Saturday, December 15, 2012

December 14

  Some say, on that first morning of Christ's birth
An unseen voice swept over land and sea
Crying mournful, Pan is dead --
The Great God Pan is dead;

   And ever since, the ancient gods have dwindled;
Exiled by cold iron or cathedral chimes,
Hiding in deepest cave and shadowed forest
Waiting silent for a change of days
And for their own dominion to return.
   And, 'tis true, their altars lie untended;
No ecstatic initiates dance Pan's mysteries
And Adonis goes, now, unwept each spring;
The Sybil's cave lies hollow and empty
To echo only the dreams of ages past.

   But I imagine, instead:
Before sunrise on that first Advent morn
Another group assembling in the stable
Amidst the kneeling shepherds and kings
(Unseen to the mortals rejoicing there) --
That tall silent figures lit by inner starlight
Gathered in awe around the little bed:

   That Artemis laid down her silver bow, Aries his sword
Poseidon his fierce earth-shaking trident
And rough Haephestus, tears glinting in his eyes,
With one craggy hand gently stroked the child's brow;
That Athena bowed to Wisdom itself, Aphrodite to Beauty,
And Eros to a Love greater than any his arrows held;
That Pan and Hermes, laughter and trickery forgotten, fell solemn,
That great Apollo removed his brilliant crown
And even grim Hades in silent salute lowered his head --

   And others came, from distant times and places
Osiris and Tiamat, Lugh and Mithra
The dark and light, the ancient and young gods
Of hillside and stream, flower and flame
All burning with the steady glow of eternity
And bending low in joy before the manger;

   And Zeus the Sky King, kneeling, spoke:

  O Creator, All-Mother and Father
Beyond even the Earth and Sky that gave us birth --
At last, the long-awaited day has come:

   We abdicate our power

   Long we nurtured this strange newborn race
On which your divine favour rests
We saw their first footsteps in desert sand
Heard their first words, as they spoke
No longer in the tongues of beasts, but gods;
We sent Prometheus with the spark from heaven,
Demeter with her golden grain, Athena her skills
And, yes, watched many a Pandora,
Man or woman, loose the bounds of evil;
Then to Aries the multitudes paid homage
And helpless we watched young and old perish.

   Long they worshiped us, long feared us
Our wild power, cruel capriciousness
Long entreated us when overwhelmed
By storm or drought; love or war
With ritual and revelry, seas of sacrificial blood,
Fervent prayer and hushed mountain oracle
Crying out to us to stay our hands
But we cannot act other than our nature;
Imprisoned in immortality, we may never change

   But now their infancy has passed

   Now a new age is begun
And another covenant is written
For you have come to take their shape
No longer need they worship us, the Gods of the earth
For their own God dwells among them

   And in their maturity and growing knowledge
They may divine our secrets
Plumb the source of our power
Of sun and lightning, ocean and sky,
And shape strange new dreamings beyond our ken --
For you have willed nothing should be hidden from them

   We ask this alone:
   That you grant they should not despise us
They shall dwell among us, but not above us:
Their elder brothers and sisters, guides and teachers
No longer their masters, but neither their servants
The creation is not theirs to exploit
And our realms are not theirs to destroy
And if they abuse their power, we shall rise.

   …And the child glanced from one face to another,
And cooing gently, smiled his consent.

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