Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices
Mary and Her Admirers
(An Imitation of Pushkin's «Gavriiliada»)
Copyright © Brian Spalding, 2001
The painter Ingres' violin,
King George the Fifth's philately,
Gladstone's keen interest in sin
(And ladies needful of reform),
Show odd pursuits are quite the norm
For men whom, in their wonted sphere,
None would suspect of being queer.
Old Dodgson, better known as Carroll,
Wrote hushed-up mathematics works;
One MP on the Common lurks
At night dressed only in a barrel;
- And my no-less-quaint quirkiness is ...
- Saving souls of Hebrewesses;
Especially, sweet girl, those who
Are young and beautiful ... and near,
In short, those who are just like you.
May I save yours tonight, my dear?
Imagine ... I'm an angel winging
Towards you, praising, harping, singing,
Of Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The Trinity, backed by a host
Of Seraphim, impressive friends.
Must you not then think well of me,
And so, before our meeting ends,
Admit closer propinquity?
- The Holy G. (think it not strange)
- Delights such matters to arrange.
Sixteen years old, modest, demure,
Dark-browed; beneath her linen dress
Twin girlish mounds of which th'allure
She's innocent unconsciousness;
Her future femininity
Obscured by veiled virginity;
Soft lips, and perfect pearly rows
Of teeth which her sweet smiling shows...
These are my present poem's theme.
But whence, young lady, springs a flush
To your cheeks? Nay, you need not blush;
For, though it otherwise might seem,
- Maria is the female Jew
- Of whom I'm speaking now, not you.
Far from Jerusalem, that city
Of (for those times) emancipation,
Bright lights, and parvenues sans pity
For innocents, she dwelt. Temptation
Assailed her not. Her maiden beauty
Led her to deviate from duty
Not one iota (Yes, that's Greek;
But Aramaic I don't speak).
In equal humble innocence,
Her husband, wrinkled, grey-haired, old,
His incandescence long grown cold,
Was more concerned with counting pence
- Earned by his joinery than by
- Joining in joy with her. But why
Labour the point? The man was good
With spirit-level, saw and plane.
The customers well understood
His simpleness and, in the main,
Were satisfied. He too; but she?
Not quite. Modern psychology
Would find it easy to excuse
Any dissent from her; but news
Of such knowledge had not yet reached
The countryside in which her flower
Un-watered, unadmired, must cower,
Until ... some barrier is breached.
- Too bad she's tended by a man
- So laggard with his wat'ring can!
Thank God then that Almighty God,
More Jupiter than Jahveh, looked
From Heaven down. There's nothing odd
About an artist who gets hooked;
And, once in love with his creation,
Succumbs to self-congratulation.
(In my small way I also know it:
(Each poem's perfect... to its poet!)
All-wise, He chose this untilled field
To bless in such a way as never
(The Greeks would say: Well, hardly ever!)
To humankind He had revealed.
- 'Tis night, the hillside-dappling sheep,
- Like sweet Maria, are asleep.
She sleeps: she dreams; and what a dream!
For her, the heavens open wide.
T'wards her the gifts of glory stream,
While myriad angels swoop and glide.
Archangels ogle; seraphim
Hosannas shout, while cherubim
Cover their ears with trembling wings,
With such volume the massed choir sings.
Back-lighted by a gilt-edged cloud,
With no propulsion but its own,
Approaches now Th' Eternal Throne.
Sweeping aside the fawning crowd
- Of angels with His shining sword,
- He comes, Her Master, Husband, Lord,
And speaks (Maria scarce believes
(Her ears!): "Thou, My most beautiful
Creation; distant fruit of Eve's
And Adam's apple-orchard; full
Possessor, in my Chosen Race,
Of finest figure, fairest face,
Of Beauty's elements the sum:
Be ready: soon Thy Groom will come.
Think not the Grecian gods are dead:
As much Zeus as He am I,
Who laid down laws in Sinai.
When I my Ten Commandments said,
- They surely were not meant for Me;
- Or, while I so decide, for Thee,
"Who, happiest hope of Israel,
Shall share with Me immortal powers
And lovers' mortal bliss as well.
Thine be the glory, for these hours.
Thee, bondmaid, serf, my slave most lowly...
I'll raise, embrace, caress, in holy
Love; and, sealing thus your fate,
Your womb My Seed shall impregnate."
