The workmen clinked their steel, trudging; one murmured couplets
about a great house and chiefs beaten into the clay;
the new man rode ahead, engrossed with his new landscape
and the swell of his saddle. For ruins are the sleep of dynasty.
He met the neighbour heiress who, bored with church and luncheon,
had found in that gap of frost-spilled masonry
refuge from adulthood, then a precinct for the Numen—
Their children saw Earth itself as the great ruin:
was she not the contracted wreck of Chaos? and of the Spiral
that is primal Order? They walked her final patina.
Travelling, delving, they found themselves everywhere in it.
As dramatic buildings encroached, including their own,
their houses assumed a shade of ruin, a domesticated patina.
Breeding shone in slight defeat. They opposed the soaring line
with a settled, undulant, edge-abraded line Earth taught them.
Ruins lacked all charm, though, closest to home, in the flesh:
gallows-fruit, senility of parents, the bottle-wrapped veteran
wobbling in the lane, his face like matted genitals—
You are too inclusive, they cried. You overwork a metaphor!
Ruins are not Christian. They are sober poignant spirits;
they are the afterlife of genteel religion.
Descendants, by this time, were riding beside battalions
of steel-clinking workmen, going to make ruins
and establish, they said, a line of common nobility.
The spiral now contracted faster. Generations
cried out to each other from their collapsing levels.
We were above this! and heard the answering laughter,
These ruins are heroic! and heard the avenging answer.
Ruins and tribes and wilderness merged thereafter
and all the trusted creatures. Earth became the Great Museum
whose other, more secret name is Noble Conquest.
It swarmed with new people, steel in the hands of some
and in the blood of others. Hey, off with your gentilities!
we’re your new ruins, they cried, we’re the water sign!
and this is the true dance, the Beat, helix of Helikon!
Lies and the truth, said Nine there, the truth and lies,
we purvey both. You want truth? Just the one?
Truth may be lacking in flair for your aristocracies,
and it tends to be successive, with your orthodocracies;
for instance, now Ruins: for our next intimation…
© Les Murray
Some other random works of this poet:
- At The Widening Of A War
- The Doorman
- Bat’s Ultrasound
- The Australia Card
- Immigrant Voyage
- A Lego Of Driving To Sydney
- Driving through sawmill towns
- An Acrophobe’s Dragon
- Ultima Ratio
- The trainee, 1914
- The International Poetry Festivals Thing
- Aurora Prone
- Noonday Axeman
- The Holy Show
- Prime Numbers
- Blowfly Grass
- The pigs
- The Milk Lorry
- When I Was Alive
- A Study Of The Nude
- 68 [Hey Athol, this isn’t the coffin you made!]
- The Barcaldine Suite
- The Rollover
- Towards 2000
- An Era
- The Figures In Quoniam
- The Count of the Simple Shore
- At The Swamping Of Categories
- Machine Portraits With Pendant Spaceman
- The Machine-Gunning Of Charm
- The Mowed Hollow
- The Merchants’ Wheel
- The Vol Sprung From Heraldry
- Christmas beetle
- Stone Fruit
- A poem for Valerie
- 23 [I have to be competent again]
- The Cardiff Commonwealth Arts Festival Poetry Conference 1965, Recalled
- Opening In England
- Roman Cage-Cups
- The dolphins
- The Buladelah-Taree Holiday Song Cycle
- Nursing Home
- The singer’s nag
- The widower in the country
- 98 [On the hill, they exchange boyish pleasures]
- In A Time Of Cuisine