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Poetry Pleases: A Child's Gift

...But I bless you, child of my mind,
who went where I could never go, behind
the images, into the myths, and raised them for me
visible in a magic painting book...

A child's gift brings to Caroline Glyn a different outlook on the world.

You sent me a present of a magic book.
A magic that is familiar to you
- the touch of water and the inexplicable life
breaking out, the hidden colours quickening -
but for me, the mystery of all my art,
the greater for my clumsy attacks on it:
the coming to light of the dark, the unmanifest,
by a power never understood; but you
have sent me the tale and secret of it in a book,
and as with all true books of revelation,
it moistened my hands with dread and longing.
So humbly I sat down and made your magic.
It was my birthday and your spell went deep.
The closed book was full of the unknown,
charged with the power of latency. Closed, it promised
in gaudy colours; opened, it withheld
in a silence of blank pictures. Wait for the water,
mothering life, as sleep mothers dreaming.

Rhinemaiden sounding the dark,
is it your innocence you are finding there
with your blue hair?
Yes, as the vision of you opens
and your treasure brightens,
what Rhine or Styx of my spirit are you plundering?
But there's no harm yet,
no monsters are met,
even your greed is left on the surface here
and you breathe a strange air,
fish and child, inhabitant of two worlds;
radiant, lifting the lid of the treasure chest,
blessed yet while you look and forget to take.
Long may you gaze and gaze,
that treasure can never be raised,
nor do I know you, mermaid of my mind,
you swim where I am blind
except when given grace by a child to look
in a magic painting book.

You are too wise for me there,
child with a lotus in your hair!
Where are we now in this sweet opium dream?
The great stone gateway of a Thailand temple
is locked with heavy iron, but you stand
smiling over your fan, pointing a hand
away from the door.
Such a smile as that no western child,
how can I trust you, sweetheart,
has ever smiled;
or the gigantic flowers that dream around you,
glowing with pink leaves
and great black seeds
like the foliage of night itself, if it bloomed?
Are you a saving vision
or a temptation?
True keeper of a still more threatening door,
pointing like a fallen Persephone
to a bush beside the gate with luscious berries
all red with promise.

But now the sun breaks through
in brilliance of blue
and I begin to see we are high in the hills
of all adventure and legend, the home of gods
and giants. Yes, the heights are visionary, too,
but what could daunt you,
serene young piper, fearless of precipice,
stepping with mastery's poise
in your belled shoes and cap of the one green feather,
out of the hidden valley, playing
high wild music I can almost hear?
I know you, divine musician.
Sweet singer in darkness, when you come
bells ring and the very shadows hum
and the monsters dance
to your joyful music, and the mountain air
that you bring in your cloak intoxicates
the prisons of fear.
Even in your home hills, an armoured lizard,
high as your waist, is leaping up to rear
in horrified dance, but little do you care;
you are master here,
you harrower of the hells
of many worlds and tales.
You could turn evil itself at last into music.

Little girl nestled among the wild things,
at home among the tree roots, that's my longing,
my dearest wish, and seeing you, my heart
aches a little by this magic art
that must show wishes if it will show secrets,
wrapped up still in blankness of the unlived;
yet not the less for that, a joy and a gift,
the coloured fore-reflection
of the might-yet-be, in some strange world.
You are already myself,
child of the forest; make a bed for me, too,
on the ground with you
out of the leaves of your recovered Eden.
But who are you, running in wide-mouthed terror
through the dark wood? The trees are black
behind you, leaning after you; in the toadstools
things are living; the little overhung cottage
is haunted, and the colour
rising around you is sombre
with your own fear. What have you seen?
What sends you fleeing from the magic book
with that backwards look?
Has nightmare risen again in Eden?
Even you, wise child, you do not know
what will float to the top of the magic sea
and shimmer there; the darkness of its caves
where dreams are made
is too great a mystery to be watched,
even by you.
But I bless you, child of my mind,
who went where I could never go, behind
the images, into the myths, and raised them for me
visible in a magic painting book.
And stop now. Turn and see.
The bears in the forest are kind.


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