That said, a golden cloud again
Obscures His Throne; a second swarm,
Of harpists in dress uniform,
Strikes up the Popular Refrain:
- "Thou art our God, the only One;
- Whate'er it is, Thy Will be Done!"
Amazed, aghast, Maria stares.
The faces of the heav'nly host
Look back on hers (which it appears
Almighty God now favours most)
With reverence, the homage due
To her He's chosen. One or two
Regard her looks appraisingly,
As though to say: 'Were He not He,
Or we as free as Lucifer
(The Lucky Devil! Where's he now?),
Not bound always to scrape and bow,
We too might chance our arm with her.'
- One Archangel, gold-haired, and blue
- Of eye, just stared. Maria too
Has noticed him, his stature, stance,
Resplendent robe, the helmet's plume,
And feels his fascinated glance
Stir something in her. (What? Her womb?
God moves in a mysterious
Wonderful way!) The serious,
Shame-fac'd, yes, almost callow, gaze
Of this wing-wearing courtier sways
As ne'er before Maria's heart
(Be proud, Archangel Gabriel!
And wise; then all may turn out well.)
Both smile .... But now it's time to part
- The pair, lest they in love should fall.
- She is but dreaming, after all.
At dawn Maria woke, yet long
Re-played that magic-lantern dream,
With tight-closed eyes. Can it be wrong
To wish as real what did but seem?
Gabriel seemed alive to her;
And she confessed she did prefer
Him to the One to Whom was due
Her total worship. That she knew;
But so it happens oft: the wives
Of generals, worthy but old,
Fall for their adjutants, I'm told.
What's to be done? That Fate contrives
- Inexorably thus to shame us
- Is known to sage and ignoramus.
Another truth that's known to all:
When first there courses through our veins
The burning lava that we call
Young love, and feel the searing pains
Of pent-up amorous desire
Burning like subterranean fire,
Unquenchable except by one
Still unattainable ... we run
To seek the solace of a friend
Who listens to our oft-told tale,
Who duly nods at each detail,
And lends his ear for us to bend.
- Those who for cooling comfort pant
- Seek out, and find, a confidant.
It's much the same in later years:
When the volcano long has ceased
Erupting; when smooth cheeks which tears
Once moistened now are dry and creased;
When joys divine like birds have flown
To other climes; beauty we've known
Is nothing if not plainness now,
Peering at which we wonder how
We ever could have felt desire
For her, or him ... why, then we strive
A tepid warmth still to revive,
Sitting with old friends by the fire
- For confidential hours because ...
- It helps recall how once love was.
Since Man's in God's own image made,
It is no wonder He too tries,
When His Composure's disarrayed,
To have a hearer. The All-Wise
(And also All-Afire, All-Captured,
By that descendant so enraptured
Of Eve whom He had first created,
By prayers and tedious praise o'er-sated)
Needs now His swelling love t'express
In psalm, in song, in purple prose
To someone who like feelings knows
(Though not in such Divine Excess!):
- And in His Wisdom thinks to tell
- His tale to guile-less Gabriel.
"I've ruled in Heaven", says the Lord,
"Since well before the World began;
But Rulers can be deathly bored.
Just now, I'd rather be a man
(Though wings would come in handy), or
(Do you speak French?) a ' pluie d'or ',
A bull, a satyr, anything
That can maiden Maria bring
(And with her, her virginity;
You, Gabriel, can't guess what thirst
I feel to be the very first)
Into closest proximity.
- So go; you've done such things before;
- Announce what lies for her in store."
It's true the archangel had done
Divine errands of like intent
Not once but many times; so one
More trip should cause no discontent.
This time, though, personal attraction
(That dream, then.... was it fict or faction?)
Lessened his eagerness to do
What the Almighty asked him to.
Like, later, young Cesario
To woo Orsino's lady love
With hand on sleeve and heart in glove
And cheeky tongue to her he'd go.
- We've learnt in church the public part
- Not what went on in Gabriel's heart.
Meanwhile, Satan, God's steady foe,
Whose list'ning posts are never closed,
Had exercised his 'need to know';
Foresaw that this fair Jewess posed
A threat to him: she could give birth
To one who denizens of earth
Might save from what, God knows, they well
Deserved: to die and go to hell.
Dangers he courted though; and saw
Much merit in the situation
Offered by God's infatuation.
And noted, with a loud guffaw:
- While love-sick God from rule withdrew,
- The world went on ... and no-one knew!
