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The Western Towers
Blackbird
Gone to Earth
The Roman Well
At Ravenscar
After Sunset
An Altar at Cilurnum
Bewcastle
Blossom
A Chorister
Frontier
The Great East Window
The Hunters of Banna
Kawabis
The Legion goes North
Lines in October
The Maiden Way
Pantheist
Pre-Existence
A Song of Forgetting
St Cuthbert's Quest
St Cuthbert's Windows
The Ringers
The Snail
The Street
Traveller's Joy
Wind at Night

 

 

 

   

 

AN ALTAR AT CILURNUM

 

 

“To Jupiter, supreme and best of gods,

And to other deities not less immortal,

I, Quintus Petronius Urbicus, prefect now

Of the first cohort of the Gauls, pay here

The vow I made in Italy, my home.”

 

Wherever, Petronius, in die rich Unseen

You may this day be serving Rome, I greet you.

Because an exile in this disastrous earth

Here at the broken world’s end on the Wall

You did remember God and kept your word.

 

The unconquered sun goes down on Aesica.

About the woods the wild high trumpets ring

Of March winds heralding the leaf, and soon

There will be a triumph in Cilurnum greater

Than ever Caesar knew. Petronius

You had the truth but not the accent when

You spoke of other gods not less immortal

Than Jove the best and greatest. Let us make

An understanding across the centuries

That keep apart, yet not so much apart,

Your world from mine. It is not Jupiter,

No nor Sylvanus, nor yet Coventina


 I worship in these woods, and yet with you

I would pay them due vows and honour the

For all these gods are flashings of one light

Within us and without, for a moment held

In this thin moving cloud we call the world,

As summer lightning is, whose beauty springs

As much from earth as heaven, invisible

Until the cloud embody it. Jehovah,

Woden and Allah and the Father of Jesus,

Osiris, Isis, and the fair Apollo

And other deities not less immortal

Light for their several ages minds of men,

But all are radiations of that fire

We know in secret yet can never say,

We say in open word yet never know—

The seed, the blossom and the fruit of the world.

 

But I do think, Petronius, you came

Nighest the best and greatest of all gods

When at long last, in Italy your home

You saw in eyes beloved the holy fire,

Or, too long absent, felt upon your cheek

The kisses of your child, remembering

Cilurnum and the vow you paid in faith

In the lone cold and vigil of the Wall.

 

 
 
   

Copyright © 2008 [Fen Tyler]