Wisdom and the Lady of the Lake
Aubrey Beardsley: Merlin and Nimue
Merlin, old and tongue tied, lay down beneath
A crystal escalade, where, in the soft
Hem of time, he yearned in Cymric, burned
In Latin, and savored all the hot gall
Of love’s betrayal. She was beautiful,
He old, ugly, gnarled with ancient wisdom,
Undone by the bee’s dance and the honeycomb’s
Fragrance. Like a fly in amber, like
A severed head in a jar of thick honey,
He stared through layers of crystal symmetry
Into the ambiguity of sunlight,
Into the cold ambivalence of moonlight,
Listened soporifically for footsteps
On the moist forest floor: crushed, rustling leaves,
Crepitations of a samite gown,
The light, familiar gait of Nimue
Walking from the lake to the stairway.
Years went by. Leaves accumulated. Roots
Broke through the shattered crystal. Soil and rock
Penetrated spider webs of quartz,
And the cool dew, the warm rain, and the snow melt
Seeped onto Merlin’s face. In leafworm time
His eyes disintegrated and his bones
Were sealed in mildew, cold, and final darkness.
The lake became a marsh, a field, and now
A parking lot, under which there sleeps
The beautiful Lady Nimue.
If you have any
thoughts on this poem, Bob Zisk would be pleased to hear them.