Hilda Doolittle





The Flowering of the Rod

To Norman Holmes Pearson

...pause to give
thanks that we rise again from death and live. 

I
O the beautiful garment,
the beautiful raiment —

do not think of His face
or even His hands,

do not think how we will stand
before Him;

remember the snow 
on Hermon;

do not look below
where the blue gentian

reflects geometric pattern
in the ice-floe;

do not be beguiled
by the geometry of perfection

for even now,
the terrible banner

darkens the bridge-head;
we have shown

that we could stand;
we have withstood

the anger, frustration,
bitter fire of destruction;

leave the smoldering cities below
(we have done all we could),

we have given until we have no more to give;
alas, it was pity, rather than love, we gave;

now having given all, let us leave all;
above all, let us leave pity

and mount higher
to love — resurrection.

II
I go where I love and where I am loved,
into the snow;

I go to the things I love
with no thought of duty or pity;

I go where I belong, inexorably,
as the rain that has lain long

in the furrow; I have given
or would have given

life to the grain;
but if it will not grow or ripen

with the rain of beauty,
the rain will return to the cloud;

the harvester sharpens his steel on the stone;
but this is not or field,

we have not sown this;
pitiless, pitiless, let us leave

The-place-of-a-skull
to those who have fashioned it.

III
In resurrection, there is confusion
if we start to argue; if we stand and stare,

we do not know where to go;
in resurrection, there is simple affirmation,

but do not delay to round up the others,
up and down the street; your going

in a moment like this, is the best proof
that you know the way;

does the first wild-goose stop to explain
to the others? no—he is off;

they follow or not
that is their affair;

does the first wild-goose care
whether the others follow or not?

I don’t think so—he is so happy to be off—
he knows where he is going;

so we must be drawn or we must fly,
like the snow-geese of the Arctic circle,

to the Carolinas or to Florida,
or like those migratory flocks

who still (they say) hover
over the lost island, Atlantis;

seeking what we once knew,
we know ultimately we will find

happiness; to-day shalt thou be
with me in Paradise.

IV
Blue-geese, white-geese, you may say,
yes, I know this duality, this double nostalgia;

I know the insatiable longing
in winter, for palm shadow

and sand and burnt sea-drift;
but in the summer, as I watch

the wave till its edge of foam
touches the hot sand and instantly

vanishes like snow on the equator,
I would cry out, stay, stay;

then I remember delicate enduring frost
and its mid-winter dawn-pattern;

in the hot noon-sun, I think of the gray
opalescent winter-dawn, as the wave

burns on the shingle, I think,
you are less beautiful than frost;

but it is also true that I pray,
O, give me burning blue

and brittle burnt sea-weed
above the tide-line,

as I stand, still unsatisfied,
under the long shadow-on-snow of the pine.

V
Satisfied, unsatisfied,
satiated or numb with hunger,

this is the eternal urge,
this is the despair, the desire to equilibrate

the eternal variant;
you understand that insisten calling,

that demand of a given moment,
the will to enjoy, the will to live,

not merely the will to endure,
the will to flight, the will to achievement,

the will to rest after long flight;
but who knows the desparate urge

of those others—actual or perhaps now
mythical birds—who seek but find no rest

till they drop from the highest point of the spiral
or fall from the innermost centre of the ever-narrowing
        circle?

for they remember, they remember, as they sway and 
        hover,
what once was—they remember—they remember—

they will not swerve—they have known bliss,
the fruit that satisfies—they have come back—

what if the islands are lost? what if the waters
cover the Hesperides? they would rather remember—

remember the golden apple-trees;
O, do not pity them, as you watch them drop one by
        one,

for they fall exhausted, numb, blind
but in certain ecstasy,

for theirs is the hunger
for Paradise.   