What of Maria, Joseph's sad
And, as she felt, forgotten spouse?
For her (note this!) her husband had
A garden planted so from house
She could retire unnoticed and
Enjoy the scents and sights he'd planned
For her delight. A carpenter
He was simply: his love for her,
He showed but through the things he made
Or garnered: palms beside a brook,
A sheltered walk. These she now took
No notice of; but in their shade
- Prayed she might once again recapture
- That dream of archangelic rapture.
Answers to prayers oft surprise.
Some think the History of Visions
Proves most spring from a source which lies
Within the suppliant whose decision
It is to make what's wished-for seen...
Splendid, or fearsome, or obscene.
Whatever critics think of it,
It was an angel's opposite
Maria saw above her: twined
Around a branch, a shining snake
Whose head hypnotically swayed
So when it spoke: 'Be not afraid',
She could no fleeing footstep take;
- But asked, in wonder: 'How? And who?'
- Though that it Satan was she knew.
The snake's kaleidoscopic beauty,
Its eye-beams passionate and sly
So pleased ... to Mary it seemed duty
A (dang'rous) dialogue to try.
"I know you, serpent. You misled
Poor Eve, enticing her to tread
The path which brought us all to sin.
And why? To prove that you could win
A woman over, whereby you
All her and Adam's progeny
Drowned in abysmal misery,
To show you could God's deeds undo.
- I shrink in horror from your shame.
- Can't you, a little, do the same?"
"It was not thus, though priests deceive
For their own ends", the serpent said.
"Please hear, and, if you will, believe:
I SAVED Adam and Eve, who'd led
'Till then a less-than human life.
Adam's companion was no wife;
Nor he a husband. Why? God knows.
Quite literally; for He chose
To keep His new creation, Eve,
As private worshipper, and let
Poor Adam dig and delve and sweat
Day-long, so he would gladly leave
- His partner free to be, at night,
- Not his, no, no, but His delight."
Maria: "No! Disgraceful! Lies!"
The Devil: "But He was in love."
Maria: "Silence! I despise
You." Devil: "But no-one's above
The laws of Nature. Even God
Must bend to them. Were it not odd
If He Who in His image made
(Or said He did ... don't be afraid ...
I say but truth ...) the human race
Did not, when surfeited with praise
From Heaven's hangers-on, seek ways
Just to admire a pretty face;
- And, if its owner were inclined,
- Its body to himself to bind?"
Satan's persuasive, there's no doubt.
Maria in the garden, lonely,
Uncomfortable, wanted out.
"Why should I listen? Slander only
It is ... Yet I could claim protection.
Did not Lord God in my direction
Look favorably? Even gave
A special promise to his 'slave'?
Well then, why not allow the snake,
Whom God, I do suppose, created,
To end the story he's related
And of it a whole hist'ry make?
- Making well-mannered conversation
- Deserves, for sure, no condemnation.
By her demeanour thus invited,
The serpent lowers to the ground
His scaly elegance. Excited,
E'en fascinated, in profound
And unaccustom'd feelings' sway,
She stares, his audience ... and prey.
"What Moses wrote was mainly lies",
He said, "Although that's no surprise.
Who pays the piper calls the tune
Is what we all, devil or saint,
Strong macho man or female faint,
Must come to terms with late or soon;
- And, told but once, smart Mosie knew
- What words and acts to say and do.
It's foolish, but I never learned
To fudge or trim; but what I see
I say. No wonder my name's spurned
By those who like their history
To prove... that God's a gentleman;
And on our side; indeed His plan
Is centred on our very nation
(Hebrew, or Russian, or Croatian)
Which, being virtuous and strong,
Will triumph over ev'ry foe
De-da de-da... I'm sure you know
The line. It's popular, but wrong.
- I'm hated, outcast, just because
- I've always told it as it was.
And how was it in Eden? Well,
Not much too different from here
And now; for ... it's plain truth I tell ...
Thy beauty Man and God revere.
The laws of natural selection
Have in your case produced ... perfection!
Thy modest smile entrances all;
A simple word from thee can call
A horde of Adams to thy feet
As supplicants, to love, adore,
Serve, sacrifice, and so much more
Wouldst thou but grant what they entreat;
- But, as with Eve in Eden, man
- Is absent from th'Almighty's plan.
