Burning Byzantium

 [Poetry], Burning Byzantium  Comments Off on Burning Byzantium
Aug 272011
 

I
In night-devouring pride
God and ghost deride,
And not knowing what is best,
Peering past his death
Man's untiring vanity
Consumes his bitter rest.

II
Flame emanating, spout upon spout,
Flame on his head that shouts
Fiery Dionysus climbed
Olympian plenitude and dined
On rarer bones than men's eyes
Before or after spied;
Then, finished with that golden feast,
Burned statues down, head and feet,
In serpent-seas of fire that we
Might build again from perfected memory.

III
What if destruction of vast colonnades appalled?
Wrecked form to formless called:
Holy fire makes wide mind a wall,
Paints thereon, and names that image All.
Water and desire and stark upright flame begin
Where world grew ocean from some ecstatic limb.

Starved eunuchs hunching bald-eyed at the law
Know Adam to the marrow, jumping to the fall.
An engendered emptiness can beget
Strong delight for those whose minds are full;
Stark contemplation hollows out delight
Save when sword or scalpel pull.

IV
Answer to sorrow or suffering comes
Displaying ornate mask or abrupt gun;
Michelangelo lobouring in the sculpted dark
Blazed imagination forth upon uncertain tides---
Pale constellations of his thought
Brought death and life out of one troubled heart,
Or might have brought ---O How long can man
Out of narrow sorrow extract a song?
Right action finishes out the thought
A lonely exalted mind began;
Long-loved monuments fixed in the sight
Assemble us out of desire to dissolve
Into that unutterable One again.