• Published 13th Jul 2012
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The Six Deeds of Harmony - Defoloce


A poem of a knight's quest to earn love. Written in iambic pentameter.

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The Deed of Charity

──────THE DEED OF CHARITY──────

earto the ragged edge of all the world
Be found the wood which gave life to the first,
And, in the time e’en when the firmament
Was being paint’d, vigil there was stood.

The canopies of older ways brought hush
To what perception would lean on the Sky,
In stead a litany from priestesses
Who hold their masses for the moss and leaves.

Cadenza and the knight came to the deer
At last in darkness, shrouded from the moon,
A grasping dimness, eager in its move,
Bay’d off by but the lambent fungi there.

In close humility was Cervinox
Wrought by the deer to shelter them in sleep,
Appointing naught but beds of hay beneath
The hollow’d, hallow’d brush of laurel-trees.

“That we should brook the steel brought to us now!”
Came soft a voice out from the stuff of trees.
“The iron in it doth distress the blood
Of life and of our whispering surround.”

Cadenza laughed and turned to make a meet.
“How greatly must an image be a-loft
Ere one would courseth far to vitiate
And to be nuisance on thy purities!”

The she-deer seem’d to be material
Brought out from nature’s leafèd womb itself.
“We mind thee long, O princess, and we fret,
For aught has beck’d thee here to Cervinox.”

“A prayer delivers us, and we do call,”
Said plain the Goddess Love. “One of thy kind
Hath pierced above with woe the canopy
And sung a strain unto the hearking Sky.“

Thenceward to the knight she made regard:
“The Sun and Moon prescribe what we proscribe!”
She said with laughter, bitterly to give.
“Be his life less than that which summon’d thee?”

“Let us to her,” the knight at last did speak,
“And let us make this errand’s measure sure
In what must be prescribed to see it well,
My life not more, nor less, but for the deed. “

“She mourneth out her love, so have a care,”
Said stern the doe, “and mark her cheek so stain’d
By tears of yearning for deliverance
But withal wishing vengeance for the same.”

Their coursing through the wood kept brief, and yet
A ling'ring wrong the knight did keenly mark:
Though there were does and fawns as they pass’d on,
Not for a single stag he made to see.

The doe lead them out to a dappled hill,
And thereupon the crown a maiden lay,
Close as much to the moon as she might be
Ere sorrows drown her or her soul be burn’d.

The princess of the heart was struck to stone
To see in that a-pitied mortal soul
A loss come only by the greatest greed,
A foundering of spirit none might still.

She lay beside brought their faces close:
“I pray thee speak to me, my maiden lorn,
And give to words what wretchings sicken now
A heart unto its shrinking. Be it death?“

The maiden doe, in weeping, gave her tale:
“My Princess Love, what sateth avarice?
Resolve us better, death, than what befalls
Our people, who are given up as feed!
A chitt’ring hunger bleeds out from the earth,
A sickly darkness, black, like flesh made rot
And made again to live. We name it not,
But still it takes its power as it would
To cast a lang’rous restlessness on us.
My heart and hart, to whom I plighted troth,
Is now the object of its cursèd wont
And will, this selfsame day, be offer’d up
Unto the board of greed, where it shall feast
Upon his love ‘til naught remains for me,
Not e’en his breath, or beating of his heart.”

The knight paced back and there looked to his host.
“A matter sapping what doth found us all!
Perforce, this be a matter sure of death,
For death be dealt where love hath stolen off.”

Cadenza made to stand. “Down to the quick
Of mine own soul are these wounds made!
That I, or One who is the Goddess Love
Ever could brook a misery as this!“

“I see now what the deed would have of me,”
Spake knight as he marked out the royal words.
“In love, I am a vessel like to him,
And scarce discernment will this hunger have
For whosoever giveth it repast,
Save sole for repast given up in sooth.
This deed be yet the deed of Charity,
Of giving from the self a treasured boon
Out ready to another’s needfulness.
My soul’s for valour, and in Charity
Be valour ever seated for the need.
I will become the feast in thy hart’s stead
An low is my wish brought in failure.”

The maiden then could not make out his met,
And so did lay bemused within her grief.
“Wouldst thou give up thy life? For there’s naught else
Assuaging what the morrow brings to us.”

His voice took on its full gentility.
“Investiture be mine, but heraldry
Eludes those who doth not value the true
And truelike power of a given gift.”

