Tristan John S

Writer, Filmmaker, Musician

The Parable of the Sparrow and the Willow Tree,
Being a Romance



When, on an English Autumn Day,
Bright summer having given way
In gentle courtesy, and by degrees
To cooler climates clothed in blustery breeze,
Blowing the virgin green from trees
To dress them in a colour more to please
The groom who seeketh golden hair
While russet reds are everywhere
The little stream I love doth run
Its course o’er countrysides begun
To fright with frost when night befalls
And the Eternal Spirit calls
From forth the vast expanse which yet no man
Has travelled, though he often thinks he can
Bring his dominions to that space,
And Nature lets him, in her grace.
This spirit doth announce himself
Upon the season with such wealth
That every soul in every thing
Stirreth itself and birds do sing
Who lately were in idleness
Or else a sort of readiness.
I know not – for tis hard to tell
The subtleties of every dell.
But well I know this little stream
Which first I crossed in a dream
Before we loved, before we met,
Which advent I cannot forget
For in this brook was I baptised
Into thy fellowship, surprised
I was to find you waiting there
Beneath the bough of weeping hair,
Reading Romances writ in verse
Returning to before the Curse
Which from another tree was wrought
Until the Tree our ransom bought
Ah! How the kirk upon the hill
Doth stand, a sentry, watching, still
Over the country that I love
And all her subjects who do rove
About the groves and open fields
To find what harvest may yet yield
From humble seeds that they have sown
In youth , to adulthood have grown
All laden with the fruit of faith
And other virtues they embrace
When inwardly they turn their eyes
And to the beauty in the skies
Thus in such happy mood, I, to the stream
Did go with Autumn’s blessing, and her gleam.

The bridge I cross is half of wood
(and something of that holy rood
Which bridged the chasm of our ontic spheres
Where Grace, in Love, and Mercy perseveres).
Its other property is stone
And when I ponder, here, alone,
And rest my hand upon the edge
And peer over its little ledge
To where the sedge is gathered round
The banks of violets on the ground
Surrounding leafy limbs of those
Whose fashion is the natural clothes
Of Heaven’s weaving from the sweet design
Of the Great Poet, whose Eternal rhyme
Is writ Sublimely in our eye
Perceiving our mortality
And in the bosoms of our doubts
Which are unspoken faith – without
Which there is naught to trust
And we would crumble all to dust –
It, too, is written in the clay
‘Pon which we work and rest and play
That we may wrest with our desires
And win for us celestial fires,
Not stolen on behalf of man
But granted when he learns to stand
And, eye to heaven, foot on sod
Accept the challenge of his God.
And he who would a poet be
Lifts eye from earth eternally;
His pen transmuting all his youth
Real and forgotten into present truth.
As words selected for their rhyme
Or how they fit in strictest time
To meter out his argument
Once they have learned how to relent
Secondary meanings, and rehearse
A sense implicit in his verse.
And I, now sensible to this
Looked at the bank and saw her kiss
The water with a soft embrace
Like ladies often, wearing lace,
Brush cheeks in courtesy, with friends,
According to the current trends.
And as the current gradually
Encouraged wild things by degree
To swim along her little course
There was a kindness in her force;
And last, for looking long, I crossed the bridge
And made my way towards the grassy ridge.

There, by the water’s edge I sat
And wondered which seed had begat
This tree, beneath whose lovely leaves I leaned
And closed my eyes to pray; instead, I dreamed
Of mellow mists in mild skies
Whose clouds forméd within mine eyes,
As like a child sees a shape
Which adults, who cannot escape
Their reason, cannot now perceive
The simple truths they once received
When they believed; a sort of thing
I took to be a bird – its wings,
Like arms intent stretched forth (and yet, indeed
If I could sketch those wings we’d be agreed
When we compared my hand to eye
It was a creature of the sky)
To seek, it seemed, some special friend
(Or so my Fancy did pretend).
When waking, from a drowsy dream
Half dreamt beside the little stream
The bird had new ontology
Perched in the branches of the tree.
It was a swallow and it sang
In such a lovely voice that rang
About the bank’s sweet verdant edge
Unto the violets and the sedge.
Methought I could conceive his words
But speaking not the tongue of birds
I was confined to just suppose
I knew the subject of his verse;
Twas more than ditty, for his tune
Was not the sort that men do croon
With some casual accompaniment
Indeed, it seemed more a lament;
And all this while the Willow Tree
Did drink his ardour happily
And I could feel the warmth she had
For this small sparrow; and was glad
For their communion was not slight
And as the rubies of the light
From daytide’s waning waves washed o’er
My soul as an interpreter
And turned our world into a scene
Of richest colours, as, between
The branches of the willow, came
The sun’s last trumpets; then my name
I heard the Willow speak! Then I
Discerned the Swallow’s melody
And as he flew away I knew he wept:
‘I leave my love with thee, whose love I’ve kept.’










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