The work of Prof. Eugene Narrett (see also his page in the “Hexagon Forum”) builds on the common ground between the classical Western tradition and the holy tradition of Israel. His website, www.israelendtimes.com, is one of the most informed sources about the situation of Israel and the West, and he has recently posted there two articles, The Highest Wisdom and Beauty and The Holy Temple: Soul, Knowledge and Beauty, which explore the spiritual dimension of aesthetics.
A New Light, Like Flowers - He Who Brings My Prayer Refinement of Soul - They Said I would Be Judged - Seven from Three - When I Rejected Samael - A Play for Happiness - Thus I Inherit Shadows
A New Light, like Flowers
In my new garden, crickets sing for souls
Hungering terribly at the uncertain time
That promises but is not day or night;
By the bronze well prayers dug, with water cold
For thirsting seasons, and souls starved for rhyme
And reason, the King invites our carnival delights
To enter with the Queen, conjoined, sublime…
Thus rising from the root of protocol,
Commanded by the One Who knows in full
The form of soul, sing wisdom of new light; like flowers, unfold.
He Who Brings My Prayer
He, my soul, who brings the fountain from the roots
Of charm God crafted with the charities
Of one who never, till so late, had peace
In the way dreamers do, tossing for truths
Like boys who ride the waves release
Lives of enforced prudence and malaise
Beat on the shore. But kindness still asserts its majesties.
He forms birds from His sparks, each child from seed,
And sees inside our passion as we plead;
Mistakes matter: He clothes the prophet with our needs.
Refinement of Soul
I say, strength or weakness,
Master or beaten ones:
That’s the point of wisdom.
Two facts of life feed forever on each other
Damning and biting, deaf to grace:
Sit to table with the dead face;
Live in horror; conquer…
Integrity is just another word
In an illiterate world
That receives no light, being itself obscure...
Embittered us, they did, like childless Hannah.
More bitter now, death in all life though one would bless,
Lying in all love and nothing fair…
The smell of blood dissembled by centuries of prayer,
By letters thought, formed, spoken, dreamed into being,
Dreaming us, names and heart; blood patches and smears.
Its job done, no one wants to keep the bandage.
After work, after the job,
The smell of blood is the smell of weakness,
Of privacy exposed, of intimate secrets
Cast to the surface, not like a corpse
By cannon thunder on a river,
But pitiful hopes thrown to the noontime air,
Tearing, torn, spoilt,
By ministers of justice in bad times, --
A storm wind has swept them away,
Millennia of hopes, of faith defied…
Intimate secrets honestly on the surface
Not for show, my treasure,
But because someone, something tore them out.
That’s shame, that’s the way of the corpse,
Rotten and corrupt as only innocence can be
Acquiring its end, place and unction…
The intimate must be hidden or absolutely shameless,
Forget the middle ground; forget the tongue’s imitations;
You dare not compromise with golden apples…
For you the pain is passing, -- love these words;
The pain is passing; reward is in the other world.
So much of what we are and do’s intimidation,
That’s the point: scare them off before they wound or eat you.
The pack is snarling, pound them into dust.
Only with the near or dear is kindness
More than the touch of skin, a sign of creatures
Camped in the same field, fighting for place, which is pride.
Be proud before you sleep.
We have forgotten what a family is…
Woe to those that heed the moral teaching,
Who carry it to the world without funds or guard;
Woe to them that fail to find a mate, the discards
In these recycling ages...
If the road be tried without protection
The ponderous horse goes down
And the cart shafts crack like a shattered mountain.
Just so the stricken body exposes its shame,
The mind screaming silently as it sees
The towers fall, the body overpowered.
So it was, unless spiritualized by fast,
By the clothing and above all, the pure face
Of patient anguish, upright and ragged,
The face and heart sustained by faith
While the body wears whatever clothes will fit:
The ragged coat, the pitifully tattered scarf,
Fingers knotted with cold or rheum,
And the clear brow that knows where it is and who,
And every garment, every lampshade,
Each last translucent soul knows what to say
And how to clench the fingers into signs
We recognize in heart,
Remembering no matter what game’s been played.