Eve, gentle, modest, as are you,
Of Destiny as unaware,
With Adam lived as siblings do
Who unemotionally care,
Kindly enough, but without strong
Feeling or zest. They walked along
The river bank; watched dragon-flies
Hover and dart; saw fishes rise;
Were sheltered by the fronded palm,
Yet untouched by the plenitude
Of earthly lovelinesses strewed
Around them; needing not the calm
- Nature on sinners can bestow,
- Useless to those who no sin know.
Life was a boring business.
He delved; she span; both yawned a lot;
At each day's end would, grateful, bless
Nightfall; then dreamless sleep; forgot,
For a few hours ... monotony.
What say you? Is not tyranny
The name for God's imposed regime?
His gift to Adam now did seem
To Him excessive. True, He'd given
Eve as a help-meet; but, for pleasure,
Adam had now too little leisure,
Being by some work-ethic driven.
- Better that He, in course of duty
- Enjoy poor Adam's partner's beauty.
Maria, that's your situation:
Heaven, or prison? Difference
There's not. Whether abject prostration
Or mincing mouthings fit His Sense
Of Divine Need, prayers or praise,
You will provide ... for untold days,
Not daring one swift sidelong glance
At Gabriel, whose golden lance
Glisters invitingly, whose cloak
To be enveloped in were bliss
Ineffable ... Dream not of this;
Around you crones and dotards croak.
- So enviable is your fate
- As Great Jehovah's next ... ex-mate!
I could go on, call up the stench
Of incense, and at boring length
Attempt through true accounts to wrench
You from His grasp. Too little strength
Is mine. Instead I'll say how Eve
I did, in far-off times, relieve.
All know the What; but not the Why.
That bitten apple (symbol true
Of what my chosen pair should do)
Evoked, helped on a bit by me,
A vision seen by all six eyes
Of what beneath our clothing lies,
Which, being just by this set free,
- Revealed what I, all else above,
- Relish ... the sacred world of Love.
Yes, sacred. Satan now I'm called
But once was known as Lucifer (1).
Light did I carry, 'till, appalled,
To see how men and gods prefer
Darkness, I draped o'er it a shade.
Since then I've better progress made
Giving to scientists small hints
Of where to find Nature's footprints.
Sometimes I loose a lightning blast
(Yet-unborn Newton's in my aim) (2)
Whereafter nothing's quite the same.
All protest, yet agree at last;
- Until, that is, another stroke
- (Einstein maybe?) clinches the joke (3).
Than Science though, my leaning's more
To Love, which sacred is indeed.
Let prudes its vagaries deplore;
My followers adopt this creed;
All humans have the happy urge
With others of their kind to merge,
Exchanging pleasures (sometimes pains
Add piquancy); and no-one gains
From abstinence. In years to come,
When theocratic power is weaker
Humanity from me will seek a
Wiser guidance. Then I'll sum
- My wisdom up in this equation:
- Compassion's one with copulation.
Where was I? Apples? Vision? Yes!
They saw each other clear at last;
Her beauty; his; their nakedness.
Surely some wisp of wisdom passed
From me to them. I watched as love
Kindled and flared, like flames above
A burning forest. To the trees
Indeed they hastened; on their knees,
Sun-dappled and by palm-frond shade
Half-hid, with fearful finger-tips,
All mounds and hollows, cheeks and lips,
Each item the first Man and Maid
- Were made of, they did so explore
- The Maid would soon be maid no more.
Adam, who'd once named all the beasts,
Must innovate again: these mounds
Miraculous? He'd call them "breasts".
This cleft where deep delight abounds?
One name alone could not express
Its teeming treasury: no less
Than twenty he'd that day invent
Before his fecund power was spent.
Here was a brave, a new-found land (4),
Unmapped, unnamed; an untilled soil
Which he, long used to delver's toil
Must cultivate with his own hand,
- And Eve's, who equally desired
- The end to which both now aspired.
He's tender; yet his clumsiness
Something fragile indeed does break;
But she, disclaiming all distress,
Does this as a good omen take.
Henceforth they'll share both pain and pleasure.
She's sacrificed her virgin treasure,
A bauble merely, now well lost;
For what it bought a trifling cost.
God's prohibition quite dismissed,
Now Adam's adamant: on course
He is t'attain the one true source
Of pleasure. He's prime hedonist;
- While she, product of Adam's bone,
- Gives joy to him... and takes her own.
