—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
When you were in the dark forest—transported, sightless,
fevered by fragrance and joy,
and home, the Stone, called you
to dim lights and literary dreams,
the unsaid flowed between us
stirred by a warm balsam of memories so precious
one must keep them vague,
and by a rapture so violent
it must be domesticated
You said: let’s not leave this cold castle
as you pointed around to things, on walls on mantles, saying:
These were born of pure utilitarian need, a function—that’s all, you know
and this is how I came to understand that Imagination is man’s only natural state,
and Beauty his revenge for The Fall.
Our spectral evenings: a Holbein jigsaw as it rained and rained;
details about Cranach and Dürer, too
Artists do not “develop”! you thundered,
then looking up, you smiled, and said:
The Truth, my dear, does not set one free—my God, how they’ve lied to us…
nothing imprisons a man more; nothing makes him retreat further into himself
So let’s not leave this cold castle
That tapestry you think so beautiful?—purely to keep out the cold, the damp. Nothing more.
The Stone is old, and every monarchy was born poor.
So we stayed on—soft lights and literary dreams,
(I like best that part of the tower almost destroyed by the Turks),
knowing that in weeks we’d scale a nearby mountain to see the noble-white flower
famed in this land,
starry, lonely, and rare;
the venerated mountain-woods flower of the most inaccessible cliffs,
and of the collars of the emperor’s best men, his lost men;
that takes root as earth has frozen over,
and, too, blossoms in the cold.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.