Another Three Pagan Poems

Morgana at her Vanity
(for Erif)

Damp from the chastening water,
She oils her skin, humming
A wandrous tune that breaks,
Then resumes, as her musing eye spies,
Then dispells, each threat of a line
In her face, in the polished brass mirror.
She combs out her sea-raven hair
With sharks’ fins, brushes
With bristles of boars,
Charcoals her eyebrows to arch and point,
Powders her eyelids with sea-blue chalk,
Rouges her nipples, lips, and nails
Of hands and feet with the locust-red dye,
Scents her throat with nectar and musk,
Rings her fingers, ears, and toes,
Garters her leg with the green snake’s skin,
Cords her waist with a ninefold knot,
Dagger in sheath, and hazel wand,
Clasps her wrist with a silver sign,
Loops her neck with shells and teeth,
Bands her brow with a crescent moon,
Springs to her feet, smiles, twirls
Withershins the pleasure of herself,
Then out the curtain, under branches
Of moonlight, silent up the ringstone mountain,
To count out the circle with sword and knife,
Sing leaves into fire, earth into air,
And draw down the moon in her brimming cup.

 

 

Silbury Hill

The day is a glass castle.
Under my civilized skin
The seasonal beats turn
Fitfully; they dream of waking
Into the nightmare of my blood.

All spears are broken, all zones unwound.
The thorn has not flowered for centuries.
There are women bearing swords and candles,
There are women weeping in the night,
But the waters will not flow
While the king lies on the shelf.
In the mountain Merlin screams,
But cannot wake from Arthur’s dreams:
The nightmare multiplying of the self.

The tides of twenty thousand years
Wrinkle my eyes, whiten my hair.
I remember weeds and bone
Hung against the howling moon,
The dove descending to the stone—
But every elevator noon
Descends me to Inferno Street
To mark how every man I meet
Quakes at the young girl’s braless bust
With unadulterated lust.

Then open, mountain!
And Orpheus, our pentacle,
Ride forth! Lead the beasts
By their ears in the making dance;
Free the waters, sing into place
The stones that Merlin sails
From Erinland for Uther Ben
To canonize the lines that tend
The phases of Her eyes, that tell
The sun and moon to rise,
Go blind, turn red.
On every path, on every trail,
A knight is seeking his own Grail.

And still
The Great King sleeps beneath the hill.
Not even Pharaoh’s bones have such a bed.

 

The Lord of the Dance

These words were first published in The Witches Trine, vol. II, no. 5 (1972). I wrote them in late 1971, based on an attempt at Paganizing the song that I saw in an issue of The Wiccan (#19); the standard Christian words are by Sidney Carter, using the Shaker tune, “Simple Gifts.” Many singers, including Gwydion, Ruth and Cynthia, Charley Murphy, and perhaps others, have recorded this song, for all of which I am most grateful.

 

When She danced on the waters, and the wind was Her horn,
The Lady laughed, and everything was born,
And when She lit the sun, and the light gave him birth,
The Lord of the Dance then appeared on the Earth.

(Chorus)

Dance, Dance, wherever you may be,
For I am the Lord of the Dance , said he.
I live in you if you live in me,
And I lead you all in the dance, you see.

I dance in the circle when the flames leap up high;
I dance in fire, and I never, never die.
I dance in the waves on the bright summer sea,
For I am the Lord of the waves’ mystery. (Chorus)

I sleep in the kernel, and I dance in the rain;
I dance in wind and through the waving grain,
And when you cut me down, I care nothing for the pain:
In the spring I’m the Lord of the Dance once again. (Chorus)

I dance at the Sabbat when you dance out the spell;
I dance and sing that everyone be well,
And when the dancing’s over, do not think I am gone:
To live is to dance; so I dance on and on. (Chorus)


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