“I mark thy ends,” spake Love, “but too thy means,
And I do find thy prize too richly bought;
Howsoever may't bless the deer with joy,
A sorrow for another blancheth hope.”

To it his nostrils flared, so cried he out
“An such a given knight would not so lief
Give up as I would, let him to his shame
Where sullen comforts drain upon his wit.“

Love fretted and put out a hoof to him.
“A love doth wait for thee, mind thy reserve!
A life now up for life! There are more shoots
Upon this bough to smell than at thy nose!“

The knight stood ‘fore the deer-maid and gave bow.
“Present me there, upon the darkest door,
To take the stead of thy belovèd hart
And fill a trust that Charity is come.”

“Thou art a doughty pony, verily,”
Spake soft the doe, “and though ‘tis not the wish
I have for any creature with a heart,
Thy strict commission serveth out my will.”

They made a way, and Love brought low her ears,
As though a-ready weeping for the knight
Who, in a fever for his own account,
Would dash a love to save a love in turn.

Anon the clouds took up before the moon,
And with the shroud the forest turn’d to ink,
A pitch on eyes, a pall on latent moods
Which taketh up the shape of quiet pains.

In grim procession each took on their pace,
The maiden juring not a lighter thought
For what old unity would be repair’d
By that, the hollow Charity she had.

Cadenza so besought him on the path:
“Stay up thy met, for Magick yet remains!
Hast thou but for the moment? What of me,
Or of thy unicorn whose passions steer
A heart to duty? Would that heart so heed
A wailing stick of pride which ushers thee
To boundless ruin ere another way
Could scarce present itself? Thy bravery
Doth move athwart the deed in this, I say.
What might turn thee while keeping thee a-course?
A place thou backwards walks unto be still
A place thou reacheth, an thy steps be wise.”

“The time betrays us, though I hear thy words,”
Replied the knight to Her. “Should o’erlong
We cogitate the act, we will but fail,
With Charity the hostess of our shame.”

“By rash or reason wilt thou see it done,
O knight, and therewith give to her her mend,
But close, I counsel thee, what to thine own,
That what thou givest here be thine to give?”

“Thou speakest now of mine own unicorn,
And of a fancied pledge to stay me well
Which hath no purchase but in missing dreams,
For I am task’d to valour, forthright all.”

The briars yawn’d before them then, a sore
Erupted of its humours, yet un-knit,
A poxy cicatrice upon the earth
To make the knight and maiden shy their sense.

“The soil here doth tell me of its curse!”
Cried out the knight. “No craft of nature, this,
Nor of the deer who quaver at its loom!
What steäls up the love of Cervinox?“

“This nest of swords! This tangle of spear-heads!”
There spat the doe, as venom she would give.
“Fast doth it here avail Chaos’s bride,
A creature ichorous of wilful wants!“

Cadenza then espied the lonesome stag,
Recumbent on an altar wrought of jade.
His eyes were shut, no vigour in his legs,
So he seem’d to all eyes to be in death.

“We’re come too late!” lamented out the doe.
“The fright hath took him, or some fouler thing,
And here, the trophy of our witlessness!
O hated beast that sups upon our love!“

The knight expressed his incredulity.
“This crow be not for carrion, methinks,
But for the beats and breaths of life which cast
In whispers short the magicked words of love
And give rise to the meal; verily,
For only those in love, and masculine,
Do set a happy table for the beast.
Such as I am, my purpose is made clear:
That I am wish’d to be charitable
By goodly Harmony, as I have spoke,
With guessing to my value ere this night.
My precious ladies, take thee up the hart
And hie him then to safety, leaving me.”

“A-ready have I made mine argument,”
Said soft Cadenza while they took the stag,
“And thou dost reck me not, so in its turn,
I’ll weather not thy gross temerity.“

The doe pointed a dainty cloven hoof.
“Herenow it issues forth betimes, alas!”
Thence slither’d out a magick, sickly vert,
As like unto a serpent seeking game.

“I’ll let it find me,” said then the knight to them,
“And take me where it will, for love’s its wont,
Not rather creatures dead, which cannot love;
But hasten thee, and steal thee hence away!”

The magick presently divined him out;
And, staying not to find its sureness first,
Assaulted on the knight where he did stand,
Enveloping him in a wretchèd fog.

