Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Cassandra was a character from Greek legend, a prophetess who carried the curse that she would always tell the truth but never be believed.  As what was once a Christian civilization slips back toward barbarism with seeming inevitability, one cannot help but identify with her.  What would she say if she were with us today?

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Balaam’s Ass also knew what it was to tell the truth without being believed.

Epistle from the Limbo of the Righteous Pagans

(Cassandra Speaks)

We were very ignorant, but there were some things we knew.

We knew that life is a narrow Bridge of time,

That both ends lie beyond the sight of men,

And the fathomless abyss lies before, and behind, and beneath.

The rails on the Bridge are Morality and Custom,

And they are all that stand between us and Chaos.

Freedom is found only on the Bridge,

For there is no freedom in chaos and destruction.

We also tried to find the thing that you call freedom.

On the other side of the rails there is Nothing.

Would you also be free from earth, and sea, and sky?

Would you walk without the earth beneath your feet,

Breathe without air, swim without water?

Breath apart from air is suffocation:

Such is freedom from morality and custom.

So I say to you, get married and have children,

And teach them that doing right is the only thing that matters,

But that all the right they do will be insufficient

To cover all the wrong.  This is why

The sacrificial blood must always flow.

We did not know from Whom it had to flow,

But the blood that splashed our altars was far wiser in its way

Than your sky-topping prayer-towers of glass and steel and concrete

Dedicated to the praise of perfectible Man.


“We did not know from Whom it had to flow” . . . Gordon’s Calvary [“Place of the Skull”], possible site of Christ’s crucifixion.

Raise your children, then, and teach them,

Carefully and painfully,

By precept and example that freedom cannot be found

Elsewhere than in the man who does his duty,

Who is faithful unto death, though it be hard,

And then that even this is insufficient.

That was all the freedom we knew how to find.

I will not say that there is nothing better than this

(You perhaps have heard strange stories of a Hope we did not have),

But we tried also all the gods that you are looking to

And found them nothing, Nothing, dust

And ashes,

Dust and ashes.


Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest book from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Donald T. Williams, PhD


About gandalf30598

Theologian, philosopher, poet, and critic; minister of the Gospel who makes his living by teaching medieval and renaissance literature; dual citizen of Narnia and Middle Earth.

Posted on August 5, 2013, in Donald Williams, Myth, Poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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