Breathless, her whisper'd words of love
Scarce audible, open she lies;
Then feels the very Earth to move (5)
As he, her human lover, dies,
(Or seems to) lost, unloosed, in her;
Who, also dumb-struck, cannot stir
Until (proving he lives) hot tears
Moisten her cheek and mix with hers.
Now falls upon the panting pair
A scented blossom-petal shower,
Which covers them and fills the air
With sweetness 'stilled from flower on flower.
- A gift from then-young Mother Earth
- Who, Death being banished, senses Birth.
Oh, blessed day! Th'exultant groom
Caressed his bride from dawn till night-
-fall, open-eyed e'en in the gloom
For fear of losing the delight
And lustre which now filled the leisure
Of both as one; whose new-found pleasure
(You know the story) God cut short.
He chose their mission to abort
Now He could not alone control
Their trajectory; for He knew
I, Satan, gave some guidance too.
The Jealous must have always sole
- Command; the crew must pay the price:
- Ejection from that Paradise
Forever, where had He permitted,
They could have lived in innocence
And joy. What crime had they committed?
They'd seen, and valued; had the sense
To take advice, and that to choose
Which life-ward led, the rest refuse.
That the advice they chose was mine
Was of their judgement a good sign.
Youth, they decided, had some rights
To passion, ecstasy, and tears,
To smiles and kisses, frowns and fears;
To mingle suff'ring with delight.
- Adam absolved me in the end;
- And Eve remained my life-long friend.
The snake fell silent. Fascinated
And Satan-struck, Maria pondered:
"Could it have been as he related?
What is love then? I've always wondered.
Some say without it life is naught;
The bliss it brings not to be bought
By virtue's worth, or wealth, or fame.
Yet still, to me, it's just a name".
Such pictures have been painted in
Her young impressionable mind
By Satan's tale that she's inclined
Copying them to think no sin.
- As though of this she'd made admission,
- Before her ... a new apparition.
The snake has gone, his place now taken
By a fair youth, handsome as ... well ...
Though she must surely be mistaken ...
There was a hint of Gabriel.
This one was as a human clad,
(Oh! such allure his dark eyes had
No words were needed to convey
Convincingly with her what way
He'd have, should her consent empower
Him) One hand seeks beneath her dress
And touches ... Ah! what giddiness!
The other holds a scented flower,
- Proffered, but held just out of reach
- As though by teasing he would teach.
Teach what? Do what? Maria, dazed
By novelty on novelty,
By this new tempter's tricks amazed,
Is seized by curiosity.
Her pondered questions perhaps he'd,
Responsive to her inner need,
First recognise and then resolve,
Her doubts enlightening dissolve.
A flush, but not a flush of shame,
Showing she'll let him have his will
Should he (does he?) desire it still,
Her maiden cheeks now sets aflame,
- He grasps; she cries; sweet seconds pass;
- Then both fall, giggling, to the grass.
[Dear, dearest friend, as I write this
Thoughts of our own young days revive.
Forgive me. I must reminisce
Of you, whose girlhood beauty I've
Rehearsed repeatedly. My pen
You first gave life to. That was when
I pressed, at evening, my knee
'Gainst yours. Your mother could not see
How hidden by the table drapes
My fingers searched for yours, and found
Them. How my heart, yours too, did pound!
They started thus, my boyhood scrapes,
- Adventures, pranks, not always kind.
- Sins too, with shame I call to mind.
I taught, you learned alas, deceit.
Your home precepts were over-strict;
I let you think that them to cheat
Was pardonable; sadly tricked
You were by me, myself also.
When we our parting ways did go,
Alone, both drained the bitter cup
Inscribed: 'Deny; then cover up'.
Your beauty passing years now hide;
Your paler lips less often smile.
Yet do not our lost love revile;
Let not past passion be denied.
- Our natures made us then so live;
- Recall, and, if you can, forgive.]
Old Nick, Father, Grand-Dad of sin,
Of Mary's lapse the architect,
Her enemy, allowed to win
By Heaven's hard-t'excuse neglect
A victory against the odds,
Seducing thus Almighty God's
Selected spouse, for fun or spite,
Glory at once; for soon your light
Will fade. Already twilight brings
Chill air. In silence, Mary lies,
Exhausted, shuddering; her eyes
Fast closed, until by whirr of wings
- Wakened, sees standing over her
- In splendour proud ... God's messenger!
Aghast, her hands fly to her face,
Ashamed by him to be so found.
Had he observed that hot embrace?
