Poem: The Modern Magic

Prester John on his lands looked down
He bore in one mystery mitre and crown,
And the scaly webs of the strange attire
Stripped from the dragon that feeds on fire,
And high over luminous rocks and trees
And the purple fish of his secret seas
And the whole sprawled map of the magical place,
A crystal mirror before his face
For ever stood; in whose circle shone
The world and all that is done thereon.

And the Seven Kings by his throne that stand
Cried, "Tell us the news from the Holy Land."

"Richard the King, of the scarlet ships,
Sweeps over Acre, but swerves and slips
From Godfrey's gate and from God's own crown,
And is shot in the ditch of a small French town.
Such is the news of the world," he said;
"But the signs of the world will never be read
In a glass darkly, by anyone;
We must wait for the sunrise," said Prester John.

Nigh on a thousand years were past:
To the strange priest's paradise pierced at last,
The men of the west, with the wondrous things
Of western wizards and western kings,
And high on their staggering engines borne
A marvel of marvels, the mighty Horn
Within whose cave, like a giant's ear,
Might all men speak and might all men hear
The noise of a battle, the noise of a bird,
Even all the sounds of the earth were heard.

And the Seven Kings said "It is ended then,
The demon of distance, rending men,
Deafness of deserts and random deeds,
When everyone knows what everyone needs,
Seeing that words like winds can come,
All will be Bethlehem, all will be Rome,
And all men answer and understand,
Tell us the news from the Holy Land."
"No battle-noise and no battle-news,
But shaking of shekels and laughter of Jews,
And a rattle of golden balls they toss
High o'er the ruin of Crescent and Cross,
And a usurer's voice in cold command,
These are the sounds from the Holy Land.

O, horns may call us from far away,
But men hear only what men can say,
And words may go as the wide wind blows,
But what everyone wants is what nobody knows:
And the Horn will not tell it to anyone,
We must wait for the Trumpet," said Prester John.

~G.K. Chesterton


Prester John, Wikipedia
Prester John, Catholic Encyclopedia