Light and Earth
Most beautiful of things I leave is sunlight.
Then come glazing stars and the moon’s face.
Then ripe cucumbers and apples and pears.
Here sits the Unicorn In captivity; His bright invulnerability Captive at last; The Chase long past, Winded and spent, By the king's spears rent; Collared and tied To a pomegranate tree-- Here sits the Unicorn In captivity, Yet free. Here sits the Unicorn; His overtakelessness Bound by a circle small As a maid's embrace; Ringed by a round corral; Pinioned in place By a fence of scarlet rail, Fragile as a king's crown, Delicately laid down Over horn, hoofs, and tail, As a butterfly net Is lightly set. He could leap the corral, If he rose To his full height; He could splinter the fencing light, With three blows Of his porcelain hoofs in flight-- If he chose. He could shatter his prison wall, Could escape them all-- If he rose, If he chose. Here sits the Unicorn; The wounds in his side Still bleed From the huntsmen's spears, Yet he takes no heed Of the blood-red tears On his milk-white hide, That spring unsealed, Like flowers that rise From the velvet field In which he lies. Dream wounds, dream ties Do not bind him there In a kingdom where He is unaware Of his wounds, of his snare. Here sits the Unicorn; Head in collar cased, Like a girdle laced Round a maiden's waist, Broidered and buckled wide, Carelessly tied. He could slip his head From the jeweled noose So lightly tied-- If he tried, As a maid could loose The belt from her side; He could slip the bond So lightly tied-- If he tried. Here sits the Unicorn; Leashed by a chain of gold To the pomegranate tree. So light a chain to hold So fierce a beast; Delicate as a cross at rest On a maiden's breast. He could snap the golden chain With one toss of his mane, If he chose to move, If he chose to prove His liberty. But he does not choose What choice would lose. He stays, the Unicorn, In captivity. In captivity, Flank, hoofs, and mane-- Yet look again-- His horn is free, Rising above chain, fence, and tree, Free hymn of love; His horn Bursts from his tranquil brow Like a comet born; Cleaves like a galley's prow Into seas untorn; Springs like a lily, white From the Earth below; Spirals, a bird in flight To a longed-for height; Or a fountain bright, Spurting to light Of early morn-- O luminous horn! Here sits the Unicorn-- In captivity? In repose. Forgotten now the blows When the huntsmen rose With their spears; dread sounds Of the baying hounds, With their cry for blood; And the answering flood In his veins for strife, Of his rage for life, In hoofs that plunged, In horn that lunged. Forgotten the strife; Now the need to kill Has died like fire, And the need to love Has replaced desire; Forgotten now the pain Of the wounds, the fence, the chain-- Where he sits so still, Where he waits Thy will. Quiet, the Unicorn, In contemplation stilled, With acceptance filled; Quiet, save for his horn; Alive in his horn; Horizontally, In captivity; Perpendicularly, Free. As prisoners might, Looking on a high at night, From day-close discipline Of walls and bars, To night-free infinity Of sky and stars Find here felicity; So is he free-- The Unicorn. What is liberty? Here lives the Unicorn, In captivity, Free.