From the Domain of Arnheim

The Domain of Arnheim, René Magritte, 1962


“And so that all these ages, these years
we cast behind us, like the smoke-clouds
dragged back into vacancy when the rocket springs –

The domain of Arnheim was all snow, but we were there.
We saw a yellow light thrown on the icefield
from the huts by the pines, and laughter came up
floating from a white corrie miles away, clearly.
We moved on down, arm in arm.
I know you would have thought it was a dream
but we were there. And those were trumpets
-tremendous round the rocks-
while they were burning fires of trash and mammoths’ bones.
They sang naked, and kissed in the smoke.
A child, or one of their animals, was crying.
Young men blew the ice crystals off their drums.
We came down among them, but of course
they could see nothing, on their time-scale.
Yet they sensed us, stopped,
looked up-even into our eyes.

To them we were a displacement of the air,
a sudden chill, yet we had no power
over their fear. If one of them had been dying
he would have died. The crying
came from one just born: that was the cause
of the song. We saw it now. What had
we stopped but joy?
I know you felt the same
dismay, you gripped my arm, they were waiting
for what they knew of us to pass.
A sweating trumpeter took
a brand from the fire with a shout and threw it
where our bodies would have been –
we felt nothing but his courage.
And so they would deal with every imagined
power seen or unseen.
There are no gods in the domain of Arnheim.

We signaled the ship; got back;
our lives and days returned to us, but
haunted by deeper souvenirs than any rocks or seeds.

From time the souvenirs are deeds.”

Edwin Morgan

First published in The Second Life (1968)


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