The Turn of the Tide

Breathless was the air over Bethlehem. Black and bare

Were the fields; hard as granite the clods;

Hedges stiff with ice; the sedge in the vice

Of the pool, like pointed iron rods.

And the deathly stillness spread from Bethlehem. It was shed

Wider each moment on the land;

Through rampart and wall into camp and into hall

Stole the hush; all tongues were at a stand.

At the Procurator’s feast the jocular freedman ceased

His story, and gaped. All were glum

Travellers at their beer in a tavern turned to hear

The landlord; their oracle was dumb.

But the silence flowed forth to the islands and the North

And smoothed the unquiet river bars

And levelled out the waves from their revelling and paved

The sea with cold reflected stars.

Where the Caesar on Palatine sat at ease to sign,

Without anger, signatures of death,

There stole into his room and on his soul a gloom,

And his pen faltered, and his breath.

Then to Carthage and the Gauls, past Parthia and the Falls

Of Nile and Mount Amara it crept;

The romp and war of beast in swamp and jungle ceased,

The forest grew still as though it slept.

So it ran about the girth of the planet. From the Earth

A signal, a warning, went out

And away behind the air. Her neighbours were aware

Of change. They were troubled with a doubt.

Salamanders in the Sun that brandish as they run

Tails like the Americas in size

Were stunned by it and dazed; wondering, they gazed

Up at Earth, misgiving in their eyes.

In Houses and Signs Ousiarchs divine

Grew pale and questioned what it meant;

Great Galactal lords stood back to back with swords

Half-drawn, awaiting the event,

And a whisper among them passed, ‘Is this perhaps the last

Of our story and the glories of our crown?

–The entropy worked out?–The central redoubt

Abandoned? The world-spring running down?

Then they could speak no more. Weakness overbore

Even them. They were as flies in a web,

In their lethargy stone-dumb. The death had almost come;

The tide lay motionless at ebb.

Like a stab at that moment, over Crab and Bowman,

Over Maiden and Lion, came the shock

Of returning life, the start and burning pang at heart,

Setting Galaxies to tingle and rock;

And the Lords dared to breathe, and swords were sheathed

And a rustling, a relaxing began,

With a rumour and noise of the resuming of joys,

On the nerves of the universe it ran.

Then pulsing into space with delicate, dulcet pace

Came a music, infinitely small

And clear. But it swelled and drew nearer and held

All worlds in the sharpness of its call.

And now divinely deep, and louder, with the sweep

and quiver of inebriating sound,

The vibrant dithyramb shook Libra and the Ram,

The brains of Aquarius spun round;

Such a note as neither Throne nor Potentate had known

Since the Word first founded the abyss,

But this time it was changed in a mystery, estranged,

A paradox, an ambiguous bliss.

Heaven danced to it and burned. Such answer was returned

To the hush, the Favete, the fear

That Earth had sent out; revel, mirth and shout

Descended to her, sphere below sphere.

Saturn laughed and lost his latter age’s frost,

His beard, Niagara-like, unfroze;

Monsters in the Sun rejoiced; the Inconstant One,

The unwedded Moon, forgot her woes.

A shiver of re-birth and deliverance on the Earth

went gliding. Her bonds were released.

Into broken light a breeze rippled and woke the seas,

In the forest it startled every beast.

Capripods fell to dance from Taproban to France,

Leprechauns from Down to Labrador,

In his green Asian dell the Phoenix from his shell

Burst forth and was the Phoenix once more.

So death lay in arrest. But at Bethlehem the bless’d

Nothing greater could be heard

Than a dry wind in the thorn, the cry of the One new-born,

And cattle in stall as they stirred.

by C.S. Lewis

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s