This is the End
Most days are too harsh, and most days are too dark,
and most hours are trundling along through a void,
while the moons fade away, barely leaving a ray,
and proud cities, piled up to the clouds, are destroyed.
Yet all will be well, yes, it yet will be well,
and all manner of things will be well in the end,
when in fathomless bliss like a fathomless kiss
all the stars, all the spirits will brighten and blend.
Christina Egan © 2004
Lines five and six are a quote from Sister Julian of Norwich,
an English hermit and mystic who lived six hundred years ago.
In Advent, which this year starts today, Christians also think of
the inevitable and terrifying end of the world.
The Tower of Jericho, around 9,000 years old. Photograph:
Reinhard Dietrich (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.
In balmy darkness
I was floating
over sand and salt,
along the garland of lights,
below the curtain of stars…
In a flash, I thought of
my distant beloved one,
in a flood, it came back,
the impossible future.
had come like a shooting-star,
fair, fast, in a sweeping curve,
with careless grace,
like a message from life.
Cold is the sea now and rough,
with dullness tainted the days
and the sparkling tent of the night.
The quiet fire has passed:
the face that mattered.
Around me is autumn,
and I know that spring will return
and my youth will not.
The voice that struck me is silent;
and my heart eats death.
Christina Egan © 2012
A memory of the Mediterranean Sea, where one can swim, and swim even in after dark, even into autumn…
Decorative paper. Image provided by British Library through Flickr.
au jour des ténèbres
au jour des ténèbres
une chandelle dansait
au jour des funèbres
une fleur étincelait
à l’heure de silence
une voix m’a touché
à l’heure de souffrance
une main m’a brossé
à l’aube très lente
une étoile est surgie
dans l’âme patiente
la lueur s’élargit
comme si la souffrance
se tintait de bleu
ô douce espérance
qui baigne les yeux
Christina Egan © 2018
This poem was inspired by a French church service where the words ‘souffrance’… ‘silence’… ‘patience’… seemed to echo in the dark church on a dull Good Friday…
Windows in St Nicholas, Ghent. Photograph: Christina Egan © 2018.
The day is like a daffodil. Yet
the green garland of the garden,
the golden garland of the sunset
cannot dispel the dark of the depth.
On the crests of the hills,
tiny blue brushstrokes,
you can watch them wander,
the deceased and the unborn.
My heart is a fist in my chest.
My tears are grapes of glass.
No one sees them: no one sees me.
I am alone with the angels.
Christina Egan © 2017
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2013.
Der Erde Auge
Hier ist der Wald nur Wimpernkranz
um jadegrünen Augenglanz,
der immer träumt
und immer wacht,
der nimmer weint
und nimmer lacht.
Der Erde Auge schaut hinauf
in tausendfachen Sternenlauf:
Ein schwarzer Stein
schlug donnernd ein
und schuf den Teich.
Und um den runden Kraterrand
gehn hundert Menschen still gebannt:,
Sie schlendern her
zu eitlem Schaun
und schreiten schwer
in grünem Traum.
Berührt vom fernen Sternenschlag
sind tausend Jahre wie ein Tag.
Die Sonne fülllt
und urgrün quillt
Christina Egan © 2016
Dark is the mid-morning sky,
shaded the treeless land,
granite the road of the sea,
burnt the abandoned strand.
Dragons looming like hills
have stirred from a century’s daze
to spew some sparks and some ash
before they set glaciers ablaze.
Christina Egan © 2010
The first poem, ‘The Earth’s Eye’ describes a startlingly green and perfectly circular lake in Estonia — a timeless, mythical place, caused by a meteorite crashing several thousand years ago, but within human memory.
The second poem was inspired by the news of a volcanic eruption on Iceland. Mythical creatures take on real life: not that hills look like dragons, no, dragons disguise themselves as hills…
I have also written a sonnet about the twin crater lakes of Sete Cidades (Azores). and a number of poems about the volcanoes of Lanzarote (Canaries).
This lifeless gloom: is it the dusk?
This pale white disc: is it the moon?
Is this a mild day in November?
No: in the land of ceaseless mist
this is the sun; the afternoon;
the lightless first day of September.
Christina Egan © 2015
“ἔνθα δὲ Κιμμερίων ἀνδρῶν δῆμός τε πόλις τε,
ἠέρι καὶ νεφέλῃ κεκαλυμμένοι.”
“There are the land and city of the Cimmerians,
wrapped in mist and cloud.”
Homer, Odyssey, 11:14-15
“Britain is set in the Sea of Darkness.
It is a considerable island. This country is most fertile,
its inhabitants brave, active and enterprising….
but all is in the grip of perpetual winter.”
Muhammad al-Idrisi of Sicily, ca. 1154
Homer never ceases to inspire us. Incidentally, I saw a retelling of the Odyssey last night, at a London playhouse, or rather, amphitheatre! (On this first day of September, the weather is in fact glorious.)
The memory of four clearly marked seasons, full of bright leaves and fruits, and the sorrow about the apparent confusion of the climate are depicted in My Pack of Cards.
Die Stadt ist endlich dunkel, endlich still.
Und in der regenreinen Ruhe quillt
herauf, was unter dem Getümmel lag:
das Teppichmuster unterm Alltagstag.
Die Stunden ziehen bunt an mir vorüber,
verdichten, runden sich: Glasperlenlieder.
Mein Leben ist gering. Ich bin allein.
Doch brennt mein Herz und leuchtet wie der Wein.
Christina Egan © 2011
Minoan beads from Crete, of gold, lapis lazuli and cornelian, at least 3,500 years old.
Photograph © The Trustees of the British Museum.