VI
So I would rather drown, remembering—
than bask on tropic atolls

in the coral-seas; I would rather drown,
remembering—than rest on pine or fir-branch

where great stars pour down
their generating strength, Arcturus

or the sapphires of the Northern Crown;
I would rather beat in the wind, crying to those others;

yours is the more foolish circling,
yours is the senseless wheeling

round and round—yours has no reason—
I am seeking heaven;

yours has no vision,
I see what is beneath me, what is above me,

what men say is-not—I remember,
I remember, I remember—you have forgot:

you think, even before it is half-over,
that your cycle is at an end,

but you repeat your foolish circling—again, again,
        again;
again, the steel sharpened on the stone;

again, the pyramid of skulls;
I gave pity to the dead,

O blasphemy, pity is a stone for bread,
only love is holy and love’s ecstasy

that turns and turns and turns about one centre;
reckless, regardless, blind to reality,

that knows the Islands of the Blest are there,
for many waters can not quench love’s fire.

VII
Yet resurrection is a sense of direction,
resurrection is a bee-line,

straight to the horde and plunder,
the treasure, the store-room,

the honeycomb;
resurrection is renumeration,

food, shelter, fragrance
of myrrh and balm.

VIII
I am so happy,
I am the first or the last

of a flock or a swarm;
I am full of new wine;

I am branded with a word,
I am burnt with wood,

drawn from the glowing ember,
not cut, not marked with steel;

I am the first or the last to renounce
iron, steel, metal;

I have gone forward,
I have gone backward,

I have gone onward from bronze and iron,
into the Golden Age.

IX
No poetic phantasy
but a biological reality,

a fact: I am an entity
like bird, insect, plant

or sea-plant cell;
I live; I am alive;

take care, do not know me,
deny me, do not recognize me,

shun me; for this reality
is infectious—ecstasy.

X
It is no madness to say
you will fall, you great cities,

(now the cities lie broken);
it is not tragedy, prophecy

from a frozen Priestess,
a lonely Pythoness

who chants, who sings
in broken hexameters,

doom, doom to city-gates,
to rulers, to kingdoms;

it is simple reckoning, algebraic,
it is geometry on the wing,

not patterned, a gentian
in an ice-mirror,

yet it is, if you like, a lily
folded like a pyramid,

a flower-cone,
not a heap of skulls,

it is a lily, if you will,
each petal, a kingdom, an aeon,

and it is the seed of a lily
that having flowered,

will flower again;
it is the smallest grain,

the least of all seeds
that grows branches

where the birds rest;
it is that flowering balm,

it is heal-all,
everlasting;

it is the greatest among herbs
and becometh a tree.

XI
He was the first that flew
(the heavenly pointer)

but not content to leave
the scattered flock,

He journeys back and forth
between the poles of heaven and earth forever,

He was the first to wing
from that sad Tree,

but having flown, the Tree of Life
bears rose from thorn

and fragrant vine,
from barren wood;

He was the first to say,
not to the chosen few,

his faithful friends,
the wise and good,

but to an outcast and a vagabond,
to-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

XII
So the first—it is written,
will be the twisted or the tortured individuals,

out of line, out of step with world so-called progress;
the first to receive the promise was a thief;

the first actually to witness His life-after-death,
was an unbalanced, neurotic woman,

who was naturally reviled for having left home
and not caring for house-work…or was that Mary of
       Bethany?

in any case—as to this other Mary
and what she did, everyone knows,

but it is not on record
exactly where and how she found the alabaster jar;

some say she took the house-money
or the poor-box money,

some say she had nothing with her,
neither purse nor script,

no gold-piece or silver
stamped with image of Caesar.

XIII
In any case, she struck an uncanny bargain
(or some say) with an Arab,

a stranger in the market-place;
actually, he had a little booth of a house

set to the left, back of the market
as you pass through the lower-gate;

what he had, was not for sale; he was on his way
to a coronation and a funeral—a double affair—

what he had, his priceless, unobtainable-elsewhere
       myrrh
was for the double ceremony, a funeral and a throning;

his was not ordinary myrrh and incense
and anyway, it is not for sale, he said;

he drew aside his robe in a noble manner
but the un-maidenly woman did not take the hint;

she had seen nobility herself at first hand;
nothing impressed her, it was easy to see;

she simply didn’t care whether he acclaimed
or snubbed her—or worse; what are insults?

she knew how to detach herself,
another unforgivable sin,

and when stones were hurled,
she simple wasn’t there;

she wasn’t there and then she appeared,
not a beautiful woman really—would you say?

certainly not pretty;
what struck the Arab was that she was unpredictable;

this had never happened before—a woman—
well yes—if anyone did, he knew the world—a lady

had not taken a hint, had not sidled gracefully
at a gesture of implied dismissal

and with no apparent offense really,
out of the door.

