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Gaia and Man (Other) by Blue Magpie
When Summer comes I like to walk the trails that lead into the mountains and the vales where Nature’s sweet aroma still prevails. One evening ‘midst the glory this entails, just as the sun slipped through checkered rails of distant trees whose awesome height curtails, 07 like troubled thoughts, the view that goes beyond the local scenes of which we are so fond, an owl approached and lighted on a frond. Then silently before I could respond, as if some God had waved a magic wand, it was a man; bright eyed, his hair dark blond. 13 Most strangely dressed in shades of mottled brown he owned a beard of obvious renown and round his form was wrapped a patchy gown; he had not come in any human town. At first his features held a troubled frown, but then he smiled and all my fears sank down. 19 I wished to speak but all my thoughts were numb, and ere I could to stuttering succumb he raised his voice above the midges hum and spoke in measured tones, as if a drum guided each word towards some final sum. “The time for you to speak has not yet come, but when it does it shall not find you dumb. 26 For now compose your mind and listen well for there is little time and much to tell.” And as he spoke his words spun out a spell that showed me that my body was a shell within whose walls my consciousness could dwell as if it were a luxury hotel. 32 But where it was not ever truly trapped, and round about it constantly there lapped a consciousness much greater and unmapped that held within its core the word ‘Adapt’ and which, could by my lesser mind be tapped for understandings that would hold it rapt. 38 All this I knew within a single stroke of a mosquitoes wing, and then the croak of some well hidden frog abruptly broke the spell, and once again the Owl-man spoke. He bade me sit and button up my cloak and listen as the night-time slowly woke. 44 A little while we sat and then he said. “I see you suffer for the blood that’s shed by men whose tortured souls are darkly wed to forces that all living men must dread, and that your sanity hangs by a thread, for you believe all hope for men is dead.” I could not speak, and so nodded my head. 51 The silence settled round us for a moment, across the vale a male deer barked and sent a challenge to its peers as beetles went awhirring past along some airborne scent. The Owl-man watched the night, his head was bent a little to one side, his gaze intent, and I wondered on the ways that life is spent. 58 The Owl-man shook his locks and turned to me, as if returning from some odyssey to strange and distant lands I could not see, and in a tone of quiet melody began to speak of Man’s true destiny; of things that could, but yet might never be. 64 Now as he spoke a nimbus limned his face “Behold!” He said. “In all the time and space of this poor world none but the human race has flown so high, or sunk to such disgrace; obedience is tricky to replace and freedom is a devil to embrace. Mankind though lost is not without a place. 71 Know you this planet is a living soul a single entity from pole to pole, wherein the separate parts all play their role, albeit they do not discern the whole, the methods and the means of their control or in the least their greater self’s true goal.” 77 He stopped a second and, as silence fell, held up his palm my questions to dispel. “I see you have some doubts that I must quell. Consider your own body wherein dwell a multitude of tissues, how each cell performs its sacred task and does it well, dependant on its host of organelle. 84 Each unit is within itself discrete, requiring water and some food to eat, and passing out its wastes into the street. However it must live within a suite of other lives, each one of which must meet some similar demands or face defeat, to make the meaning of its life complete. 91 How much the same as this is any man who lives upon this earth his given span of years and does what simple work he can, whilst striving to discern the master-plan. The same is true of every rat that ran along some drain, or hid within a can from predatory eyes that sharply scan. 98 So too each plant, both moss and massive tree that spreads its limbs out wide for all to see and thus becomes a home to wasp and bee; so too the fishes swimming in the sea and all the birds that fly so easily. While they at first appear to be free their inner form constrains their destiny. 105 Each species is unique in this array, and yet depends in such a complex way, either as partner, host or simple prey, upon the rest so much that should it stray from contact it would very soon decay. So too your body’s cells, to their dismay would pine and die if you cast them away, or you, should you depart this Earth’s bright bay. 113 Through this analogy we plainly see how independent units come to be, when viewed from the next level, partially absorbed within a higher unity, which in its turn is their reality, although they’re blind to its identity. 