J Walking

I don’t know what had me thinking about this poem but I was thinking about it. Just simple and bemusing and funny and poignant.

The Late Passenger

The sky was low, the sounding rain was falling dense and dark,
And Noah’s sons were standing at the window of the Ark.

The beasts were in, but Japhet said, ‘I see one creature more
Belated and unmated there come knocking at the door.’

‘Well let him knock,’ said Ham, ‘Or let him drown or learn to swim.
We’re overcrowded as it is; we’ve got no room for him.’

‘And yet it knocks, how terribly it knocks,’ said Shem, ‘Its feet
Are hard as horn–but oh the air that comes from it is sweet.’

‘Now hush,’ said Ham, ‘You’ll waken Dad, and once he comes to see
What’s at the door, it’s sure to mean more work for you and me.’

Noah’s voice came roaring from the darkness down below,
‘Some animal is knocking. Take it in before we go.’

Ham shouted back, and savagely he nudged the other two,
‘That’s only Japhet knocking down a brad-nail in his shoe.’

Said Noah, ‘Boys, I hear a noise that’s like a horse’s hoof.’
Said Ham, ‘Why, that’s the dreadful rain that drums upon the roof.’

Noah tumbled up on deck and out he put his head;
His face went grey, his knees were loosed, he tore his beard and said,

‘Look, look! It would not wait. It turns away. It takes its flight.
Fine work you’ve made of it, my sons, between you all to-night!

‘Even if I could outrun it now, it would not turn again
–Not now. Our great discourtesy has earned its high disdain.

‘Oh noble and unmated beast, my sons were all unkind;
In such a night what stable and what manger will you find?

‘Oh golden hoofs, oh cataracts of mane, oh nostrils wide
With indignation! Oh the neck wave-arched, the lovely pride!

‘Oh long shall be the furrows ploughed across the hearts of men
Before it comes to stable and to manger once again,

‘And dark and crooked all the ways in which our race shall walk,
And shrivelled all their manhood like a flower with broken stalk,

‘And all the world, oh Ham, may curse the hour when you were born;
Because of you the Ark must sail without the Unicorn.’

~C.S. Lewis, Poems, “The Late Passenger” (1948)

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