XIV
It was easy to see that he was not an ordinary merchant;
she saw that certainly—he was an ambassador;

there was hardly anyone you could trust
with this precious merchandise,

though the jars were sealed,
the fragrance got out somehow,

and the rumour was bruited about,
even if you yourself managed to keep out

of the ordinary haunts of the merchants;
some said, this distillation, this attar

lasted literally forever, had so lasted—
though no one could of course, actually know

what was or was-not in those alabaster boxes
of the Princesses of the Hyksos Kings,

they were unguent jars, certainly;
but who could open them?

they had charms wrought upon them,
there are sigils and painted figures on all the jars;

no one dismantled the tombs,
that would be wickedness—but this he knew,

his own people for centuries and centuries,
had whispered the secret of the sacred processes of
       distillation;

it was never written, not even in symbols, for this they
       knew—
no secret was safe with a woman.

XV
She said, I have heard of you;
be bowed ironically and ironically murmured,

I have not had the pleasure,
his eyes now fixed on the half-open door;

she understood; this was his second rebuff
but deliberately, she shut the door;

she stood with her back against it;
planted there, she flung out her arms,

a further barrier,
and her scarf slipped to the floor;

her face was very pale,
her eyes darker and larger

than many whose luminous depth
had inspired some not-inconsiderable poets;

but eyes? he had known many women—
it was her hair—un-maidenly—

It was hardly decent of her to stand there,
unveiled, in the house of a stranger.

XVI
I am Mary, she said, of a tower-town,
or once it must have been towered

for Magdala is a tower;
Magdala stands on the shore;

I am Mary, she said, of Magdala,
I am Mary, a great tower;
through my will and power,
Mary shall be myrrh;

I am Mary—O, there are Marys a-plenty,
(though I am Mara, bitter) I shall be Mary-myrrh;

I am that myrrh-tree of the gentiles,
the heathen; theses are idolaters,

even in Phrygia and Cappadocia,
who kneel before mutilated images

and burn incense to the Mother of Mutilations,
to Attis-Adonis-Tammur and his mother who was 
       myrrh;

she was a stricken woman,
having borne a son in unhallowed fashion;

she wept bitterly till some heathen god
changed her to a myrrh-tree;

I am Mary, I will weep bitterly,
bitterly…bitterly.

XVII
But her voice was steady and her eyes were dry,
the room was small, hardly a room,

it was an alcove or a wide cupboard
with a closed door, a shaded window;

there was hardly any light from the window
but there seemed to be light somewhere,

as of moon-light on a lost river
or a sunken stream, seen in a dream

by a parched, dying man, lost in the desert…
or a mirage…it was her hair.

XVIII
He who was unquestionably
master of caravans,

stooped to the floor;
he handed her her scarf;

it was unseemly that a woman
appeared disordered, disheveled;

it was unseemly that a woman
appear at all.

XIX
I am Mary, the incense-flower of the incense-tree,
myself worshipping, weeping, shall be changed to myrrh;

I am Mary, though melted away,
I shall be a tower…she said, Sir,

I have need, not of bread nor of wine,
nor of anything that you can offer me,

and demurely, she knotted her scarf
and turned to unfasten the door.

XX
Some say she slipped out and got away,
some say he followed her and found her,

some say he never found her
but sent a messenger after her

with the alabaster jar;
some say he himself was a Magician,

a Chaldean, not an Arab at all,
and had seen the beginning and the end,

that he was Balthasar, Melchior,
or that other of Bethlehem;

some say he was masquerading,
was an Angel in disguise

and had really arranged this meeting
to conform to the predicted pattern

which he or Balthasar or another
had computed exactly from the stars;

some say it never happened,
some say it happens over and over;

some say he was an old lover
of Mary Magdalene and the gift of the myrrh

was in recognition of an old burnt-out
yet somehow suddenly renewed infatuation;

some say he was Abraham,
some say he was God.

