Babette Deutsch

Twentieth Century Hymn to Isis

Dispersed and spent, 
As in legend the limbs of Osiris 
Crying one to another, the unknowing undying 
Scattered limbs of the god: 
On the winter waters 
The hand without fingers, 
The feet without speed, 
The head without thought, the torso hacked and adrift 
And its heart in a house without windows 
Beaten upon by the sea, 
Unknowing, undying. 
Where were you then, my sister, my soul? 
Through the two kingdoms, imploring 
The Upper Region, the Lower, getting no answer? 
Asking the birds of the sky 
Who deceived you and vanished? 
We called you, 
We the sad limbs in dispersion. 
In vain. 
But flying you sought us. 
The dead could not stop you. 
No, nor the horns of Evil 
Those that undid us. 
And we cried, scattered. 
Cried, and were mute. 
And you came, O soul, my sister, 
Flying, quick with compassion, the sleepless mother, 
Unwearied bride. 
To the hand its fingers, and speed to the feet, 
And the heart 
Beating again in the body, healed and made whole, 
And the brow 
Crowned with thought, lord of the nether kingdom. 
Now, united, 
Shall we not rule? 
Can we forgive and govern? 
You beside me, and I 
That lately was many, scattered and tossing 
On the horns of the 
Savage dividing waters, 
Can we endure? 
Death under our sceptre. O 
Sharper than death, unpersuadable Evil 
Behind and before us? 
Do not 
Speak, mother and bride, my sister: 
We that were 
Scattered, now are made one, 
We that were 
Parted, now are at peace. 
O do not 
Lay a lightest feather upon the scales 
Held in equipoise of triumphant stillness. 
Now, my sister, my soul, requited, remember 
As I, requited, foresee 
The workings of Evil, past and to come. 
Nor deny — 
Denial only is dying — 
This moment of union.