The Open Frame
or The Plum-Pudding Ocelot
Four Months Hard Labour
The open frame
I saw, and thought to be
My plasmic friend.
I learnt to play, to see
Each man defend
His threatened mind
(O Mind! what greater thing
Than thou is man's
Desire to find
The orbit of the Ring)
Then other hands
Lay hold upon
The nameless rainbow-tie -
The wearer falls,
The star has shone;
The empty shattered sky
Once sunny, palls.
So now the frame is full and we have learnt
The tragedy of trees.
My pen will soon be dry, this page be burnt,
The ashes scattered in the blue-eyed breeze.
Strings untuned and softer music
Never lead my heart astray,
Only words or simple silence
Ever led me on to violence,
Ever shaped this solemn play.
But when morning with its fragrance
Sifts the air among the trees,
Then what silent, secret magic
From the woodlands dark ellagic
Brings me down upon my knees!
That subtle sap my soul suffuses.
(These are sounds you may not sing.)
And in me then a wistful striving
Wounds the heart beyond reviving
And lifts me up on seaward wing.
Up, up, I go, nought else desiring
But to see and smell the shore,
To find rare shells and pick up pebbles.
And how my joy expands, nay trebles,
When I find some iron ore!
And with this iron I work so skillful
Flute and lyre to thwart the rebels,
An aluminium violin!
A horn of zinc, a harp of tin!
Afloat I cast them - now the ebb'll
Wash away their ceaseless din!
From trackless memories of song expands
A solemn history of.unknown lands,
More distant climes. At length I shall proclaim
What destiny befell the men of flame.
Now fly we closer to review these shores:-
At sea the headless oarsman plies his oars;
The chaplain enters in the cloister dim
And lighting the candles, drones a doleful hymn -
He'd sing forever thus. but evening raves:
The darting bats cry out in echoing caves,
In shades of gloom the darkling lizards flit;
Amid the-wailing of wives the pyre is lit:
The heretics are burnt, just as the king ordained,
And on the shore the captives are enchained -
The golden summer nights descend in snows;
And still, at sea, the headless oarsman rows.
Before the scarlet sacrificial Gem
The singing chaplain and the priests condemn
An old, misguided hypocondriac:
He screams with sickening curses, turns his back,
Throws to the sky with all its hateful stars
The broken promise like a shattered vase.
Fair Rosalind repairs it (for a fee)
And sees her lover swinging from a tree.
She knows that with this man died all her hopes.
The phantom hunter, scaling mist-wrung slopes,
Begins his nightly hunt; in sordid prose
The chaplain sings, and as the darkness grows,
The candles are blown out, the priests decree:
"Sad men of flame, your sentence is to be
No better than the Tyrant of Nepal's."
On distant peaks the twilight huntsman calls:
An anguished minim, long drawn semibreve
For shrouded captives who can never leave.
And as the chaplain shuts each creaking door
His lips are silent and will sing no more.