XXI
Anyhow, it is exactly written,
the house was filled with the odour of the ointment;

that was a little later and this was not such a small
       house
and was maybe already fragrant with boughs,
       and wreaths,
  
for this was a banquet, a festival;
it was all very gay and there was laughter,

but Judas Iscariot turned down his mouth,
he muttered Extravagant under his breath,

for the nard though not potent,
had that subtle, indefinable essence

that lasts longer and costs more;
Judas whispered to his neighbor

and then they all began talking about the poor;
but Mary, seated on the floor,

like a child at a party, paid no attention,
she was busy; she was deftly un-weaving

the long, carefully braided tresses
of her extraordinary hair.

XXII
But Simon the host thought,
we must draw the line somewhere;

he had seen something like this
in a heathen picture

or a carved stone-portal entrance
to a forbidden sea-temple;

they called the creature,
depicted like this,

seated on the sea-shore
or on a rock, a Siren,

a maid-of-the-sea, a mermaid;
some said, this mermaid sang

and that a Siren-song was fatal
and wrecks followed the wake of such hair;

she was not invited,
he bent to whisper

into the ear of his Guest,
I do not know her.

XXIII
There was always a crowd hanging about outside
any door his Guest happened to enter;

he did not wish to make a scene,
he would call someone quietly to eject her;

Simon though over-wrought and excited,
had kept careful count of his guests;

things had gone excellently till now,
but this was embarrassing;

she was actually kissing His feet;
He does not understand;

they call him a Master,
but Simon questioned:

this man if he were a prophet, would have known
who and what manner of woman this is.

XXIV
Simon did not know but Balthasar
or Melchior could have told him,

or better still, Gaspar or Kaspar,
who, they say, brought the myrrh;

Simon wished to avoid a scene
but Kaspar knew the scene was unavoidable

and already written in a star
or a configuration of stars

that rarely happens, perhaps once
in a little over two thousand years.

XXV
Simon could say, yes,
she looked like a heathen

picture or carved idol
from a forbidden sea-temple;

and Simon might have heard
that this woman from the city,

was devil-ridden or had been,
but Kaspar might call

the devils daemons,
and might even name the seven

under his breath, for technically
Kaspar was a heathen;

he might whisper tenderly, those names
without fear of eternal damnation,

Isis, Astarte, Cyprus
and the other four;

he might re-name them,
Ge-meter, De-meter, earth-mother

or Venus 
in a star.

XXVI
But it is not fair to compare
Kaspar with Simon;

this Simon is not Simon Peter, of course,
this is not Simon Zelotes, the Canaanite

nor Simon of Cyrene
nor the later Simon, the sorcerer,

this Simon is Simon, the leper;
but Simon being one of the band,

we presume was healed of his plague,
healed in body, while the other,

the un-maidenly mermaid, Mary of Magdala
was healed of soul; out of her, the Master

had cast seven devils;
but Simon, though healed of body,

was not conditioned to know
that these very devils or daemons,

as Kaspar would have called them,
were now unalterably part of the picture;

they had entered separately or together
the fair maid, perhaps not wantonly,

but crossing the threshold
of this not un-lovely temple,

they intended perhaps to pay homage,
even as Kaspar had done,

and Melchior
and Balthasar.

XXVII
And Kaspar (for of course, the merchant was Kaspar)
did not at first know her;

she was frail and slender, wearing no bracelet
or other ornament, and with her scarf

wound round her head, draping her shoulders,
she was impersonal, not a servant

sent on an errand, but, as it were,
a confidential friend, sent by some great lady;

she was discretion itself
in her dark robe and head-dress;

Kasper did not recognize her
until her scarf slipped to the floor,

and then, not only did he recognize Mary
as the stars had told (Venus in the ascendant

or Venus in conjunction with Jupiter,
or whatever he called these wandering fires),

but when he saw the light on her hair
like moonlight on a lost river,

Kaspar
remembered.

