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XXI
William Blake's The Ancient of Days
Dominion comes to be
& life succeeds at last

in sundering th'Vanity!
that keeps world aghast:

Centuries that kept together
by the power of Love alone

are teetering now (on whether
to keep to, or be gone):

Out of Dominion they arise!
as fragile as The Heart

& pretty as the brittle eyes
that take Th'Whole apart

Do you recall her (along all those trees
where loneliness was cured)?

...She was the one that gave
pause to Life's close:

Some still remember her, & her grave
holds a commemorative Rose

Since Love endured
it has been centuries:

while wild birds gyre about themselves for sport
or functions of their sort,

there through the door She kept ajar
now come, across the Lapse of Time,

many th'graceful Mourner from afar
and many the sublime

who, witnesses to the dying of Day
sit long & look across Always'

on the impending break
of Stillness through The Moving Shape
that shakes loose Th'Birds of Grief
over The Words that are its Living Wake:

their voices well above the trees
heard celebrating narratives

of wandering wings... above the leaves:
their weaves of wide-eyed, warm soliloquies!

Existence grieves

(calmly, like an echo in its parenthesis!
there): hanging over The Edge of day

witnessing the tarnished Tide
of Love extinguishing, decaying away
from Man in unimaginable suicide

collecting The Birds Dominion wept
from its heart darkly over th'brilliant site:

those deafening black organs that work the Night

--Once days eternal,
now hovering in immortal Loss

unable ever to understand
... Love goes!

while we sit by, Dominion:

             "Do you not see
Evening's an intellectual sedative gloriously

allowed an Earth      

about to lie down & give birth!" 24

^{24} This a work I'm no longer sure I remember all the particulars of (indeed like most of the pieces in this collection). And yet it still haunts me like ineffable music. (Who can understand such music?) It is unquestionably made up of a number of significant statements (which I do remember collecting but can no longer recall the guiding principle behind the once careful endeavor that tied them all together (unfortunately). This does not make the poem aimless; only that it now (1985) exists beyond me. "Dominion" is anything which takes hold of anything else. In this case "Love" is life's dominion (Love has abruptly taken hold of the poet's thoughts) "Dominion" is also "All" (certainly including self-dominion & dominion of --over-- our environment). "Dominion grieves" because the poem is about the advent of some miraculous & cosmically inevitable change in the world of dominion (the world is about to change hands) and even Love itself is a thing so identified with the passing world that it too seem to be passing away (the poem speaks, rather, of it all having already done so). To reinterpret in prose even only the first four lines of this poem would take me many pages; which would unquestionably tax anybody's willingness to understand at all (we are so used to the habit of perceiving clarification as dilution). So I must leave it to the willingness of the reader to be entertained by the art-work itself, and therein offer the possibility that he/she may yet appreciate the sum of my expression (or, some significant portion there of). "Dominion" the equal to "self- awareness," "self-assertion," "self-sovereignty," or simply "Self" ("to be" etc). "Vanity," then, is the idea of the Self about itself (in whatever context). Does the poem force a pejorative term on us as the more general and objective idea of Idea? The poem cannot escape the poet. It is I who inject too much 'self' in the sense that all pride is probably excessive (vanity); all self-assertion is perhaps but an ostentatious and empty show; all sovereignty resolves into an (unintentional?) egotism. The door ajar [line 17] is always a metaphor for Hope: The last half of the poem is a hopeful ambition born from the perennial New (fruitful) World being born out of the (Barren) Old One (or because of it). "Dominion grieves" (and even the worst tradition clings desperately to its old idea of self-worth). It's sad to witness the passing on of some once-grand Dominion (whatever else); even when it involves watching the imminent birth of a promising new existence. Melancholy is that quaint mixture of sadness and relief. And the mood of this work is undoubtedly as melancholic as [email protected]

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