Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Rider's Quest: A Unicorn Poem

"Oh rider tell me why you ride
So endlessly, so urgently?
They ask throughout the countryside
Or if you hunt, or if you flee.
Now linger here a little while
And whisper it into my ear
The thing that drives you many a mile--
Or is it far, or is it near?"

"My gentle host, I cannot say--
I have not seen it with my eyes
Or by the common light of day
Or under any earthly guise.
I seek it, yet it seeks me too.
I seek it, yet I somehow flee.
Good host, I cannot give to you
The answer to this mystery."

"Poor rider, linger yet a while;
And warm yourself beside the fire.
We cannot live without a smile,
Enraptured by some one desire.
You miss the music of the day
You miss the poetry of night.
You must not yearn your life away--
Poor rider, what a sorry sight!"

"Dear host, the things you say are true;
The world is broad, the world is wide,
And full of wonders, old and new.
And yet-- it pales unless I ride.
The merry festivals I see
Seem merrier, the more I speed--
And the untasted revelry,
While still I ride, is sweet indeed."

"Rider, your words are strange, but fair.
The hall seems brighter while you stay.
You seem to carry some quaint air
From long ago, or far away.
Stay yet a while. And tell me true--
Is your lone quest to silence sworn?
I think I know what you pursue--
I think you chase the unicorn."

"The unicorn? Perhaps I do.
I cannot say, my gentle host.
Sometimes I fear, to tell you true,
I chase the phantom of a ghost.
I am not sworn to silence stern,
Nor do I riddle you for sport.
The thing for which I hunt and yearn
Is something of the strangest sort."

"Still stranger than the unicorn?
Oh rider, do you mock at me?
Is this a costume to be worn,
An outward show of mystery?
Perhaps you merely seek a name?
And yet-- I cannot think it so.
Oh pardon me!-- I see with shame
Your heart is purer than the snow."

"Good host, my pardon will I grant
Most readily. Your words are fair.
But mockery and teasing chant
Follow behind me everywhere.
"The man is mad", the children sing,
"He plays some trick", their mothers say.
I hardly hear their chattering.
I smile on them and go my way."

"Good rider, tell me why you stare
So keenly at that candle's flame?
I've marked you often looking there--
All candle-light is much the same.
A candle is a common thing,
A thing unnoticed by the world.
What magic has its flickering
For one on such a mission hurled?"

"Of all the things the world contains
This flame is closest to my prize.
This flicker that the world disdains
Is a kind beacon to my eyes.
Of every worldly thing the most
Unworldly is its gentle gleam.
Here is my secret, worthy host:
I seek the light seen in a dream."

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