Orpheus Sings – Ropes of Sand

I saw. And in my vision walked upon a land all desolate
As though the angry powers had condemned all breathing life to die.
Except – I heard, I thought, the sound of living men ahead of me
And hurried on. To come upon a beach beside a dismal sea.

I stopped and looked. The skies were stony: harder than the rocks around
The bounds of that deserted beach.
Not so! Ahead I saw a sitting man.
I strode towards him. He did not observe me – with his back to me
Continued with his work. His mighty frame bent forwards to his toil.

I neared him. Then I saw he was so large. Could this be just a man?
He sat close by the sea, the breakers lapped his feet, unceasingly.
His massive bulk, titanic, hunched over his work. In two clenched fists
He grasped, he strove to grasp again the fickle sand between his hands.

I sat and watched. Unheeded. For this being kept upon his work.
Alone he toiled as some weak sun rolled on its path across the sky.
He labored without cease until the daylight failed. Darkness began
To fill with stars above his head. He ceased – lay back upon the beach.

I came up to his head. Both eyes were closed. He dozed, with troubled sleep.
He slowly turned his head about – both eyes still closed. Then softly spoke:
A plaintive murmur from his raggéd lips, about his bitter toil –
Of his forced labour by the sea, alone, apart: with bitter sand.

“And how shall I at last win freedom from this place? For first I must
Twist ropes from sand! Yet all the centuries teach me that this cannot be –
Until the times are changed. When comes down fire to consume this world,
To melt down every mountain. Then – and only then – will I succeed.”

I pondered. In his troubled sleep he spoke again: “And then – at last!
Celestial fires will consume these temporary elements
Into a molten sea. And then my hands will take their solid flames
To form a lash of fire with which to lash the stars down from their thrones!”

I sped away. Upon a craggy height I turned about, looked down
Upon that giant bulk. I saw twin chains reaching from under sea
Fastened upon his ankles both: enslaving him there to remain
To wake each morn: condemned another day to twisting ropes from sand.

Who is that giant man? I thought abruptly to myself. A god?
Some angel fallen? Unaccountably, the titans sprang to mind.
Prometheus – the titan bound and tortured upon mountain stones:
Was this his brother titan fettered here; to make ropes out of sand?

I woke.


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