Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Missing Stanzas

For Coleridge

Their lives, in Porlock, a dear friend mine,
but is has been a full seven years
since he and I raised cheers.
Silver quick does seven years pass,
but it seems only yesterday 
he and I made repast
on supper of locust and dandelion.
That night, we treated till break of day
on subjects sublime in arrays.
That night, we spoke of endings that last,
and suppositions divine.
Of friends, he is the best of kinds:
though he often is at fast --
he is oftener at feast.
Though, he often weeps,
he ever seeks for joy to find
in all things great, and all things least.

Yet, it came to pass, through circumstance
that we went near 7 years
without a single word.
We were not in the least perturbed
with one another.
We remained, as ever, brothers --
but never could we seem to cross our paths.
Our hands were too full; 
our days were too fast.

It so happened, a fortnight ago,
I fell into a mystical trance,
and traveled time and distance
to the place where dreams furlough:
a place for which I had longed,
but could never seem to go.

When I awoke, I held in my hands
a poem so grand as has not been scanned
since the creation of man.
I did not conceive it, I readily admit --
but I possessed it; or rather, I was possessed of it.
Though unworthy of its words,
it had been given, on some whimsy, unto me.
In a stupor of joy, 
like a sober intoxication,
I stumbled about for hours on end,
cherishing every last word of this, now my, poem.

It was a composition of beauty as made my soul pine
for things I had never even heard of.
It was a vision so pure, a vision I was so sure of,
as made me repent of past thinking.
At once, in my poem, I saw before me everything,
and I saw down to the heart of the universe;
I comprehended, in celestial verses,
a web of beauty spun with delicate design.
Suddenly, mysteries made sense;
suddenly, I could read the signs
which had 'til then been jumbled fragments.

It was a vision of such expanse
as made me wish I had a vaster mind --
it changed, forever, many of my --
till then, mistaken -- notions.
It was a vision of such expanse --
I held it in my hands 
like a child holding up the ocean.

To my surprise, when I regained my senses, 
I could still remember it:
all the verbs and all the tenses --
arrayed in immenseness,
with embroidery fine --
down to the last line.

I quickly set myself to copy this majestic poesie,
and wrote down 7 full stanzas straight from memory
in a matter of a minute.
I had 42 stanzas yet to copy,
but I was not in the least worried.
I wrote quick, but not in a hurry.
For, the remaining verses
levitated just above my eyes, steady, 
waiting only to be plucked from the air
the moment I was ready,
and set down gently upon paper.

I began the eighth stanza when
I was interrupted. Of a sudden,
there came a loud rap -- urgent, but not unkind --
at my door. I rose, anxious to return to my work,
to bid my visitor call another time --
but, there, on my door step -- Who should I find?
It was my friend from Porlock!
It was my friend! Returned, after 7 years!
It was my friend; my friend was here.

I greeted my long missed friend,
and then related to him that just then
I could not stop
to talk for I was engaged in a masterpiece --
or rather, was by a masterpiece engaged.
He would not be put off;
his visit, he said, could not be delayed --
it had been delayed too long already.
He burst in, and declared this day a feast.
I had not even known it was a holiday.
I tried, but could not, turn my friend away.

And so, we spoke for hours, and laughed, and sang,
and dined like kings on grace and wine,
and conversation nourishing to the soul.
All the while, in my mind, my poem rang 
with less and less volume until
it seemed only a tiny bell drowned 
in the voice of my friend, and the din of our laughter.
My friend left at dawn, or not long after.

It was only then, while lighting a candle,
I remembered that I was forgetting something of moment...
my poem!
I rose, and searched my mind for the remaining stanzas,
but found it hard to find my handle
on my pen. I tried to write;
I tried to write faster --
but the remaining stanzas had vanished complete.
They were gone; this gift given 
so soon was just as soon taken.
I admitted my defeat,
and tried to write another poem akin
to the one I had seen in my vision,
but word after word fell at my feet,
a medley of inartistic imprecision.

The words of the verses I scribbled
before the arrival of my friend,
I have still.
I have transcribed them, or one day will
in other rooms, with other pens.
The other words still unwritten when 
I was interrupted by the arrival of my friend
are lost forever,
and I must leave them for some other man better
or worse than me to write -- when the time is right.
Those 42 stanzas are lost to me, but I have no doubt
that someday or other some man or other
will stumble forth into the light 
and find them in a vision before him
and record them.

My extant poems are
just a fraction of the full vision
given in my trance --
out of 49, only 7, no more --
and I often read them with regret for 
what I might have written.
But, be not surprised if I tell you:
if I had it over to do,
I'd make the same decision.
If I had it over to do,
I'd still put aside my poem.

If given the chance to relive that night again,
I'd once more open the door;
I'd once more let my friend in.
I count that poem a treasure, 
and I have counted the cost
of hearing it sink beyond sound.
What a poem I lost!
Yes -- but what a poem I found!

I count my friend met again after 7 years absence
a better gift than all the words of
all the poems ever written
by me, or other men.
I can stand to miss a poem;
I cannot stand to miss a friend.

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