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Darius, by tirnanog

For Darius

Few now living can remember
the warrior that you were
how you rode across the steppes from the Ural Mountains
long hair flying in the wind
gray eyes turned towards the distant ocean
bent on the conquest of all that lay between
nameless now and numberless
the lives and lands your armies laid to waste
with torch and axe, spear and sword
in a fearful passage of death
you might have ruled for a thousand years
but for one man who barred the way
by whose death the taker of life was taken
illuminated and transformed
and in that ending found not an end
but a beginning

We who came after found a quiet man
the gentle priest in robes of friar's brown,
teaching the ways of peace on Holy Ground
and sharing your wisdom over cups of strange tea
a warrior still, you slaughtered us at chess
left us our heads but won our hearts
beside your fire we laid aside our swords
to listen to the words of one who knew
the greatest wars are fought within the mind and soul
and ideas are the most powerful of weapons
in time we left you, and you wished us peace
but we had grown to depend on your guidance
we thought you would always be there, waiting
in your time-battered chapel of the holy wells
a fixed point like the pole star, never changing
and so we set our courses by your light
sure it would lead us back someday

But now Saint Julien's holy wells are dry
their mouths are stopped with earth and stone
their healing waters, your healing hands, are gone
the sanctuary where you once prayed
echoes strangers' voices, nothing more
in your chamber, dusty chessmen keep the vigil now
your books are closed, your fire no longer burns
yet something of your spirit lingers still
within these walls that sheltered you so long
and in our hearts, that were forever changed
by your serene example and your love
a guiding presence like an inner star
to light our way, and lead us home


Drawing and poem are copyright ©1997 by tirnanog and may not be reproduced without permission.

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(This page last updated 07/04/2003)

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