XXVIII
And Kaspar heard
an echo of an echo in a shell,
                          in her were forgiven
                          the sins of the seven
                          daemons cast out of her;

and Kaspar saw as in a mirror,
another head uncovered and two crowned,

one with a plain circlet, one with a circlet of gems
which even he could not name;

and Kaspar, master of caravans,
had know splendour such as few have known,

and seen jewels cut and un-cut that altered
like water at sun-rise and sun-set,

and blood-stones and sapphires;
we need no detailed statement of Kaspar’s specific
        knowledge

nor inventory of his own possessions,
all we need to know is that Kaspar

knew more about precious stones than any other,
more even than Balthasar;

but his heart was filled with a more exalted ecstasy
than any valuer over a new tint of rose or smoke-grey

in an Indian opal or pearl; this was Kaspar
who saw as in a mirror,

one head uncrowned and then one with a plain head-
       band
and then one with a circlet of gems of an inimitable
       colour;

they were blue yet verging on purple,
yet very blue; if asked to describe them,

you would say they were blue stones
of a curious square cut and set so that the light

broke as if from within; the reflecting inner facets
seemed to cast incalculable angles of light,

this blue shot with violet;
how convey what he felt?

he saw as in a mirror, clearly, O very clearly,
a circlet of square-cut stones on the head of a lady.

and what he saw made his heart so glad
that it was as if he suffered,

his heart laboured so
with his ecstasy.

XXIX
It was not solely because of beauty
though there was that too,

it was discovery, discovery that exalted him
for he knew the old tradition, the old, old legend.

his father had had from his grandfather
and his grandfather from his great-grandfather ( and so
       on),

was true; this was never spoken about, not even
       whispered in secret;
the legend was contained in old signs and symbols,

and only the most painful application could decipher
       them,
and only the very-few could even attempt to do this,

after boy-hood and youth dedicated
to the rigorous sessions of concentration

and study of the theme and law
of time-relation and retention of memory;

but in the end, Kaspar, too, received the title Magian
(it is translated in the Script, Wise Man).

XXX
As he stooped for the scarf, he saw this,
and as he straightened, in that half-second,

he saw the fleck of light
like a flaw in the third jewel

to his right, in the second circlet,
a grain, a flaw or a speck of light,

and in that point or shadow,
was the whole secret of the mystery;

literally, as his hand just did-not touch her hand,
and as she drew the scarf toward her,

the speck, fleck, grain or seed
opened like a flower.

XXXI
And the flower, thus contained
in the infinitely tiny grain or seed,

opened petal by petal, a circle,
and each petal was separate

yet still held, as it were,
by some force of attraction

to its dynamic centre;
and the circle went on widening

and would go on opening
he knew, to infinity;

but before he was lost,
out-of-time completely,

he saw the Islands of the Blest,
he saw the Hesperides,

he saw the circles and circles of islands
about the lost centre-island, Atlantis;

he saw what the sacrosanct legend
said still existed,

he saw the lands of the blest,
the promised lands, lost;

he, in that half-second, saw
the whole scope and plan

of our and his civilization on this,
his and our earth, before Adam.

XXXII
And he saw it all as if enlarged under a sun-glass;
he saw it all in minute detail,

the cliffs, the wharves, the citadel,
he saw the ships and the sea-roads crossing

and all the rivers and bridges and dwelling-houses
and the terraces and the built-up inner gardens;

he saw the many pillars and the Hearth-stone
and the very fire on the Great-hearth,

and through it, there was a sound of many waters,
rivers flowing and fountains and sea-waves washing the
        sea-rocks,

and though it was all on a very grand scale,
yet it was small and intimate,

Paradise
before Eve…   

XXXIII
And he heard, as it were, the echo
of an echo in a shell,

words neither sung or chanted
but stressed rhythmically;

the echoed syllables of this spell
conformed to the sound

of no word he had ever heard spoken,
and Kaspar was a great wanderer,

a renowned traveller;
but he understood the words

though the sound was other
than our ears are attuned to,

the tone was different
yet he understood it;

it translated itself
as it transmuted its message

through spiral upon spiral of the shell
of memory that yet connects us

with the drown cities of pre-history;
Kaspar understood and his brain translated:

Lilith born before Eve
and one born before Lilith,
and Eve; we three are forgiven,
we are three of the seven
daemons cast out of her.

