he came before them, harp in hand.
the fire danced betwixt.
an owl hooted--guarded; low.
a spark amidst the sticks
decided. -instantly, it lept:
a'lighted on his sleeve.
he let it burn, his leathers mete.
an elder said, "We grieve!
"For ev'ry psalm you've spun has crept
from tribe to tribe, and onward!
-On words, I'll say you nay anon--
and tho' i know you armored,
"I pray to wake and find a dawn
that you cannot be'cloud.
For on that day, a pyre may
bear you. Beneath a shroud."
a murmur loud went thick throughout
the kinsfolk gathered there.
the speaker: fell and grey and proud,
his chin thrust in the air.
the young bard glanced about.
his cool eyes flickered. he snickered,
"We've heard your nasty ply.
May I retort, or be denied?"
"Of course: we all descry
"A clansman's right to say his share.
'Tis fair," the elder quoth.
"After all," he added, eyes a'gleam,
"Your mouth shall damage both
"your strange career and any dream
you have of vast esteem.
You've fostered with your 'songs' the wrongs
which haunt you; so I deem."
the swarthy bard but nodded,
watching flames (and shapes within...).
they danced to heat the throngs--
mayhap, illuminate that glen.
presently, he raised his teeming head.
long lashes flickered thrice
in succession. "This is my profession.
I once cast The Dice,
"and rolled this heavy soul, extolling
these which so offend.
I won't pretend to care about your airs,
for they are wind.
"I do not seek a friend upon this bench!"
-he whirled about,
hand raised to take in all the dais
the council sat. "I've found
"that Wisdom whisks away from whiskered sages--
slaves to their impatience--
crying 'Vagrant!' at a wand'ring bard,
and sneering at his pages!
"Fearing changes... -In their anxiousness,
they fall into these rages.
Claiming only Ancient sacrosanct,
and clamouring for cages
"to bind better men..." he paused to breathe
and sling his instrument.
pacing now before the wooden stage,
indignant. hardly spent.
"My harp is meant to play as comes.
It doth not spring from me:
I, a spring, am fed this flow
from mountains large and free.
"It carves a creek through weakened stone;
it charges to the sea;
it sunders roots beneath mean eaves.
a hard, petrified tree.
"It recognized me, and shadows now."
he pointed at the elder.
some gasped as if an asp had struck.
"I do not need its shelter.
"Do not need its leaves, nor hoary trunk;
the fell thoughts it has thunk
under ugly skin, so cragged and grim.
-Perhaps I'll take a chunk
"to feed these pretty lights," he laughed,
waving at crackling flames.
"The matter is plain: I will sing
what my fey Muse may bring.
And not what this gaffer proclaims.
"In Its natural state, Music may make many moods.
None of more or less import
than the next. Sort as you will, tribunal.
I have naught left to exhort."
he fell to the forest floor, legs stretched out.
head down; harp unslung.
he restrung several frayed. tuned his truth.
played, heeding neither the young
nor the old who listened, indiff'rent.
he sent a demented riff.
slim fingers flitted, intricate,
to mollify or miff.
quick he went; swifter.
didn't shift an inch in his sit,
gift spinning with grit, wit slitting,
wrists dipping as if getting a quill a'drip
in the stillness
itching with illness
-thomas the younger; july 30th, 2008. retouched on june 7th, 2009. all rites observed.