Refinement of soul: they say each pile of broken limbs,
Each pitiful trusting animal
Was part of a millennial process, each soul
Participating in the soul of the nation’s triumph
Through fire, out of evil, good, at last
Rebuking evil’s accusations…
While the refiner sits with scarred hands above his silver
Bowling golden apples,
Ageless eyes waiting with inhuman patience
While generations of poor wood-men
Forge arms and hopes for the petty fires of Grodno,
Minsk, and Vilna with Poniar unforgotten,
Vilna, Kovno and Sedlits
With the leather-cutter tramping to Ruzhnoi
Or Volkavisk until the fires burned out.
The painter proudly holds his brush
And we all go back to the woods and swamps
Of the old familiar East, leather boots and vests,
Prayer, humility and sanctioned jealousies
That saved and simmered part of the mist.
Their sanctification requires
The desolating seventh, time to heal.
The evil kingdom will not share its fruits,
The desolation of Emmet
In shadows and lies, ruin from the roots.
Remembering their strength and their reserve,
Refusal of shame as we describe it,
Of anything left for others to know
Beyond their simple clothing and honestly
Shrewd or simple faces; how they passed
Beyond the science of their degradation;
Remembering their strength, what can I do but praise them?
Should I sit scratching at my table scraps?
These little nails, shavings of wood,
These starveling meals and ruined boots,
The various parchments I’ve tried to pray?
Me, the blurred parchment will make a way
Better than theirs?
One can forget but not improve.
Can I, remembering the pure forehead of faith
And honest poverty, praise predators of blood,
Shameless shame-creators in their forms of strength?
In their own way, the early ones had pride;
They came from the east and struck down kings...
Here I am, dragging myself into precincts of shame
Out in the half-light with my dimming eyes
Feeling rain soak the ruin, seeing the face of death
In my own face for the first time
Some years ago, blessed before the postscript
That tells the unknown and Mt. Nevo;
The animals made me intimate in public,
They put me in the swamp.
One must pretend it doesn’t matter, now
Or they’ll do it again, hunting down the name.
So I re-fashion my gaze and grace, my eyes
And my good heart
Wistful for the light as the mind goes down,
Strange feeling… there it goes.
So here I am so late in some holy weakness
Having been torn from whatever it is
I was, that is, I tried to be.
Pride, neighbors, place, the woods,
The pure brow and ragged cloths of prayer,
The entire kept and missionary life
Devoted, they used to say, ‘selflessly’ to ideals.
And I was, and they beat it out of me;
In the blood they showed me my humanity.
And the ages passed, the images and artifacts,
Mementos and memories and pledges of allegiance
And failures to lie the right way
All passed on the path of refinement.
All the dross of my earthy heart,
The Fool: ‘I would fain learn to lie…’
Even my ability to print it up
With these failing eyes and habit hand of strength,
That lovable and necessary monster
Of the diminished seventh: “cut the cord”
I heard the doctor murmuring…
Hungering for treasures from heaven
On the dirt road to what they call, ‘the dark tower,’
The Ship of death where I was mate,
For holding my peace well-beaten;
Or is it perfection wrought by soul?
We’ll go and look it up.
Flags and lampshades and little lights run along
The troupe of my community, my company:
And you know, after all these prayers, for whom we play.
So that’s the title of the song,
“Refinement of Soul”
Where artisans of sacred letters get
Their hopes into the cups of kindness...
They Said I would Be Judged
They said I would be judged, to set down
My baggage and move on for ticketing.
They know us weeping ones by our heart-scent
And tell us off, the bitter numbers stamped
With hard commissions, bosses from stage left.
No use for wounds to speak: accused, the groan
Is held against you till it rasps your lamp
To dust, years powdered by their bickering.
They stood me in a red spot: action; go…
The film was called ‘the Wall,’ and many times
I ran against it, fell, and rained my hopes again
By script upon it; for years they shot, committing crimes
They charged to me. Re-designed by pain,
When the crew leaves, I’ve nothing left to show.
