And a dark-haired goddess he feared to kiss.
Ioseph of Didiacus, more outgoing,
Pursued four others without reward.
Däwyd was constant, loving only
The lovely lady he took to wife,
But in the end his luck was no different.

The chair she sat in, draped in fur,
Placed before the pavilion entrance,
Blocked her lord, seeking his shield.
The dragon rose without a word
To challenge a lady to fight with boffers;
The fighter strapped his padded helm
Upon his head, bowed to empty chair bitterly
And took the field unblessed by his lady's kiss.
Fighting in rage, he took sore hurt.

After the sunlight bright on burnished mail,
After the clash of the axe and mace,
After the greatsword grazing soft-rimmed shield,
After the shouting and the agony
On grassy sward amidst pavilions,
They who died stand grinning at final Court,
Holding their ladies at their sides,
And shout hurrahs with those who've never died
And wonder that they can think it sport.

Death was bloody in Atenveldt
When men-at-arms, enraged by taunts,
Formed double line 'gainst Aten knights.
Three marshalls to caution fifty fighters:
I know, for I was one of the three.
More bitter than dust off the stony ground
(There was no grass, and tent pegs bent)
I saw their lines meet ours that day:
Both our flanks were folded back.

Both our flanks were folded back,
But the middle held and conquered.
At the joining of battle it split into three,
And there was but a moment to choose a fray.
I ought to speak of the flag man's panic,
Of how Caid eventually won:
But clearest memory I have now
Is the fight that I and my lady had
Next morning, tired, and waiting for breakfast.

His shield arm gone, the unwise lord,
Single-handed, continued to fight.
Shoulder, placed by backhand blow, was struck.
How shall I the pain recount
To any whose shoulders are unharmed?
His lady, watching, at cry went pale,
Feeling the pain even as he suffered.
But little more than a year thereafter
She recounts to him the death of love.

When beloved lady stoops to folly
And says that she will live alone,
What life has he who pledged his heart
For all of time, to be her own?
When gentle lady loses patience
With lord so new to ways of love,
Small wonder that he, abandoned, runs
From home filled up with dreams of her,
To arms of friends, where heart can heal.

Lady, the circuit of heaven, turning, marks
The passage of eight score days and nights:
Orion stands ascendant, who is regal portent
In this our kingdom, but also something more,
Celestial patron to him who loves thee.
The new year brings, if not new hope,
At least new strength of mind and soul.
Look for me when the vault of heaven
Features the holy resurgent Lion.

I would meet you upon this honestly.
I do not think to turn, I little hope to find
The ring that once adorned my hand.
I who was near your heart have been removed,
But you are firm as ever in mine,
And my parched soul thirsts for sight of you.
The tiger springs in the new year,
Clawing up passions I hoped to inter.
I will walk again, in rain without fury.

—Silvae Magnae
Inspired and based upon "The Wasteland" by T. S. Eliot. Copyright © 1975 by Green Sky Press.  All rights reserved.  Backgrounds and images are copyright by their respective authors, who retain all rights.