XXXIV
Then as he dropped his arm
in the second half-second,

his mind prompted him,
even as if his mind

must sharply differentiate,
clearly define the boundaries of beauty;

hedges and fences and fortresses
must defend the innermost secret,

even the hedges and fortresses of the mind;
so his mind thought,

though his spirit was elsewhere
and his body functioned, though himself,

he-himself was not there;
and his mind framed the thought,

the last inner defence
of a citadel, now lost,

                    it is unseemly that a woman
                    appear disordered, disheveled,

                    it is unseemly that a woman
                    appear at all.

XXXV
What he thought was the direct contradiction
of what he apprehended,

what he saw was a woman of discretion,
knotting a scarf,

and an unpredictable  woman
sliding out of a door;

we do not know whether or not
he himself followed her

with the alabaster jar; all we know is,
the myrrh or the spikenard, very costly, was Kaspar’s,

all we know is that it was all so very soon over,
the feasting, the laughter.

And the snow fell on Hermon,
the place of the Transfiguration,

and the snow fell on Hebron,
where, last spring, the anemones grew,

whose scarlet and rose and read and blue,
He compared to a King’s robes,

but even Solomon, He said,
was not arrayed like one of these;

and the snow fell on the almond-trees
and the mulberries were domed over

like a forester’s hut or a shepherd’s hut
on the slopes of Lebanon,

and the snow fell
silently…silently…

XXXVI
And the snow fell on Hermon,
the place of the Transfiguration,

and the snow fell on Hebron,
where, last spring, the anemones grew,

whose scarlet and rose and read and blue,
He compared to a King’s robes,

but even Solomon, He said,
was not arrayed like one of these;

and the snow fell on the almond-trees
and the mulberries were domed over

like a forester’s hut or a shepherd’s hut
on the slopes of Lebanon,

and the snow fell
silently…silently…

XXXVII
And as the snow fell on Hebron,
the desert blossomed as it had always done;

over-night, a million-million tiny plants
broke from the sand,

and a million-million little grass-stalks
each put out a tiny flower,

they were so small, you could hardly
visualize them separately,

so it came to be said,
snow falls on the desert;

it happened before,
it would happen again.


XXXVIII
And Kaspar grieved as always,
when a single twin of one of his many goats was lost —

such a tiny kid, not worth thinking about,
he was such a rich man, with numberless herds,
       cattle and sheep —

and he let the long-haired mountain goats
return to the pasture earlier than usual,

for they chafed in their pens, sniffing the air
and the flowering-grass; and he himself watched all
       night

by his youngest white camel whose bearing was difficult,
and cherished the foal — it looked like a large white owl —

under his cloak and brought it to his tent
for shelter and warmth; that is how the legend got about

that Kaspar
was Abraham.

XXXIX
He was a very kind man,
and he had numberless children,

but he was not Abraham come again;
he was the Magian Kaspar;

he said I am Kaspar,
for he had to hold on to something;

I am Kaspar, he said when a slender girl
holding a jar, asked deferentially

if she might lower it into his well;
I am Kaspar, if her head were veiled

and veiled it almost always would be,
he would remember, though never

for a moment did he quite forget
the turn of a wrist as it fastened a scarf,

the saffron-shape of the sandal,
the pleat of the robe, the fold of the garment

as Mary lifted the latch and the door half-parted,
and the door shut, and there was the flat door

at which he stared and stared,
as if the line of the wood, the rough edge

or the polished surface or plain,
were each significant, as if each scratch and mark

were hieroglyph, a parchment of incredible worth or a 
       mariner’s cap.