The Devil, rising from the ground,
Surprised a bit but not abashed,
Says: 'Gabriel, you have gate-crashed
A private do. Don't get excited;
You def'nitely were not invited.
Go back to Heav'n; praise the Lord;
Play on your harp; and no more trouble
The peace of a contented couple.
When you're away, they'll not be bored.'
- But Gabriel, with frowning glance
- Of jealousy holds up his lance;
But, ere he throws it, speaks: 'Thou mad
Vain demon, who would violate
Maria, whom nothing that's bad
Can touch, still less contaminate;
Rebellious slave, be off, or feel
The sting of this revenging steel.'
Satan's reply? A vicious head-
Butt to the nose. Gabriel bled
Profusely; dropped down on one knee
With hand on mouth and narrowed eyes;
Then, taking Satan by surprise,
Stood up and dealt a one-two-three
- Which nearly knocked the Devil out.
- A clumsy clinch closes the bout.
Neither can break the other's grip.
They roll entwined about the field.
No bitten ear nor chin-split lip
Makes Archangel or Devil yield.
They try out ev'ry dirty trick
To Hell or Heaven known; are quick
To learn new wrinkles from each other.
Necessity, invention's mother,
Works overtime; each racks his brains
To find new ways the rules to break
And, as reward, advantage take
By giving more than getting pains.
- Maria, in her ring-side seat,
- Is torn: who will? should? whom? defeat?
Do you remember, lads, how we
When school was over, in the spring,
Made with our fist- and knee-blows free;
And saw no wrong, when floundering
Together on the playing-field.
In making our opponents yield
By blows not accident'lly dealt
Decidedly below the belt.
Just so our weary combatants:
The Devil pulls th'Archangel's hair
In handfuls out. Maria's stare
Of horror as he groans and pants
- Spurs Gabriel to new endeavour:
- He'll win her now, he knows, or never.
He yields; beats thrice upon the ground
With one free arm; cries: 'Mercy, please.
She's yours. Let her in Hell be crowned
Your queen, your spouse, your ...' Hearing these
Admissions of final defeat,
Satan, Lord (so-called) of Deceit,
Releases Gabr'el, sees him slump
An abject, almost life-less lump
Of fallen-angel-hood; indeed
Stands over him in triumph, calls
Him lily-livered, one who licks
God's ... No! He's not! He's one who kicks
Satan quite smartly in the ... All's
- By this reversed; and turns out well.
- Satan can scarce crawl back to hell.
Of this fast fur'ous fight the prize,
Maria's watched with bated breath,
And now turns her victor'ous eyes
To him who risked for her ... not death,
(For he's immortal) but what's worse
Defeat, and the Almighty's curse.
Her hero now before her stands,
Wipes blood and spittle from his hands,
Picks up his helmet, smooths its plume,
(His wounds heal fast; his hair re-grows)
So he his archangelic pose
Can soon with confidence resume.
- He wilts a little when he sees,
- Once more, how beautiful she is;
And blushes, just remembering
His near-till-then forgotten duty;
Begins the practised song to sing
God wrote for him: 'Innocent beauty,
Of womankind the blessed best,
Thou shalt bring forth at My behest
A son who all mankind shall save,
Triumphing over Hell and Grave.
I add to this Annunciation
Some words never before confessed:
Through thee, with thee, I too am blessed.'
Thus ran His Self-Congratulation
- Which Gabriel, who'd learned by heart,
- Prompted to play the father's part.
He knelt before her. God had said
He should; but the Divine Commands
Did not say he should lay his head
In her sweet lap, or kiss her hands,
Or gaze with love at those dark eyes,
Or seeing tell-tale colour rise
Suffusing even her white throat
And neck .... From here he himself wrote
The script in fine impromptu fashion.
Her tenderness inspired the text;
Each move, responded to, the next
Dictated. Thus, propelled by passion,
- The play progressed; and, after one
- 'Please don't', the closing act was done.
But what will say Jealous Almighty
God? What do? And what should she?
Take comfort Mary; the first flighty
Girl you are not; these things can be
Managed quite easily; for males
Are totally deceived by tales
No woman of experience
Would credit; and shy innocence
Is a whole wardrobeful of covers
For assignations, letters, lies,
That female kindness can devise
To soothe and satisfy their lovers.
- A husband with contentment glows
- Who of his rival nothing knows.
