Epistle to a Celt

Where, o Celt, mayst thou be found
Upon what all was once thy ground?
Art thou of thy majestic race
The last to bear a mortal face?

Thy speech and runes thou scornst to learn,
Which memory can scarce discern.
In splintered nave, the Celtic Cross
Untended testifies thy loss.

Who sails currachs upon the foam?
Who pores the leaves of Ossian’s tome?
Who dons the tartan and the woad?
Who hails the megalithic load?

Who learns his lessons near the trove
With Druids in their sacred grove?
Who girds a shield of gilded gold,
As ill-considered thou madst bold?

Who sifts the heather on his walk?
Who scours the crag-encircled loch?
What isle within its warping coast
Bears home to an hermetic host?

Art thou the fruit of Arthur’s seed?
Was Bonnie Charlie of thy breed?
Did Vercingetorix proclaim
That such as thou succeed his fame?

Arise, o Celt- slough off thy shame!
Become thine acts thy noble name!
Banish thy looks their sullen lour!
Exalt thy gods within thy bower!

 

A.D. 2017

What is our time? A treasury of waste;
The master chef of dullness and distaste;
Aristocrat of base vulgarity.
Which phrase of ours shall later breaths rehearse?
None but in jest, smiling and scarlet-faced;
For numbers count for nought with quality,
And strength of steel shall bend to that of verse.

 

The Golden Age

An excerpt of Saturnalia

Chaos was cleft by light’s eternal sword;
His brother, song, tuned being into word;
The world arose, and Saturn was its lord.
All parts of being hear their summons; straight,
They pare in perfect fealty all their weight,
Nor bound by aught delay might any vacillate.
First flame, bearing bright ensigns of its liege,
Fords all the sable chasm on sight’s bridge.
Fresh, cooler matter rides the fiery blast,
And peoples the abyss, until at last,
(Rather, at once) each several part is showed
A content of the primal antipode.
In perfect order, all is of a piece,
A symphony proclaiming God’s increase.
The heavenly hordes condense in spheric realms,
Mantled in air and fog and stony helms,
So bold that space bows unto whom it overwhelms.
Earth rose the fairest and of all the seat,
With richer yield, for sustenance replete.
Behold therein the garden undefiled,
The will unbent, and goodness unbeguiled.
Not cold would catch, nor heat release her tears,
But deathless vernals compass round the years.
Fruit tries its ties, teasing the thirsty ground
With lusty nearness; nor are ever found,
When some be culled, bare boughs, but ready buds abound.
The Earth’s increase pares in an endless wax
To proffer forth the undemanded tax.
Birds reap the zephyr with a ready wing;
Tunefully and redundantly they sing,
While words below are spoken in a song,
Ripening in ears lulled by the scale along.
All, all was good and full of loveliness,
Each naked plain, each hollow cavernous;
Bright Sol above, and all his arching way
That hangs atop the canopy of day;
The emerald-laden Sylvan realm of Pan,
Who walks on hooves that carry half a man.
The tessellating swathe of leafy shade,
Grasping at fruit with fingers oaken-made,
Was there, and Bacchus with his purple smile,
And laughter pacing all the blissful mile,
Pale Cynthia in her shadowy demesne,
And azure loitering on the dusky main.
Not fauns, nor centaurs, tigers, nor the van
Of burdened beasts scorn comity with man.
Communion of the greatest with the least
Prevailed in Saturn’s one ambrosial feast.
Not lowness differed from the blest above;
Love knighted all when all aspired in love.

 

Morgan Downs is a poet in his 20s living in Massachusetts. 

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7 Responses

  1. Bard Eucewelis

    “Epistle to a Celt” is a remarkable poem on many levels. In fact, this poem would have fit quite nicely in the pages of the “Oxford Book of Modern verse 1892-1935,” edited by W. B. Yeats. In diction, it is superb, its artistry is excellent, and it possesses a splendid handling of poetic elements. Mr. Downs’ poem, like Macpherson’s “Ossian’s tome,” is attuned to the Celtic Revival. My favourite line, in this poem with many striking lines, is “Who scours the crag-encircled loch?”

    Reply
    • Morgan Downs

      Thanks Bard, I really appreciate it.
      I wrote this one perhaps six or seven months ago. I believe I was reading a fair amount of Robert Burns at the time, and there is some inspiration involved from Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Kidnapped’ as well, which is a favorite of mine.

      Reply
  2. David Watt

    I agree that your poems display an artistry and depth belying your age. “Epistle to a Celt” is my favorite for lines including “What isle within its warping coast bears home to an hermetic host?”

    Reply
  3. Bard Eucewelis

    I have to admit when I first read Mr. Downs’ “Epistle to a Celt” and I came across “Who sails currachs upon the foam?” I thought of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” His iambic tetrameters are definitely reminiscent of the lyrical touch of Robert Burns. However, what I really liked about the poem was how it drew in the greater Celtic world of the past: Vercingetorix, the legendary King Arthur, the Celtic Cross, the druids, etc. And though, of course, the poem is in English, the poem sparkles with occasional Celtic derivatives, like druid, tartan and loch, with a strong Anglo-Saxon base [e.g. ground, learn, loss, foam, woad, load, grove, walk, etc.].

    Reply
  4. Sally Cook

    These are fine and disciplined poems, far above the level of what is usually seen
    What is especially interesting to me is that ability you have developed to speak simultaneously on more than one level.

    Your work is a refreshing change; you just shut the door on free verse with a firm and disciplined slam. Let’s have more!

    Reply
  5. Neal

    I overheard several highly indicative conversations, on several platforms at Future Penn Station, that Morgan Downs has a bright future writing verse –

    Reply

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