The Flyting of Grief and Joy (Eternal Return)

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Alasdair Roberts, Copyright Control

It’s eighteen years since the loud cicadas
Made us leave our imperilled shores
Such a ragged band of true Crusaders
To join or father in the War of Wars

We came at last to the field of battle
Near the waters of the endless Lethe (Leith)
We heard proud Joy make her sistrum rattle
Against the fearsome ranks of grief

And then spoke Joy most grievously
“Abandon hope and follow me”
Responded Grief so joyfully
“Abandon hope and follow me”

Meantime we’ll see three forests rise and fall in mulch and rind-rust
We’ll see the woodsmen turn and fly and the Devil take the hindmost
And you’ll call on your inmost scorn to lay upon their babies
I’ll call upon my opiate wand to lay upon their ladies

And we’ll see three cities form and rise and crumble down to fine dust
We’ll see the Burghers turn and fly and the Devil take the hindmost
Embalm one half in chamberlye and abandoned in some gully
Half hung on the gallows high for folly and vainglory

I’ll stand in the fallen masonry and say my sermons seven
For all the penitents in Hell and the celebrants in Heaven
And you’ll kneel in the crowded marketplace and draw your vast Mandala
For Zoroaster and Mithras, Jehovah and for Allah
A tithe of skin, a toll of bone, a bloody libel burning
In Jericho and Babylon, eternally returning
Eternally returning, eternally returning
Eternally returning, eternally returning

Then Joy fell slowly out of focus
To meet with Grief in the Elysian Meres
From out her breast there grew a broken crocus
From Grief there grew a rosary of tears

They grew to form a swarm of hornets
They took the air and they swarmed as one
This one apported three fire-garnets
And sealed the rising of the unconquered sun.