119 One lifetime on the higher scale will show as generations on the one below, not tens, but millions, as life seems to slow down with each level outwards that we go, in proportion to how large the units grow and the level of complexity they know.” 125 For life, has always, since antiquity, sought an increase, to its diversity; diversity is life’s complexity by which it can, through serendipity, self-regulate an inner comity without the need of conscious parity. 131 And here he stopped and gazed into the night. The moon was slim and cast but little light, although enough for us to see the white and timid moths in their erratic flight. The nimbus that had lit his face was quite reduced, but still he was an awesome sight. “Listen.” He said. “For now the time is right. 138 Just as a fetus growing in a womb diversifies its structure when there’s room, though it as yet perceives no threat of doom, so too a living planet will presume to add new threads to its internal loom before there is a need for them to bloom. 144 A fetus, is at this stage unaware of its own self, it has no thoughts to share. There is no sign as yet that it will care for others or itself in acts or prayer, and yet we know for certain that it’s there. So now, I caution you, in truth beware of using facile reasons to forswear these thoughts, whatever others may declare. 152 This lack of mind does not mean lack of will, it has a purpose and seeks to fulfill its destiny with an intrepid skill. It knows if it is healthy, and if ill it will, in innate ways, respond, until it is once more internally tranquil. 158 Which brings us back to thinking of mankind, who having lost one sense, has now to find another that will keep it from the blind destructive pathways it’s been more inclined to follow as its common sense declined. The egotism with which they’re aligned is a poison to the higher conscious mind. 165 This sense, with which all living things are blessed, of which mankind, by thought has been divest, is the innate perception of what’s best and by which all life’s actions are assessed. But men, and women too it must be stressed, are, by the nature of their minds, possessed of tools by which the higher mind’s accessed. 172 And man, in being free, must learn to choose with care the mental pathways he pursues. Through harmony alone can he infuse within his mind the attitudes and views which will resist those forces which abuse that very freedom it is his to use. 178 And in their coldly ignorant abuse inevitably weaken and reduce the thoughts by which men in their minds deduce those understandings which, though more abstruse, alone in their totality produce the only mind-set which can introduce within mankind the will to call to truce this war with Nature that is so obtuse. 186 Man is a part of this community which can, despite its nebulosity be touched and known in its ipseity; by viewing it with animosity and striving to subdue it physically he damages his own integrity and risks losing his functionality. 193 If Mankind’s soul is ever to find peace this war against itself must surely cease, and man accept his place as just one piece of a far greater whole, this would increase his understanding, which would then decrease his fear and free him to enjoy his lease of life, before it runs to its surcease.” 200 Now as he spoke his voice became intense. “The role that men might play is quite immense. But first they need to learn that life makes sense, and put aside the ignorant pretense that leads them to deny their co-existence, only then will they be able to commence to be Earth’s avatars and its defence. 207 But you should know the future is not writ in some celestial book that won’t permit the path laid down to change, man must commit himself to life if he would live. Transmit the meaning of my words as you see fit, the hearer must seek out the truth of it.” 213 Once more he stopped, and strangely it occurred to me that he had said more than I’d heard, although I thought I’d followed every word. The moon I saw had crossed the sky one third, so quickly that it really seemed absurd, and even as I watched his outline blurred and before me once again I saw the bird, 220 its blinking eyes full of a gentle light that stilled my thoughts and put my fears to flight, although my heart still beat as if in fright. “Such is the truth,” it said, “of Mankind’s plight, and only men themselves can put it right.” Then raised its wings and flew into the night. 225

