This blog's poems are from my published poetry book Star Steeds and Other Dreams: The Collected Poems (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2009) and are © Dr Karl P.N. Shuker, 2009. Except for author-credited review purposes, it is strictly forbidden to reproduce any of these poems elsewhere, either in part or in entirety, by any means, without my written permission.

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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

THE ANGEL



Ever since childhood I have adored the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, but I have always questioned whether they were truly intended for children, as many of them seem much too complex, lyrical, and often too dark for young minds to appreciate fully. Over the years, I have adapted a number of them to yield narrative poems, including this one, which is based upon my all-time favourite Andersen story.

THE ANGEL

Day was fading like a phantom
As the evening softly drew
Spangled veils above each village,
And the moon’s pale radiance grew.
Stars lit up the sable heavens
With their softly twinkling light,
Like a host of spectral lanterns
From the valleys of the night.

But below their twilit kingdom
Flew a shining image mild –
There, an angel, bearing gently
In its lovely arms a child.
For the child had died that evening,
And the angel bore it long,
As it spoke in blissful murmurs
Like a peaceful, dulcet song:

“When a good child dies, an angel
Flits from Heaven’s golden Bliss,
And embraces long this infant
With a warm and tender kiss.
Then it spreads its wings like crescents
Soaring brightly through the sky,
And with joy it takes the infant,
As through all the world they fly,
To the lands where once this youngster
Had found Happiness and Peace,
Where they gather sprigs of flowers
Whose souls then will meet release,
And will bloom with lasting beauty
In the bliss of Heaven’s calm.
But the flower the child loved dearest
Will receive a voice of balm,
And will sing with all the angels
Each rejoicing psalm and chord
In a universal chorus
Praising ever more our Lord.”

And the youngster listened softly
In a tranquil, peaceful dream,
As they passed through lovely gardens,
Over woodland vales and streams,
To the lands in which the infant
Spent its most delightful hours,
Where they’d stay to gather bouquets
Of the most resplendent flowers.

Here they saw a fragrant rose tree,
Now forgotten, all alone.
For its stem had once been broken
When the buds were but half-grown.
Now they drooped in wilting sadness,
Though the rose was still in bloom,
So enchanting, as it waited
For its end, its final tomb.

And the child sighed long, and murmured:
“Pray, dear Angel, take it too,
So that once again, in Heaven,
It may live and bloom anew.”
And the angel kissed the infant,
As it plucked the wilted rose;
And the infant’s eyes half-opened,
For they wanted not to close.
Thus they gathered many flowers:
Some were beautiful and fair,
But amidst their sprigs, the lowly
Buttercup was also there.
And the happy child spoke softly:
“We have flowers now,” he said.
And the lovely wing├Ęd angel
Smiled, and nodded then his head.

Yet they flew not up to Heaven,
Still remaining in the town,
Which lay sleeping in the shadows
Of the evening’s dusky gown.
For they hovered long in silence
O’er a dark and narrow street
Where a rubbish pile lay, trampled
By the shoes of many feet.
And the angel pointed downwards
To a dim, deserted spot
Where a large white flower lay shrivelled
By a broken plaster pot.
For the flower had been discarded,
Thrown away and left to die.
But the angel said: “This also
We shall take, and as we fly
Up to Heaven I shall tell you
Then the story of this flower”.
So they onwards flew, as Morning
Lit the dawn’s first rosy hour

“There, below,” the angel murmured,
“Lived a sick, bedridden boy,
In a cellar where the sunlight
Was his comfort and his joy
When on crutches he could hobble
Round his tiny, darkened room,
As the sun’s caressing shaftlets
Filtered softly through its gloom.
And, when on such days he sat there,
Bony fingers thin and red
With the flow of blood within them,
“He’s been out,” his parents said.

“One fair spring, the neighbour’s youngster
Brought a leafy beech tree bough,
Which the poor sick boy would dangle
O’er his head, and wonder how
Bright and happy he would be if
He could sit beneath the trees
In the forest every summer
‘Midst the coolness of the breeze.

“Then the neighbour’s son collected
Many sprigs of springtime flowers
From the woodlands’ verdant arbours
And the valleys’ leafy bowers.
And amongst them was a white flower
With its fragile roots preserved,
Which, when watered in a plant pot,
As a small flower garden served.
Thus it flourished, sending blossom
Forth each sunny summer’s day,
And it gave him hope and comfort
In its simple humble way.
Soon it entered e’en his dreamworld,
As it bloomed for him alone.
And as e’er he watched, it seemed that
Even fairer had it grown.
For its beauty was his pleasure,
And its spirit was his breath.
And towards his flower, forever,
Still the boy turned, e’en in death.

“For a year the flower had stood there,
Lone, forgotten by the world
When the boy flew up to Heaven
Where a new World lay unfurled.
And when finally his parents
Moved away to other lands,
They forgot the drooping flower, and
So it met with stony hands,
For into the street they threw it,
Like an old and broken toy.
But the happiness and comfort
That it brought to that sick boy
Is the reason we have placed it
In our nosegay with the rest.”
And the child was filled with pleasure,
As with wonder was he blessed.

“Yet how knowest you of all this?”
Asked the small, enquiring child.
And the angel answered gently
With a murmur calm and mild:
“Every word I spoke is true, and
Now the answer I shall tell –
For I was myself that sick boy,
Yes, I know my dear flower well.”

And the infant’s eyes were opened,
Filled with Happiness and Love,
For they then, at that same moment,
Were in Heaven far Above.
And the infant, like the angel,
Now had sweeping snowy wings.
And together flew they softly
Hand in hand, in endless rings,
While, their lives renewed forever,
All their flowers bloomed full of joy.
But the happiest by far was
Still the small flower of the boy,
For it gained a voice in Heaven,
And with blessed delight it sang
With the seraphim forever
As the chimes of Heaven rang.
For the wondrous bliss of Heaven
Stretches on without an end.
And fore’er its peaceful radiance
Shall, to all, God’s message send.

But of all God’s great creations
Shaped by loving Hands of Power,
None could be more truly happy
Than that white once-withered flower,
Which sang ever to its Father,
For its joy was now complete,
Saved from Death and borne to Glory
From a dark and narrow street.

2 comments:

  1. Nice one Karl - I am sure old Andersen would have been proud, and I speak as a fellow dane, who has been raised on Andersen's tale, and who lives 5 minutes away from his tomb in one of Copenhagens largest graveyards, and a favorite haunt of mine - (lots of insects and birds - and lots of ghost stories too).

    Lars Thomas

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  2. Thanks Lars! I'm really glad that you like this, as I too was raised on Andersen's wonderful stories from an early age. I have a much-prized photo of myself standing alongside the famous Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen bay from when I visited Denmark and other Scandinavian countries one year, and I still re-read his stories today. All the best, Karl

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