From "Preludes for Memnon"

Conrad Aiken


But you and I, Charybdis, are not new;
And all that flows between us is dead...
-Thus Scylla, the scarred rock, sad child of time,
Benumbed with barnacles and hung with weed,
With urchins at her feet, and on her brow
Foul nests of cormorants, adressed her moan
To hoar Charybdis, who, beyond the whirpool,
Lifted a hornèd crag to God and Nothing.
And still the salt sea sucked between them, bearing
The bones of ships and bones of humans, white
The one as other, and as little worth.

Where is this corner of the crumbling world:
Where are these rocks, beloved, that cry out
Their hate and fear of time, their bitter sadness
At past, and passing, and the sense of past?
It is between ourselves these waters flow.
It is ourselves who are these self-same rocks,-
And we it is whom time has cracked and hung
With frost and filth. The sea-gull's is our voice;
The wail of mariners; the cry of wind.
And all that flows between us is dead.

No need to go to Lethe, nor to Sibyl,
To memory, or forgetfulness, or both,
To find such horror, or such richness, mixed,
As we can find who smile here face to face.
The waters of the human soul are deep.
We are the rocks that rot above those waters.
We are the rocks on whom the times have written.
We, the recorded sadness of the world.

What marvels, then, for us, who know already
All that the waters of the Godhead give?
Let us desist from this forlorn attempt
To wring strange beauty from a world well known.
Patience is all: so Shakspere might have said.
Let us be patient, then, and hear at night
The flux and reflux of the whirpool, borne
Restless between us; submit, since needs we must,
To sad remembrance; but remember also
That there was nought before remembrance was.


Source: Preludes for Memnon Blogspot. IMG: "Scylla and Charybdis", acrylic on wood, Henry Caserotti


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