Up the ladder: The First Date

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Arithmetic Mean: 7.4
Weighted score: 5.286087
Overall Rank: 3742
Posted: February 22, 2006 4:16 AM PST; Last modified: February 23, 2006 12:16 AM PST
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[n/a] Ranger @ | 23-Feb-06/5:12 AM | Reply
Wow, that was a long read. I think I should get a prize for finishing it. Seriously though, that's too long for a lot of people; I was switching off towards the end. The message is noble enough but it could have been said in a much more concise manner.
The owl man is good, and the dialogue is done fairly well. I do think that you constrain yourself too much with the rhyming scheme - I reckon you could reduce the stanzas to four lines apiece, keeping the choice rhymes, and still achieve the same effect.
In all honesty, I am going to have to come back to this later; there's far too much content to comment on in one sitting.
[n/a] Blue Magpie @ > Ranger | 25-Feb-06/3:08 AM | Reply
Dear Ranger,
Thanks for taking the time to read the poem, yes it is longer than many, but have you read Esther Ransom's "The Conciousness of Earth" it gives you a new dimension to the concept of a long poem. It is however in blank verse and not rhymed iambic (mostly) pentametre, so you are correct, the rhyme scheme did constrain what I could say. For example the point about a system's increasing inner complexity giving rise automatically, after a certain level of complexity, to hierarchical, self-regulatory structures is poorly made because of the need for polysyballic words, or just too many words.

However, as is so often the case in poetry, once I sat down and decided to try actually making the case for the planet as a single living entity in some real rather than theoretical consideration, with all that that brings into focus, such as humanity, well western european humanity and its diaspora, being mostly cancerous cells and the inevitability of the system attempting, in an unconcious way, to maintain its own inner health, the structure of the poem evolved on its own. I had expected to produce a more varied rhyme scheme, this was very hard to work with.
[8] ecargo @ | 23-Feb-06/9:25 AM | Reply
A little too end-rhyme driven for my taste--admirable that you found so many rhyming words that worked in your narrative, but it too often leads to awkward phrasing or cliches. Also, too long for the eventual payoff, and the points are made a little too obviously and literally. Every read Ozymandias by Shelley? Another "met a traveller" poem with a big point to make, but he makes it without saying it explicitly:


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

(Or there's always the Monty Python version:

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said, "Six vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert
And on the pedestal these words appear,
My name is Ozymandias, King of Ants
Look on my feelers, termites, and despair!
I am the biggest ant you'll ever see
The ants of old weren't half as big and bold
And fierce as me!") ;-)

[n/a] Blue Magpie @ > ecargo | 25-Feb-06/3:21 AM | Reply
Dear Ecargo,
Thanks for the comments. Yes I have read Shelley's great sonnet, which as you probably know was written as a challange, with either Hunt of maybe Southey I misremember which but Hunt I think, to write a sonnet inspired by some archeological ruins they had seen on display in London, and it is not really about meeting a traveller. Neither is my poem, which sets out not just to make a statement, but to argue the case, I have merely made the point in other poems, however given the state of the world I wanted to put the point a little more undeniably.

