Thursday, November 25, 2010

the altar

before the altar, bowed, he stands
with empty hands;
upon it perfumed offerings burn
wreathing with smoke
his sole condition
and while the moon
swings slow across the sky
he gazes:
his soul
upon the wings
of shimmering moonbeams

"for you.
into the night i toss
my offering to you"

from the altar, bathed in moonlight,
the smoke rises straight in the quiet night.

words selected and juxtaposed from amy lowell's poem "before the altar"


Noelle Renee said...

To begin with, the photograph is fantastic. Did you arrange that or was that a natural altar. It takes one's breath away. Secondly, I read the entire poem by Amy Lowell, and I am not quite certain what your intention was in excerpting it, but it is, in every way a romantic poem in the true sense of the word. The theme of sacrificing ones self in a state of absolute melancholy to some femine deity of poetic imagination fits perfectly with the poetry of Keats,Shelley and Byron. The speaker of the poem stands before a burnt offering to a goddess that doesn't belong to him. He has nothing to offer but "love and poetry." I find it interesting that he says to her that he is "tending the gifts he has not brought the rare and goodly things he has not sought. Perhaps he is speaking of earthly treasure. Rather than toss what he has into the night, he tosses the consequences of his lack "my wearying strife, my courage, my loss into the night I toss For you. Golden Divinity. ....The shredded remnant of a man/Is all the span and compass of my offering to you. This poem has a rather dark tone, far more like Byron than Keats or Shelley, but still in that same genre. I like it very much. This whole notion of packing your poet's dreams for the goddess of poetic imagination is just lovely. Not sure that is what you had in mind.
I love the post!

steven said...

Noelle thankyou for this comment. In answer to your first question - this is exactly as i found it. it is a small part of a garden i created at the front of our home. it wasn't intended to be an altar but on this particular day it had all the appearances and qualities of one. to me. when i excerpt or play with a poet's work, my intention is not to paraphrase any of the poet's original intention. It's simply to draw words together and burnish them, to put an edge on them of my own creation. in this instance i was thinking of light - especially moonlight - and the immersion of a person in love. love of the sort rumi would write about. love of the part for the whole. i hope that that helps. of course, it's only the surface. steven

Reya Mellicker said...

I, too, see altars everywhere. A life well lived is one in which these things are visible - the altars, moonbeams, and such.

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

Just lovely. Both the post and your photo! Exceptional ~ as always. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Kay said...

beautiful, words and that a sculpture or am i just imagining i see a face in that rock..??

steven said...

reya - i rode home from the university i worked at today instead of working with my grade five and six kids. a cool gig - i get to work with aspiring teachers!! i stopped three times at what i thought of as altars. i'd find it hard to explain exactly what i saw and knew when i saw them. i know you know what i know! steven

steven said...

boomer!!! oh my goodness!!! glad to see you anf thankyou for your kind comment and thoughts. happy thanksgiving to you and all my american friends on this day of thankfullness. steven

steven said...

kay - it's a rock i found when we had a pool dug in the backyard. i kept all the rocks and boulders - we're on a hill that was left behind fifteen thousand years ago by the last glacial retreat - i put them in little spots around the gardens and let the plants take over. steven