Already the archangel's flown
To Heaven, where impatiently
His Master waits, Who's seldom known
Feelings of such intensity.
'Tell me the news. I know it's good
Of course.' 'I did all that I could,'
Gabriel said, 'To smooth Thy way.'
'And she?' 'Is ready, I would say,
To do her God-commanded duty.'
Contented by these tidings, God
Gave one Jove-like Homeric nod,
And winged toward His just-won beauty.
- (Who thought Greek deities died long
- Before Christ's era were quite wrong.)
Drunk with the dizzy day's sensations,
'Mid rumpled sheets Maria rests
And recollects. Imagination's
Mixed with truth: her thighs and breasts
Feel still those touches, strokings, kisses,
Bringers of ne'er-before-known blisses,
Bestowed by whom? By Gabriel!
But by his fore-runner as well.
Did that love seem to her so pure
Only because he was the first
To sense and slake her maiden thirst?
She weighed them both; and was not sure;
- And felt only again that fire,
- Was coursing through her veins ... desire.
In dreams feelings take living shape.
So now: her naked need for love,
Whether disguised as ruse or rape,
Incarnate is. A broad-winged dove,
White-feathered, from the azure skies
To her majestically flies
And on her open lap alights ...
A knowing dove who swift excites
With strutting claw and head and beak
The lady as though he would play
With her as toy, then tool, then prey.
But who? The answer's near to seek
- And find: at the acts's apogee,
- She cries, surrendering: " 'Tis He!"
The dove covers possessively
Her tear-stained visage with his wing
And slumbers; as indeed does she;
And in her dream hears angels sing
Hosannahs, canticles of joy,
Foretelling to what blessed boy
She will in God's good time give birth
To be His living self on Earth.
She wakes; the dove has flown away.
By tiredness made contemplative,
Maria draws no negative
Conclusion from her busy day,
- Finding only the order odd:
- "First Devil; angel next; last God!"
In due time, God makes public his
Paternity of the Jewess's
Offspring; th' official story is
Promoted by all Holinesses
Patriarchs and cardinals.
Although good husband Joseph calls
The lad his son, and lets him play
At hamm'ring nails in wood all day,
We Bible-readers all know better.
But what of Gabriel's later flights?
Was he claiming paternal rights?
And when He in the desert met a
- Tempter, was Christ told: "MY son
- Your are. MY will be done"?
Amen, amen. So let it be.
This story I now dedicate
To you, Archangel, deputy
Of God, whose exploits to relate
Respectfully I've done my best.
Now, may I make of you request?
I was until quite recently
A heretic: propriety
In love affairs was not my mode;
The friend of ruffians and rakes,
What some called sins I called mistakes;
My soul I to the Devil owed,
- On sinning happily hell-bent.
- But now I'm ready to repent.
I've met a lady named Elena,
She's my Maria, Adam's Eve.
All other women, should I gain a
Prize like her, I'll gladly leave.
She is for me whom Fate intended,
From Heaven's height to earth descended.
Would she but bend to be my wife,
I'd love her to the end of life.
Teach me then, Gabriel, to charm
As you did, one of highest worth;
Make winsome my weak words; let mirth
And merriment defence disarm;
- So at the altar-rail we both
- (And soon!) will stand to pledge our troth.
My greying hair grants little time.
She's young, attractive. Tell her then
I'll be her Joseph; say that I'm
Accustomed to the ways of men
And women also; I shall be
Content if she, though good to me,
Is sometimes good to others too
(Not many; just a hand-picked few).
She shall have all my worldly wealth
To squander on her friends; although
Of that I'd rather nothing know.
Let her be generous by stealth.
- Will you do this, Great Gabriel,
- My soul I'll not to Satan sell.
1. On a starred night Prince Lucifer
Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend...
He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he looked
(George Meredith, 1828-1909)
2. Nature, and Nature's laws, lay
hid in night.
God said: "Let Newton be!" and all was light."
(Alexander Pope, 1688-1744)
3. It did not last: the Devil howling:
"Let Einstein be!" restored the status quo.
(John Squire, 1884-1958)
4. Licence my roving hands, and let
Before, behind, between, above, below.
Oh my America! My new-found-land,
My kingdom, safliest when with one man mann'd.
(John Donne, 1571-1631; Elegies, no.19, Going to Bed)
5. But did thee feel the earth move?
(Ernest Hemingway, 1898-1961; For Whom the Bell Tolls)