XL
And no one will ever know
whether the picture he saw clearly

as in a mirror was pre-determined
by his discipline and study

of old lore and by his innate capacity
for transcribing and translating

the difficult secret symbols,
no one will ever know how it happened

that in a second or a second and half second,
he saw further, saw deeper, apprehended more

than anyone before or after him;
no one will ever know

whether it was a sort of spiritual optical-illusion,
or whether he looked down the deep deep-well

of the so-far unknown
depth of pre-history;

no one would ever know
if it could be proved mathematically

by demonstrated lines,
as an angle of light

reflected from a strand of woman’s hair,
reflected again or refracted

a certain other angle —
or perhaps it was a matter of vibration

that matched or caught an allied
or exactly opposite vibration

and created a sort of vacuum,
or rather a point in time —

he called it a fleck or flaw in a gem
of the crown that he saw

(or thought he saw) as in a mirror;
no one would know exactly

how it happened,
least of all Kaspar.

XLI
No one will know exactly how it came about,
but we are permitted to wonder

if it had possibly something to do
with the vow he had made —

well, it wasn’t exactly a vow,
and idea, a wish, a whim, a premonition perhaps,

that premonition we all know,
this has happened before somewhere else,

or this will happen again — where? when?
for, as he placed his jar on the stable-floor,

he remembered old Azar…old Azar
had often told how, in the time of the sudden
       winter-rain,

after the memorable autumn-drought,
the trees were mortally torn,

when the sudden frost came;
but Azar died while Kaspar was still a lad,

and whether Azar’s tale referred
to the year of the yield of myrrh,

distilled in this very jar,
or another — Kaspar could not remember;

but Kaspar thought, there were always two jars,
the two were always together,

why didn’t I bring both?
or should I have chosen the other?

for Kaspar remembered old, old Azar muttering,
other days and better ways, and it was always maintained

that one jar was better than the other,
but he grumbled and shook his head,

no one can tell which is which,
now your great-grandfather is dead.

XLII
It was only a thought,
someday I will bring the other,

as he placed his jar
on the floor of the ox-stall;

Balthasar had offered the spikenard,
Melchior, the rings of gold;

they were both somewhat older than Kaspar
so he stood a little apart,

as if his gift were an after-thought,
not to be compared with theirs;

when Balthasar had pushed open the stable-door
or gate, a shepherd was standing there,

well — a sort of shepherd, and older man with a staff,
perhaps a sort of night-watchman;

as Balthasar hesitated, he said, Sir,
I am afraid there is no room at the Inn,

as if to save them the trouble of coming further,
inquiring perhaps as to bedding-down

their valuable beasts; but Balthasar
acknowledged the gentle courtesy of the man

and passed on; and Balthasar entered the ox-stall,
and Balthasar touched his forehead and his breast,

as he did at the Hight Priest’s side
before the Holy-Presence-Manifest;

and Balthasar spoke the Great Word,
and Balthasar bowed, as if the weight of this honour

bent him down, as if over-come
by this overwhelming Grace,

and Balthasar stood aside
and Melchior took his place.
________________________

And Melchior made gesture with his hands
as if in a dance or play,

to show without speaking, his unworthiness,
to indicate that this, his gift, was symbolic,

worthless in itself (those weighty rings of gold),
and Melchior bent and kissed the earth, speechless,

for this was the ritual 
of the second order of priests.
________________________

And Kaspar stood a little to one side
like an unimportant altar-servant,

and placed his gift
a little apart from the rest,

to show by inference
its unimportance in comparison;

and Kaspar stood,
he inclined his head only slightly,

as if to show,
out of respect to the others,

these older, exceedingly honoured ones,
that his part in this ritual

was almost negligible,
for the others had bowed low.

XLIII
she was shy and simple and young;

she said, Sir, it is a most beautiful fragrance,
as of all flowering things together;

but Kaspar knew the seal of the jar was unbroken.
he did not know whether she knew

the fragrance came from the bundle of myrrh
she held in her arms.


London
December 18-31, 1944