Seven from Three
Folly brought me to wisdom, a tired trek
Of seeming magic, wealth to poverty
And seed, the joy of truth, made desolate
Like peace to shadow war, victory’s defeat.
On television, people smile, persons do…
Dominion’s ardor, crushed, becomes servility,
Defiled root makes war not love: death.
Gives horror for most, grace for a few.
The lamps of creation have been explained;
Those are excited, busy; these are bored.
Well-shadowed knowledge is the soul’s true form
Another language than the courts of law…
Before they die, heroes make miracles,
Poems whose soul of life may outlive pain…
But there’s no crown here, just a sonnet with a codicil.
When I Rejected Samael
No longer will I heed suave Samael
Who’s used his wives as bait to dull my eyes,
Baffling my ears with his daughter-bride who swept
Me to her tangling lap, the spindle of eternity
Robed and sashed for displays of pride
That scare me to this day; and when I wept
It scarred me with blood-rust memorials;
No longer will I trust suave Samael…
What Agrat gave me as a lifelong prize
Were thorns that only blinded eyes collect,
Prayers for Raziel meant she’d intercept
And chortling handle till they died,
Small forms lost even to Elijah’s powers:
The wicked kingdom made us pray
Pen in hand, bleeding letters pain-fired…
No longer will I heed suave Samael.
A soul has much innate perfection
Purchasing melodies with pain:
A master writes that after resurrection
The body will know great enlightenment
Like snow-fields with a brighter stain.
Degrees of light reflecting deeds of love
With Samael’s wives forming my lamp’s shade.
Still, he writes, I may elevate myself.
Thus nineteen grows to teaching age
By unity, however sad, of heart
Where one remains, the Way of God ‘above’...
He stood before the weeping angel’s well
Turning mad laughter from its ways to heal;
And when I silent was, said, ‘Samael
Made through her heaven, earth and also hell;’
And there was nothing left to wish for or to tell.
A Play for Happiness
It happens twice a month or thereabouts, --
Making a play for happiness, I say
‘Everybody wins, even me, sometimes’ and go
Down to the liquor store, my spirit feasting
Like a child on clever names and colors gay.
I enter eternity, spirits in clouds
Tricked for my eyes and hopes, a swimmer breasting
Faith’s ebbing tide, echoing like a bad joke.
Only five minutes budgeted for dreams,
I’m an ascetic trained to reserve myself
For rarer pleasures, psalms, etudes, whatever
Serves the day’s order of prayer; as earth
Drinks seed and sweat and blood, I drink to health
But float at midnight merrily down stream.
Thus I Inherit Shadows
Thus I inherit shadows of night’s gift,
Image-making for the Sabbath feast, place
Ruled by want, living briefly but to tell
Writing on the wrong side like a night shift
Of sacred letters, drifting toward the long reach
Where we read the page, not the dying face;
Truth erred. If such would be, it would be well
Living for one’s end as the old books teach...
So I remember a few good works, more
Than a few, if it matters, as I stand
At the far end of a twilight beach again, reading,
Wondering what to write so someone dear
Will read: so I’ll stand at midnight, day’s true end,
While dance and dancers whirl by pleading.
Would I be foolish, follow youth’s desires
Or bathe in hyssop and defy hot liars?
It’s simple now to judge since I stand higher
By years of suffering to see what it meant:
Could I again be foolish with youth’s desires?
In soul’s simple-hearted way I built my pyre,
Making songs about the things that burnt:
For many years I studied in hot fires.
I listened to them singing, and their choir
I joined, song of myself, beyond concern
These lights were foolish, following youth’s desires.
Until a party ended in a mire
Of cold gray pain, a swamp in darkness earned
And reason, years of ashes from my fires.
So standing at the gate I still inquire
After my old way, song, for time’s true choir;
Should I be foolish, following youth’s desires,
Or bathe in hyssop, lighting different fires?