Eight Harvard Poets/Saturnalia

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SATURNALIA


IN earth's womb the old gods stir,
Fierce chthonian dieties of old time.
With cymbals and rattle of castanets,
And shriek of slug-horns, the North Wind
Bows the oak and the moaning fir,

On russet hills and by roadsides stiff with rime.



In nature, dead, the life gods stir,
From Rhadamanthus and the Isles,
Where Saturn rules the Age of Gold,
Come old, old ghosts of bygone gods;
While dim mists earth's outlines blur.

And drip all night from lichen-greened roof-tiles.



In men's hearts the mad gods rise
And fill the streets with revelling,
With torchlight that glances on frozen pools.
With tapers starring the thick-fogged night,
A-dance, like strayed fireflies,

'Mid dim mad throngs who Saturn's orisons sing.



In driven clouds the old gods come,
When fogs the face of Apollo have veiled;

A fear of things, unhallowed, strange,

And a fierce free joy flares in the land.
Men mutter runes in language dead,
By night, with rumbling drum,

In quaking groves where the woodland spirits are hailed.



To earth's brood of souls of old,
With covered heads and aspen wands,
Mist-shrouded priests do ancient rites;
The black ram's fleece is stained with blood.
That steams, dull red on the frozen ground;
And pale votaries shiver with the cold,

That numbs the earth, and etches patterned mirrors on the ponds.