Spender, Stephen - Spiritual Exercises
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
We fly through a night of stars
Whose remote frozen tongues speak
A language of mirrors, mineral Greek
Glittering across space, each to each_
O dream of Venus and Mars,
In a hollow dome of extinct life, far far far
from our wars.
Beneath our nakedness, we are naked still.
Within the mind, history and stars expose
The frailty of our skulls. A new dawn blows
Away huts and papyri of the will.
The Universe by inches, minutes, fills
Our tongues and eyes, where name and image show,
With words and pictures. Star and history know
Their names, in our lives, which life kills.
Revolving with the earth's rim through the night,
We, conscious fragments, pulsing blood and breath,
Divided in our wills, yet reunite
For that deep journey to no place or date
Where , naked beneath nakedness, beneath
Our human condition, all await
The multitudinous loneliness of death.
You were born, must die; were loved, must love.
Born naked, were clothed; yet naked walk
Under your naked dress; final thoughts move
Hollow, hollow, hollow, within clock-talk, star-talk.
Time and space shall on you feed;
Upon your purple eyes, their distance;
Upon your heart, their clawing need;
Upon your death, lost, lost, lost significance .
There is one fate beneath those ignorances
Into whose divided flesh you're split,
Homunculus of skin, and thought and breath;
Chalk-white, gay, pranking skeleton, it
Strums on your gut such, songs and merry dances
Amor, O solitude, O solemn death.
Since we are what we are, what shall we be
But what we are? We are, we have,
Six feet and seventy years, to see
The light, and then resign it for the grave.
We are not worlds, no, nor infinity,
We have no claims on stone, except to prove
In the invention of the human city
Ourselves, our breath, our death our love.
The tower we build soars like an arrow
From the earth's rim toward the sky's,
Upwards and downwards in that dazzling pond
Climbing and diving from our life, to narrow
The gap between the world shut in the eyes
And the receding arc of light beyond.
That which divides, joins again in belief.
We see the indivisible knots that bind
Each separate life, where sight at last is blind
And the eye assumes the leaden colour of grief.
Each circular life gnaws at its little leaf
Of here and now. Each is bound within one kind.
Only nature outside, within the mind,
Tempts with all leaves each one to be a thief.
Mortals are rot aeons, they are not space,
Not empires, not maps; they have only
Bodies and graves. Yet all the past, the race,
Knowledge and memory are unfurled
Within each separate head, grown lonely
With time, growing, shedding, the world.
The immortal spirit is that single ghost
Of all time, incarnate in one time,
Which through our breathing skeletons must climb
To be within, our supple skin engrossed.
Without that ghost within, our lives are lost
Fragments, haunting the earth's rim.
Unless we will it live, that ghost pines, dim,
Lost in our lives; its death, our death, the cost.
One being, of past, present, futurity,
Seeks within these many-headed wills
To uncage the flame-winged dove of the stone city.
Shut in himself, each blind, beaked subject, kills
His neighbour and himself, and shuts our pity
For that one winging spirit which fulfils.
I am that witness through whom the whole
Knows it exists. Within the coils of blood,
Whispering under sleep, murmurs the flood
Of stars, battles, dark and distant pole.
All that I am I am not. The cold stone
Unfolds an angel for me. On my dreams ride
The timeless legends. The stars outside
Glitter under my ribs. Being all, I am alone.
I who say I call that eye I
Which is the mirror in which things see
Nothing except themselves. I die.
The things, the vision, still will be.
Upon this eye reflections of stars lie ,
And, that which passes, passes away, is I
Outside, the eternal star-tall mountains gleam
Where changeless changing past and future lock
Their fusing streams into an age of rock
Against whose day my days but shadows seem.
Within my shut skull flows a historied stream
Of myths, fears, crimes, that hammering stock
Which hews my limbs out of the daylight block
And makes my lives the slaves of their dead dream.
The Universe, the dead, humanity, fill
Each world-wide generation with the sigh
Which breathes the pattern of their will.
Their sensitive perceiving witness, I,
See mirrored in my consciousness, the ill
Chameleonic fool of words, who'll die .
Piercing through eyes, and mind, and windows,
Of the body, the will, the house: your knife,
Shines over the locked flesh, where power's
Ruined ruinous malicious life.
Your fate, bright
With lightning compact in the dark hours,
Will strike down, unlock, expose
The feud, the hideous will, the piteous heart
Of the leaders and people hidden in night,
The gods and the kings mad,
The prince fanged with revenge, poisonous and bad,
Lost and lolling among the shadows.
But to the unborn lend your healing powers,
To the son returning from the sword-bright wars,
Restore his winged steed.
Assist him to rise, demonstrate what towers,
What aeroplanes, what roads, your shining grace needs.
Tell him he does inherit
The past streaming into the present,
Th’ illustrious tradition intellect must guide
Modify, transform, for heirs apparent,
Generation of his generation, to ride.
Tell him he does inhabit
His body your body, his spirit your spirit,
And let your purposes his purposes
Unfold through buds of him their flowers;
Through walls he builds and towers
O be your will transparent
Make his hands burn with your burning roses.