Monday, January 30, 2017


Yesterday several people were shot down in an attack on a mosque in Eastern Canada. This seemed a good time to present this poem that discusses how human beings come to do such things  - the shadows of our own human nature.
 The long quote from Beowulf, one of the first Anglo-Saxon poems from a thousand years ago shows how old these fears are. The mere is not far from here, where we are right now, in the present.


 That mere is not far,
as miles are measured.
About it there broods
a forest of fir trees frosted with mist.
Hedges of wood-roots hem in the water
where each evening fireglow flickers
forth on the flood, a sinister sight.
That pool is unplumbed by wits of the wise;
but the heath-striding hart hunted by hounds,
the strong-antlered stag seeking a thicket,
running for cover, would rather be killed
than bed on its bank. It is no pleasant place
where water-struck waves are whipped into clouds,
surging and storming, swept by the winds,
until Heaven is hidden and the skies weep.

Not far from here a forgotten pond is becoming tangled by encroaching vegetation.
Now at dusk, it is covered by alder and willow leaves that first drift to the still surface, pause and then whisper down to darkness.
The shadowed water is shrouding its face, but for an instant we are dazzled by a last glare of reflecting sunlight.

A deep mere, black and stagnant. We uneasily slide our eyes aside toward sunset's golden benediction.
We sense weirdness here, a place where we will surely be dragged under if we should wander astray.
There have always been places like this that fill us with dread.
We follow our fears, hood our eyes and pass by on the other side.

Strangers too: strange voices, strange clothing and face coverings. We shun them, close our minds,
harden our hearts and pass them by on the other side.

These are old, old, human instincts,
Fear of the dark, of the unfamiliar and of what we do not understand.
They still whisper danger to our inner ear.
The shadows of our own human nature.

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