Darkness and Shadows

a transcription from the French of C. F. C.

Through smiling meadows ripening into gold
And flowers engendered in new life and beauty
I wandered lithlessly. On every side
The hand beneficient of labour ruled;
And everywhere the people well content
With Nature's gifts prolific, nothing more
Desired, nor tempted Sorrow with the search
For things unprofitable, vain, obscure.
       In harmony and the celestial peace of love
They lived: and thriving reaped the fruits of toil.
They knew not envy, hatred nor despair;
Nor chained their minds to the dull misery
Of discontent, distrust and little faith.
Mercy and virtue, strength and hope were theirs;
Their minds in splendour shone alike the Sun.

       Behold however darkness seized the earth.
Darkness interminable, awful night,
And opaque shadows veiled the light of day.
Deep night like that which lay upon the seas
In the beginning of the World and Time;
Deep night that tamed the wild beasts of the field
Dismally wailing in the convert woods;
Deep night confounding into one all hues;
Deep night and endless driving men to madness,
Making them blind and sorrowful to death.

       And thereupon the multitudes began
In lamentations to reproach the Lord
With his injustice, speaking in this wise:
"Almighty, thou art good and merciful;
Almighty, we have seen and known thy love;
Almighty, we do know thee to be just.
Shew us, o Father, wherein lies our sin
That we may chastise our iniquities!
An evil hour hath meted out to us
The direct of calamities: our babes
Are borne into the world in darkness, blind.
Thou hast deprived us of the fairest gift
In thy Creation. With the breath of life
Thy love awarded us the light of day;
But life in darkness is akin to death:
And death we pray Thee grant us if the light
Hath faded from the world for evermore!"-

       It came to pass that God attended them,
And thus to the celestial Chorus spake:
"Of what doth man complain? and whence these tears?
He hath found favour in mine eyes. Behold
I have awarded him the joys of Heaven,
And cleansed his soul of its impurities.
The shadows that erewhile his mind obscured
Have I expelled and driven otherwhere."

       But Michael mindful of man's happiness
Spake answering: "Thy mercy's great, O Lord;
The shadows that erewhile man's mind obscured
Hast Thou expelled and driven otherwhere.
But lo! so numerous were these, that now
They veil the Sun, and their obscurity
Hath wrapt the world in deep and endless night."

       The Father of all Goodness, at these words,
Smiled, and his Spirit bade upon the earth
Descend. Forthwith a voice like thunder spake:

"Your vices and your sins were numberless,
Your hearts were hardened in iniquity,
Your minds darkened.- These evils were ye spared;
For I have chased the shadows, cleansed your souls.
But lo! so numerous were they, that now
They veil the Sun & their obscurity
Hath wrapt the world in deep and endless night."-

       Together cried the multitudes, one voice:
"Almighty, thou art good and merciful.
Restore our minds to darkness, but vouchsafe
The essence of our life, the light of day!"-

       And the Spirit answered: "Be it as ye will.
Behold, no longer is the Sun obscured."-

       Once more the stars shone in the firmament,
The earth and deep lay bathed in luminence,
The mind of man in night's obscurity!-

Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης

Back to [ Menu | Main Page ]