On a different note I wasn't aware of the MP parody, quite funny.
[10] terbenaw @ | 24-Feb-06/1:42 PM | Reply
I enjoyed this. It's a bit long, but for some reason, it seems to fit in it's current form. I like the creativity used with the end rhymes, but, I feel that it has limited the scope of the poem in some ways as well. All in all though... this is excellent.
[n/a] Blue Magpie @ > terbenaw | 25-Feb-06/3:10 AM | Reply
Dear Terbenaw,
Thanks for taking the time to read the poem, and thanks for liking it. For the rest, you are right but see my reply to Ranger.
[n/a] amanda_dcosta @ | 25-Feb-06/3:05 AM | Reply
Too long for me at the moment.... will have to come back for it in a fresher frame of mind.
[n/a] Blue Magpie @ > amanda_dcosta | 25-Feb-06/3:15 AM | Reply
Dear Amanda,
No problem, I hope your mind is getting well refreshed, I recommend regualr doses of freshly squeezed orange juice.
[9] ALChemy @ | 25-Feb-06/6:42 AM | Reply
No matter how beautiful your writing is (and this is some of the best formal verse I've read) if you write something this long you need to change things up a little, break the monotony. I would break up the man's speach into parts and between the parts a stanza of descriptive narrative like he then paused to go take a nap or something. Break it off into lessons(lesson 1, lesson 2 etc.). At least that way if the reader wanted to take a break they could leave when the man goes to take his nap and come back feeling like they don't have to go back over the last couple stanzas to find their place. The same way a story should have different scenes, the same way a good writer might stop part way through a long scene to go to another one and then holding your suspense conclude the former scene, that's how you should hold the reader to your poem. I think it's probably one of the hardest things to do in poetry but I think it'll be easier for someone as talented as you than it would be for most of us.
[n/a] Blue Magpie @ > ALChemy | 26-Feb-06/12:12 AM | Reply
Dear Alchemy,
Thanks for taking the time to both read and comment. I do ofcourse see your point, and was aware of it as I was writing, however to change the rhyme scheme to 2 or 3 rhymes a stanza would really mean rewriting the poem and i am not up to that at the moment, it was quite hard work. The length is not really going to be a problem for people who are into the poetry of the past centuries, in comparison with much that Shelley, Wordsworth, Tennyson and Coleridge wrote it is quite short, not to mention Milton.
[9] ALChemy @ > Blue Magpie | 26-Feb-06/5:05 AM | Reply
You might have mixed someone elses comment with mine while reading my comment. I'm not asking you to change the rhyme scheme or any of your stanzas. I'm only saying you should add a stanza after every few stanzas of speach that is something other than the speach so that you can break the monotony of the speach. Right now figuratively speaking you have Hamlet doing a monologue through 85% of the play which is fine but not all at once.
You might be able to drop some stnzas and still make your point also but length doesn't scare me unless I for some reason end up in prison and I'm stuck with a well endowed cellmate that wants to make me his bitch.
[8] zodiac @ | 25-Feb-06/12:02 PM | Reply
Whatever your poetic inspiration was, it's never a good idea to write a poem with 7 lines in a row using the same rhyme. You can be as clever as you want, and odds are it's still going to sound bad.

And I agree with ecargo, your points are a little overstated. It's nice that you made many of them part of a dialogue, but, to me, it doesn't work. Some tightening, shortening, and ambiguity seem in order. Also, (a minor thing,) the anthology-style line-numbering bothers me.
[n/a] Blue Magpie @ > zodiac | 26-Feb-06/12:13 AM | Reply
Dear Zodiac,
Thanks for coming and for the comments, I think I have already responded to the relevent points in other replies.
[n/a] richa @ | 27-Feb-06/6:32 AM | Reply
Too many commas it makes your sentences long and rambling. I will use one example:

'One evening ‘midst the glory this entails,
just as the sun slipped through checkered rails
of distant trees whose awesome height curtails, 07

like troubled thoughts, the view that goes beyond
the local scenes of which we are so fond,
an owl approached and lighted on a frond.'

Firstly: '‘midst the glory this entails,' is redundant because you have not changed scene you are already there midst the glory.

Then 'whose awesome height curtails,like troubled thoughts, the view that goes beyond the local scenes of which we are so fond,' is utterly garbled.

What happens is the height of the trees curtail ('like troubled thoughts' is nonsense) the view. Full stop. Then you see the owl light on a frond through the rails of light full stop. Otherwise you have clauses all over the place.

Also reading your replies I sense you are rather pious. Each to his own and all but I don't think writing earnestly is entirely compatible with writing lines such as 'beard of obvious reknown' and using words such as 'awesome'.
[n/a] richa @ | 27-Feb-06/6:36 AM | Reply
The main problem with this poem however is that it attempts to classify the entire human world by using slogans such as 'If Mankind’s soul is ever to find peace this war against itself must surely cease, and man accept his place as just one piece of a far greater whole, this would increase his understanding,'. It would be more productive for you to examine the minutiae of this world view. Use metaphor that kind of thing.
[n/a] richa @ > richa | 27-Feb-06/6:40 AM | Reply
It is really a case of show don't tell. You start with image then degenerate into dogma. Things like we must cease war with ourselves are so vague as to be meaningless.
[n/a] Blue Magpie @ > richa | 28-Feb-06/3:37 AM | Reply
Dear Richa,

I am sorry you don't like the poem.
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