Once a Paladin

Music: Fugue from the Fantasie and Fugue in d minor.
By Max Reger. Sequenced by Sergei Winitzki at
Kunst der Fuge.

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Copyright by
Nicholas Gordon

Once a paladin
Rode into mountains
Seeking himself
Among barren stones.

He was a spring
Covered by fountains,
Or an immortal elf
In a dungeon of bones.

Long he rode weary
Through high mountain passes
And deep, lonely canyons
Untouched by the sun.

Long he rode dreary
'Mid snow-covered masses,
His dreams for companions,
And still he rode on.

Yet he found nothing
That matched his ambition
To see himself naked
Of what was not him:

That singular something
Beyond all condition,
The soul he'd forsaken
For life's daily din.

He came on a hermit
Praying in shadow,
Unmoving for hours
In the early spring cold;

His hut near a summit
In a high mountain meadow
Covered with flowers,
Red, white, and gold.

Finally moving,
He turned towards the paladin,
Blank as a snowfield,
Silent as space;

The soul simply choosing
To pass its brief time within,
Steadfastly sealed
Behind its locked face.


"Good Sir," said the paladin,
"Long have I wandered
In search of the soul
That somehow I lost.


"My life has been sin,
My brief moment squandered,
Yet I would be whole
Regardless of cost.


"O holy man,
Show me the truth
Known to those few
At being's bright core!


"And, if you can,
Yourself be the proof,
For I would be you --
I ask nothing more."

The hermit then opened
His eyes wide as saucers.
Behind them was emptiness,
Nothing at all.

Sheer nothingness beckoned
Like death 'neath life's wonders,
The absolute stillness
That makes the flesh crawl.


"O God!" shrieked the paladin,
"Heaven, please save me!"
And down from the mountains
He fled on his steed;

Back towards profusion,
The commerce that daily
Surrounds the great fountains
That simple springs feed.

Back, back to the world
Of passion and plunder
The paladin raced
Away from that sight

Of a self self-dissolved
In the truth that lay under
The truth -- just a taste
Of the cold, waiting night.

Nor did he ever
Recover from seeing
That vision of nothingness
At being's heart.

Alas! He could never
Embrace his own being,
And so performed graceless
His pitiful part.

Copyright by Nicholas Gordon




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