Poem: The Monster

Magazine Article.

One with the golden eagle of the morning,
Flat and flung wide above the spinning plains,
It seemed my spirit sprang and wheeled and flew.
The world went under us like a river of light,
An ecstasy of order, where each life,
Rejoicing in its law, rushed to its end:
To break itself and breed; the embattled vines,
Grassland and grainland waved their thousand spears
In one wild rhythm as they swept along,
A map of marching armies, all one way;
And ploughmen on their uplands ribbed with gold,
Went forward happy, with their backs to heaven.

Only the sacred eagle up the stream
Strove back to his beginnings; left behind
The white archaic dawns on herbless hills,
The first cold hues of chaos; like a stair
Mounted the soundless cataracts of the sun,
Seeking the sun of suns; till suddenly
The last heavens opened; for one flash I saw
Something too large and calm for sight or reason,
The Urns of Evil and Good, vast as two worlds,
And over them a larger face than Fate's
Of that first Will that is when all was not.
But that unblinded burning eagle soared
And perched upon His thunderous right hand.
I cowered, and heard a cry torn out of me
In an unknown tongue older than all my race,
"O Father of Gods and Men"; and saw no more.

The vulture from his dark and hairy nest
Far down the low-browed cliffs of the abyss
Stood black against the sun; a shape of shame:
A plumed eclipse; and all the ways of men
Were paved with upturned faces; masks of hate:
For that hooked head was like a horrible tool,
An instrument of torture made alive
With creaking pinions; for what end they knew:
The vulture of the vengeance of the gods.

For a red under-light on all that land,
A hell that is the underside of heaven,
Glowed from men's struggling fires; and as I followed
That evil bird over lost battle-fields,
Where panoplied and like fallen palaces
The great and foolish kings who warred with doom
Lay sunken with their star; I saw far off,
Misshapen, against the dark red dome of sky,
A mountain on a mountain. As I gazed
The shape seemed changed: the upper mountain moved.
It heaved vast flanks ribbed like the red-ribbed hills,
Thrust down an uprooted forest with one heel
And stretched a Titan's arm to touch the sky.

"You slay for ever, but you slay too late;
A stolen secret turns not home again.
While I lie lifted high against your wrath,
Hanged on this gibbet of rock, far down below
The fire is spreading on the earth's dark plains
And my red stars come forth like flowers of night
And my red sun burns when your white sun dies.
See where man's watchfire dances and derides,
The sickly servile sunset crawling away:
Lo; my red banner thrashes through the air,
Nor dare your vulture peck it if he pass."

The vulture passed, a shadow on the fire,
And the dark hills were loud with dreadful cries.

I woke; the skies were empty of the eagle,
And empty of the vulture all the abyss:
And something in the yawning silence cried
Giants and gods were dying in new dawns:
Daylight itself had deepened; there opened in it
New depths or new dimensions; stone and tree
In that strange light grew solid; as does a statue
Or many-sided monument set beside
The flattened fables on a bas-relief.
Only in dark thin lines against the dawn
The last and lingering monsters limped away,
The boys with crooked legs and cries of goats
Ran as from one pursuing; amid the weeds
Wailed the strange women, neither fish nor flesh,
And from the hoary splendours of the sea
Rose Triton with the limbs that curled like whirlpools,
Stonily staring at some sign afar.

For a new light in a new silence shone
From some new nameless quarter of the sky
Behind us on the road; and all strange things
Looked back to something stranger than themselves
And, towering still and trampling, the Last Centaur
Cried in a roar that shook the shuddering trees,
"We rode our bodies without bridle at will,
We hurled our high breasts forward on flying hooves:
But these two bodies are a simple thing
Beside that Fear that comes upon the world.
A Monster walks behind." I dared not turn;
A shape lay like a shadow on the road.
I saw not but I heard; a sound more awful,
Then from the blackest cypress-close the call
Of some dark Janus shouting with two mouths:

"I am Prometheus. I am Jupiter.
In ravening obedience down from heaven,
Hailed of my hand and by this sign alone,
My eagle comes to tear me. Touch me not."

I lay there as one dead. But since I woke
This single world is double till I die.

~G.K. Chesterton