Professor Tarnasus In the Great Temple of Stone, Mud and Illusion, New Year's Day, 1918.
Tarnasus, in his tweeds, knelt, bowed to the salty earth
and his tartan deerstalker fell into the mud.
He apologised, unfurled his kerchief,
displayed a bluestone charm
fashioned into a dream-image – a hound of the forest.
"Do not be afraid" he said and we nodded,
cautious in our wonder, and Tarnasus nodded
back. The sky darkened; the air chilled the earth;
bird song, conducted by an unseen hand, echoed madness in the forest.
Was Tarnasus playing his old tricks again ? From the mud
An apparition rose up bearing a death-charm
for all to see. The professor pursed his lips and waved his kerchief.
Not knowing what else to do, I waved my kerchief
too. The oak forest began to tremble. Tarnasus nodded
again (several times). The excarnations (a scene of wonder) brittled with ice and charm.
"Do not show fear" said Tarnasus and invoked his most secret hymn of earth:
stone rising on stone; stone cleansed by the sweet river’s mud,
stone encircled by ancient hollows. Tarnasus raised his deerstalker in the direction of the forest.
A flash of silver and the apparition’s gutting tool drew blood. The ghost rapidly dissolved into the forest.
Still Tarnasus remained resolute. He hissed like a viper into his kerchief
staggered into the great stone mouth of the temple of mud.
These were his final moments, the time, he said, when hounds would appear,
in the unfolding dawn-light, before the great king hound crossed the earth.
The last moon-fall cast its spell; Tarnasus shivered and clawed at his charm.
At day's break, exhausted, he whispered, "Those same hounds will protect this
bark into the Baltine fires. It is their right to be here, in the forest
and in this great circular megalith, this wonderous temple of stone, earth
and illusion." So said Tarnasus extending his arms, waving his kerchief
at the horizon. The sun's rays unfolded before us and we nodded
as we had been instructed in honour of the temple and mud
before a woman emerged through the lintels, her cloak soaked by the mud -
a young druidess dressed in white, her fine hair resplendent with charms.
We raised our hands in praise of her and sang Tarnasus’ earth hymn, nodded
Once again, the sweet scent of the trees in the forest
Carrying the spirit of Tarnasus skywards, his face covered with his kerchief.
The druidess blessed us with libations, the musk of new earth.
And we nodded, smeared our faces with mud
Gave thanks to the earth, as each kissed the bluestone charm
Then bore Tarnasus to the forest, waving our kerchiefs.