Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Four Poems by Joseph Campbell

Campbell (1879-1944)
These four poems are taken from The Poems of Joseph Campbell, (1963). I hope I'm not infringing anyone's copyright and I hope I've typed them accurately. Joseph Campbell the poet is not the Joseph Campbell who wrote numerous works on mythology.

From Irishry.


When he goes thin in leaky shoes
For lack of meat and marriage dues
Two moons will kindle in the sky
And drink the deep Atlantic dry.

He built a chapel on a hill
And let the peasants foot the bill,
When Dagda cracks its steeple down
The rooted oaks will come to town.

Walking the road between grey, lichened, walls
To where the sick man or the sinner calls
You tread the path that Paul and Jerome trod,
Dispenser of the mysteries of God

The scholarship you know, the Latin,  Greek
The books you write, the shining words you speak,
Your silvered hair, your shaven face, your dress
Are but as shadows of your holiness.

I do not judge you, any more than I
Have judged another; but with Wisdom’s eye
 I look, and count you worthy of high song
Who lift the fallen, bid the weak be strong.

Christ drank the wine of love-feasts,
Christ broke the leper’s bread;
Christ let a fallen woman
Pour Spikenard on his head.

You put the mask on beauty
You bind the dancer’s feet;
You bless the sad and bitter,
And curse the gay and sweet.

From Prison Poems

Chess Pieces

It was a time of trouble—executions,
Dearth, searches, nightly firing, balked escapes-
And I sat silent, while my cellmate figured
Ruy Lopez’s Gambit from the “Praxis”. Silence
Best fitted our mood: we seldom spoke.
“I have a thought,” he said, tilting his stool.
“We prisoners are so many pieces taken,
Swept from the chessboard, only used again
When a new game is started.” ”There’s that hope”,
I said, “the hope of being used again.
Some day of strength, when ploughs are out in March,
The Dogs of Fionn will slip their iron chains
And, heedless of torn limbs and failing wind
Will run the old grey Wolf to death at last.”
He smiled. “I like the Image. My fat Kings,
And painted Queens, and Purple-cassocked Bishops
Are tame, indeed, beside your angry Dogs!”

Ideal and Reality

I thirst for violins, as drunkards thirst
For wine; I hunger for great verse, plain-served
In ordinaries where poor bards foregather.
Or dished on plates of gold in theatres.
I’d give these living eyes to see the Sphinx,
The sun-bleached columns of the Parthenon,
The doves about the Lion of San Mark,
Angelo’s frescoes, Goya’s canvasses.
And here am I, mured in a prison cell;
No pictures seen, save what obscenities
Old lags have drawn with dirt on white-washed bricks
To satisfy desire, or hieroglyphs
Of some field-bred, jail-sick Republican
Telling his tale of days for a bomb thrown;
No clustered shaft, no pointed arch, no dome
Dim with Byzantine colour, no Greek frieze.
Great in its unashamed simplicity-
Only the meanness of four narrow walls
And dirty window. Prophet-like, I walk
The oaken floor, a desert of dry sand,
Searching for amber honeycombs of verse,
For crystal-wells of muted violins,
And find no treasure. What things come to me
But harsh discordance? On the basement crane
The steel chains rasp; a porridge tray is slammed
The landing sentry clicks his rifle bolt
To keep his wits awake; nail-booted feet
Batter a Munster hornpipe overhead;
A toilet flushed; someone, endlessly,
Shouts in a snuffling, strident Meath Street voice
For Johnny Pigeon, till the tyrannized ear
Rebels and curses Johnny Pigeon’s name;
The sweepers sweep the compound; buckets clink;
A new mouthorgan plays an ancient waltz;
And, master of a school of minor notes,
The tap-tap of a ringmaker is heard
Beating his penny in a distant wing.

From The Gilly of Christ

When Rooks Fly Homeward.

When rooks fly homeward,
And shadows fall
When roses fold
On the Hay yard wall
When Blind moths flutter
By door and tree
            The comes the quiet
            Of Christ to me.

When stars look out
On the Children’s Path
And grey mists gather
On carn and rath
When Night is one
With the Brooding sea
            Then comes the quiet

            Of Christ to me.

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