08 June 2012

Prologue (Section 1)


An afternoon one winter's day in choir
I chanced to see across the chapel nave
My magister, the agéd, lettered man
Who had before I was a bachelor
Instructed me in all the fundaments
Of moral science.  I was still a boy
Despite the growing number of my years
Still mired in all the ignorance of vice
Bound both by inward blindness of the mind
— Although I gladly used my student's right
as bachelor approved, examined, lettered,
To preach and teach at any pair of ears
Unwise enough to stand a staring fool's
Long venal winding pompous perorations,
And in this fact I served to demonstrate
The miracle of the academy
that those who learn and seem to understand
may truly share but in a shadowed sight
of the high subtleties and holy forms
which they can truthfully proclaim and teach. —
Dragged down through folly's weighty anxious woe
at many proffered unattainéd goods,
I was in spirit still a son of sloth.
The title of my soul meanwhile had changed
between two owners' hands a decade since
but still in pride and foolishness and fear
I languished then a lettered neophyte
Convinced that more degrees of scholarship
Would earn nobility of heart, and slow
to rise at last (while prostrating myself)
by the sweet condescension of the Lord
to that unmerited reward of grace.
Despite my pride I knew myself a fool
and oft bemoaned the chains of selfish sin
whose chafing links I hatefully bore.
And so espying on that winter's day
In quiet choir about the fasters' feast
My old instructor clothed in honesty
The King made known to me by voice unheard
this was the day whereon I was to rise
and moved me in my heart to condescend
(or so it seemed in my self-certainty)
to seek the counsel of my aged friend
and thus at last to climb the tree of life
by the firm foothold of humility.