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Tony Roberts

Warkton Village




I see the spring lambs,

the parish church,

the stone dwelling places

with their secret gardens,

sculpted in the slanting light

of the late afternoon sun,

lit in its gentler, kinder colours.


In this place

there is a quiet loveliness:


I did not notice this in the morning

nor at high noon,

and there is now little time.




I imagine

the blazing colours of a star cloud

In the Magellan Cluster.


Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini

Hosanna in excelsis


I believe

that we are already among the stars,

that there is a deeper self

cradled in eternity,

safe from earthly turbulence.


But I am also a man,

incarnate in flesh and blood

and I have songs unsung.


Grant that I may find

my own secret garden,

my true dwelling place,

here on earth,

as it is in Heaven.






you see an oasis:

water in the desert.

And only then


uncover what you,

In your pain,

had long since forgotten  -

your parched, desperate thirst.



you see a doorway,

built only for you, perhaps:

And only then


do you remember

your heartache,

and yearn to return

             to where you truly belong.








A summer’s afternoon

in the New Forest,

travelling to visit

the Canadian Cross

where the troops worshipped

before the D-day landings


        The deep, ultimate importance

        of these men, each of them.


The light reflects and refracts off the leaves:

all is dreamy, drowsy.

Shadowed against the sun,

two children bicycle towards us.


And then without warning...


        What if, from birth onwards,

        I had completely misunderstood

        what was happening around me?

        The language that was being spoken,

        the plot of the play?

        What if there had always been

        a deeper meaning,

        the real meaning

        that I had failed to grasp?


The moment passed:

passed along with the carefree cyclists

and the sunlit lane.


But I shall always remember

those whispers in the sunshine,

when I was invited -

by whom I do not know -

to believe that there is a cosmic choreography

in which we too are participating

dancers and actors,

perhaps only beginning to decode

the words that we may ourselves

unknowingly speak.



Jack and the Old Man  



(Inspired by Old Man, by Elizabeth Jennings.)



It was on the night of All Souls

That Jack had his dream

about his meeting with the Old Man.


He had found himself

in some surreal casino

brightly lit, a hall of mirrors

where with cards, and dice

and spinning wheels,

he spent his long life

playing the tables in vain,

despairing of ever

beating the faceless bank,

despairing of ever

escaping from this prison.


And then, perchance, he espied

The spiral staircase,

that led down

Into the dark.

And so,

like Dante without his Virgil

like the oblivious Fool at the cliff’s edge

he descended.




To find himself

in a darkened underworld,

where no sound penetrated

from the world above,

where all reference points were gone.


And it was here that he met,

face to face,

the Old Man

sitting silently on his throne,

trailing his shadow against the wall.

                             A face with dignity

tragic yet serene

reminding him perhaps

of a bronze St. Michael

risen from the rubble

of a ruined city,

triumphant over Lucifer

and now at peace,

above the battle,

beyond earthly turbulence.


And Jack spoke to the Old Man,

the better to understand

the reason for this synchronistic meeting,

searching for meaning

searching for some meaning to be gleaned,

some dignity to be found,

some anodyne for him and

his lost loves,

his lost horizons,

his troubled, botched life.


       Why am I here -

       was it you who sent for me?


asked Jack

You are here as part of your journey,

for sooner or later, everyone descends

       the spiral staircase.


and so he asked


       How have you managed to be

       so tranquil in your silences?’


and the Old Man replied

I long ago made peace with my shadow,

my past self that you see

painted on the wall.

I made peace with my ego-enhancing triumphs

I made peace too with my failures and losses

and in time,

                                    I learnt to watch my past life

                                    with equanimity,

to become the still centre point

beyond action,

allowing the Spirit of Tranquillity

       to descend.


And Jack wondered


       Who are you.,

       that you speak thus?


and the Old Man replied:


You and I are the same person.

       I am the one that you might

one day become

when you again make the descent

and uncover me,

the Wise One

deep inside yourself.

For my deeds are your deeds

my shadow is your shadow

my past is your past

my destiny is your destiny.

And I am with you always

in your search for Deliverance..


With this, the Old Man vanished.


Jack began his climb upwards;

and as he climbed

he felt that he was not alone

and that thereafter,

there would always be

a shadowy companion,

his Guardian Angel

accompanying him,


He climbed,


on and upwards through

the deserted gambling halls,

those erstwhile

caves of illusion,

and eventually emerged,

in that domain

where dream and wakefulness coexist -

through the small door

that was created only for him,

to behold the crisp clear night sky

with the stars

in their wheeling constellations.



                                                January 2007


                             Notes on sources:


                             “….where no sound penetrated from the world above”

See Wilfred Owen: Strange Meeting: “Where no guns thumped or down the flues made moan”



“…his troubled, botched life”. See Herman Hesse: Knulp. In the final pages God and Knulp review the latter’s ‘botched life’.



“……through the small door”. In Peter Weir’s film The Truman Show the hero finally exits through a small door into the real world



“…that was created only for him”. See Kafka The Trial: chapter entitled ‘In the cathedral’, where K is told “This door was meant only for you….”




with the stars

in their wheeling constellations”

see Dante’s Divine Comedy: “And thus ascending we beheld the stars”


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