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Two Poems

ARCHAEOLOGY

The archaeologist’s spade
delves into dwellings
vacancied long ago,

unearthing evidence
of life-ways no one
would dream of leading now,

concerning which he has not much
to say that he can prove:
the lucky man!

Knowledge may have its purposes,
but guessing is always
more fun than knowing.

We do know that Man,
from fear or affection,
has always graved His dead.

What disastered a city,
volcanic effusion,
fluvial outrage,

or a human horde,
agog for slaves and glory,
is visually patent,

and we’re pretty sure that,
as soon as palaces were built,
their rulers,

though gluttoned on sex
and blanded by flattery,
must often have yawned.

But do grain-pits signify
a year of famine?
Where a coin-series

peters out, should we infer
some major catastrophe?
Maybe. Maybe.

From murals and statues
we get a glimpse of what
the Old Ones bowed down to,

but cannot conceit
in what situations they blushed
or shrugged their shoulders.

Poets have learned us their myths,
but just how did They take them?
That’s a stumper.

When Norsemen heard thunder,
did they seriously believe
Thor was hammering?

No, I’d say: I’d swear
that men have always lounged in myths
as Tall Stories,

that their real earnest
has been to grant excuses
for ritual actions.

Only in rites
can we renounce our oddities
and be truly entired.

Not that all rites
should be equally fonded:
some are abominable.

There’s nothing the Crucified
would like less
than butchery to appease Him.

CODA

From Archaeology
one moral, at least, may be drawn,
to wit, that all

our school text-books lie.
What they call History
is nothing to vaunt of,

being made, as it is,
by the criminal in us:
goodness is timeless.

A THANKSGIVING

   When pre-pubescent I felt
that moorlands and woodlands were sacred:
   people seemed rather profane.

Thus, when I started to verse,
I presently sat at the feet of
   Hardy and Thomas and Frost.

Falling in love altered that,
now Someone, at least, was important:
   Yeats was a help, so was Graves.

Then, without warning, the whole
Economy suddenly crumbled:
   there, to instruct me, was Brecht.

Finally, hair-raising things
that Hitler and Stalin were doing
   forced me to think about God.

Why was I sure they were wrong?
Wild Kierkegaard, Williams and Lewis
   guided me back to belief.

Now, as I mellow in years
and home in a bountiful landscape,
   Nature allures me again.

Who are the tutors I need?
Well, Horace, adroitest of makers,
   beeking in Tivoli, and

Goethe, devoted to stones,
who guessed that—he never could prove it—
   Newton led Science astray.

Fondly I ponder You all:
without You I couldn’t have managed
   even my weakest of lines.

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