Friday, June 22, 2018

"The Moon – To Each a Place" by James Frederick William Rowe

The Moon – To Each a Place
James Frederick William Rowe

By night you are a queen
"Keeper of the Night" Watercolor on Paper
By J. Artemus Gordon
In splendour amidst the spangled skies
Your subjects studded in worshipful array
Around the warm glow of the halo
Which encircles the pearlescent majesty
Of the face you show the world

Yet in the day you are alone
The shining glory of your vespertine visage
Now rendered pale and veiled by the misty blue
Of the sky which hides your courtiers
Against the king who brokers no rivals
Even from the supplicating stars

But perhaps your daylight diminution
The indignity of your muted manifestation
Is for a purpose so endured
That the Sun and we may be reminded
That the glare of his light may only obscure
Not unseat the many multitudes of heaven

Is this why you are wont to cover the Sun
To lay the coldness of your stone
Upon the heat of his fires?
Then in so eclipsing him in your kiss
And quenching his flames at the height of his hours
We can gaze at all his glory hides?

The Sun is one, the Stars are many
And you, Lady Luna, an inveterate pagan
Remind us of the divine plurality
No wonder Lucifer affords you
Hesperine hails, Eosphorine adieus
Rebellious even as he heralds the dawn

Yet you too are victim of a pride
Made false in the reflection of the light
That is not your own
And we are called to occult you in our shadow
Casting you back to the darkness
Which is yours but for the Sun

Your light is a borrowed glow, a stolen warmth
Yet be not ashamed that we know, dear Moon
For there is Day and there is Night
The One and the All
And only a fool worships but one
To the exclusion of the other

To the Moon: a place of honour
To the Sun: a place of glory
To the stars: a place of worship
To us: a place of understanding
So should it be, so shall it be
All as the spheres ordain

Poet’s Notes:  This piece is basically about the Moon's place in a sky that reflects a divine ordering of things. Whereas the Sun is a strict monotheist, blotting out all other rival claimants to his majesty, the Moon is the queen amidst her court of stars "an inveterate pagan". When she eclipses the Sun, she reminds him, whom she loves (and by whom she gains her light), that there are others in heaven—that the One must not be known to the exclusion of the All. Nevertheless, we too have to check her pride, when we eclipse her and show her for what she is: the reflection of the Sun's light. 

There tends to be in religious and philosophical systems a certain overemphasis on one side of the equation. Either people fixate on the unity of things or the plurality of things. I call these perspectives the "fallacy of the parts" and the "fallacy of the whole". Whereas the One is indeed One, it is also Many, and when the Many are Many, it is also One—to put undue emphasis on either the singularity of existence under God or the multitude of existent things is to deny a fundamental element of reality. To get even more technical and esoteric: I deny that the monotheistic and pantheistic conceptions of existence are superior to the panentheistic, which embraces both. 

I try to make this philosophical point in the poem as elegantly as I can by first triumphing the Moon's cause, and then denying her the honour she might try to usurp for herself. I also draw upon the well established use of stars—as found in Blake, Milton, and of course, the Book of Revelation—in the role of angels or (demi-)gods, and make reference to the Lucifer narrative in a literal sense of Venus as the morning/evening stars, as reflected in my: "No wonder Lucifer affords you / Hesperine hails, Eosphorine adieus / Rebellious even as he heralds the dawn". 

The poem concludes with the proper place for all things, "all as the spheres ordain"—or as laid out by the allegory of the heavens, as it were.  It is arranged in eight stanzas of six verses a piece. It was composed initially on the subway but substantially revised at home.

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