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Preludes 1921-1922   By: (1882-1937)

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Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.

Preludes 1921 1922

By John Drinkwater

All thoughts, all passions, all delights, Whatever stirs this mortal frame, All are but ministers of love, And feed his sacred flame.





NOTE. This book is really one poem, and is a development of my sonnet sequence, Persuasion.


Though black the night, I know upon the sky, A little paler now, if clouds were none, The stars would be. Husht now the thickets lie, And now the birds are moving one by one, A note and now from bush to bush it goes A prelude now victorious light along The west will come till every bramble glows With wash of sunlit dew shaken in song. Shaken in song; O heart, be ready now, Cold in your night, be ready now to sing. Dawn as it wakes the sleeping bird on bough Shall summon you to instant reckoning, She is your dawn, O heart, sing, till the night Of death shall come, the gospel of her light.


And Jonathan too had honour in his heart, Jonathan who with an armour bearer went Alone by Michmash to the Philistines, And met a spray of swords because of courage That made him single greater than a host. Jonathan too had known his battles, dared At any hour the coming of death, because In twilight silence he had walked with God, Read Him in blossoms and the mountain brooks, And learnt that death, well known, can alter nothing. He was a brown man, burnt with love of summer, His young beard curled, and russet as the eyes That looked on life, and feared it, yet were master, Because they knew the tyranny they feared, Measured it, learnt it, gazed it into nothing.


And now he watched the boy, the son of Jesse, David with hair like maples in October, And skin that women loving coveted, David with eyes that often by the sheepfolds Had looked through leaves up to the folds of heaven, And seeing them crammed with golden fleece of stars, Had known how the blood can run because of beauty. Jonathan watched him take the armour off Given by Saul, and choose the bright smooth pebbles, And walk out from the Israelitish throng Into the field against the Philistine giant. Watching, he snatched his sword and cried to Saul, "Bid him come back. This murder must not be." And as he spoke, he knew the words were treason, His heart alone in all the world was sure That David was the Lord's appointed arm, To meet this bulk of dirt, this giant fear Brandishing out of the loathly camps of evil. And before Saul could answer, he put down The sword, and said, "I love him. Let him go."


But the words, I love him, were not for his father Saul, Hardly Jonathan knowing he spake them out. But as he looked on David love was there, Waking from that in David that he himself A little was, and always greatly shaping Himself towards, so that his name was spoken Famously in Saul's kingdom. It was courage, The clean heart, undivided in its doing, The purpose that, being bodied in the brain, Thenceforth knew every trickling argument That fell from tongues of persuading circumstance, As lures of evil ever threatening life, That Jonathan loved above all enterprise. He knew, or the rarer man within him knew, That once your yea in holy meditation Had shaped itself in the perfect syllable, Thenceforth no nay from any other tongue Or wise or passionate or masterful, Could be listened to without the shame of sin Corrupting all your constancy for ever. He knew the curse of good betraying good, Till both in bleak irresolution fall. And all his years was Jonathan's anguish only To keep this tillage of his wisdom clean.


Since boyhood he had known Philistia For the black thing it was, a plague opposed Always against the loveliness of Israel, And when his father Saul was anointed king By Samuel in Ramah, then Jonathan knew How all the lessons of his youth had been To fit him for the striking of the men Who profaned beauty and let the soul be blind... Continue reading book >>

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