The princess and the deer, forgotten so,
Brought out from danger, back to darken’d glades
Beneath the canopy to take their rest.
Cadenza, strick’d, cast eyes back to the dark.

The knight heard aught inside his fever’d head,
A she-voice sonorous and faintly splayed
By years of hunger. Twisting as he did,
Adrift in endless green, he heark’d to her.

“No deer-flesh, this! but I shall not aggrieve,
For lo, I do taste out the tincture “love”
Which I lust after, finding naught which plain
Affronts me, so I’ll take him to my board.”

The sticking green abated not a whit,
Kept to its furnishment of prisoners
Or slaves, more of the like, who gave her life
And from whom life was taken e’er in greed.

“I count thee mighty, handsome one of steel!”
The voice, like honey, sugared in his ear.
“Give up thy senses, pray! and worship me
Instead of her, whoever ‘she’ might be.”

Nobility had melted like a rime
Met powerf’ly by zephyrs from the gulf,
Left for the knight no recourse to resist,
In stead he lay awash in deeping draws.

“Look only unto me, my precious one!”
Spake on the soothing, souring matron’s voice,
“Surrender up all adulation here,
That I would visit to thee endless joy.“

The knight saw there a beauty far beyond
What nature might allow a mortal shape;
I’faith, the fairness lit on horrors true
For shapeless was what had him in her thrall.

“Chaos, my benefactor, brings me here,”
She said, “and bade me take their love as due
A royalty like mine, a queen of swarms!
That I should find a pony gladdens me,
For deer-love be too timid in its taste—
It cloys of safety, seeking naught but rote
And simple sanctuary. But for thy love
Be boldness at the place beneath the heart!
Thou art afield, and far from what thou keepst,
And absence breedeth fondness, as is said,
So shall my brood and I now relish thee!”

All thews, and thought, and movement had been struck
Away from what the knight could there command.
A chitinous morass out from the black
Did clamber up and set upon his form,
The sea of eyes in rheumy blues and greens
Seem’d two at once a legion, and a sole
Behemoth ‘jured from hellish thoughts which moved
Like fish within a school, possessed of but
A single will, a siren’s call to dine.
He writhed in joyous agony to be
So drawn and yet so wanted for the might
A-round his heart, a fortress where within
The love he held true for his unicorn
Could only cower as the walls were dash’d.

Far thence in safety did the doe and stag
Take up repose; Cadenza, for her part,
Could make no rest, for wickèd haunts abode
Within the scape of her dominion Love.

“Mine ears are harrow’d by what can’t be heard
But still has register for goddesses
So task’d to be its bearers. Goodly deer,
I must stay up my gladness yet in this.“

The maiden nodded. “So then should it be stay’d!
This covetousness ever would have us
And seek us, serpentine within its hunts,
To come again anon. O Goddess Love,
And princess of the morning sky a-side,
We of the gentle land of Cervinox
Shall suffer not to see a kin in hooves
So given up to what accosteth us—
I’faith, he has upon him all the eyes
And ire of the wood, so be he back’d.
How could I long enjoy a selfish peace
With ken such that a sister soon will come
To famine in a like to mine? I can’t!
Take thee us up, O princess, to beset
From all points; ev’ry leaf is with thee here,
Each twig, to name the very last, would fly,
Each tree would bow against the wind in strife
To vie for victory immaculate.
The peoples of fair Cervinox would purge
The evil which resolves to make us lean,
Like tallow’s sure retreat from candle-flame,
Let it be burnt away! It sups on love,
So let us see its tongue alight on hate.“

“My peace to thee!” said there the princess back.
“I brook no hatred; neigh, not even for
A springtime snow which breaketh willow-trees.
But thou hast wisdom—we must have aught done.”

The stag then spoke: “My princess beauteous,
Our foe’s a fever on the loving soul,
To cautious whisper in a language green
Which bindeth up the mind. His doom be nigh!“

“So rouse!” cried out Cadenza, “Rouse the deer,
And, in their passage, they unstuff the phial
Of righteous edict: ‘get thee gone, thou scourge;
Else starve from us!’ And give a bitter draught.“

They all then stood and join’d Cadenza to,
But not in acrimony, rather love,
A love of courage and of precious things.
The maiden who had summon’d them then spake.

“Yea, sooth! None of us gave in Charity,
But sole in fear and fearfulness for life
That never would enow have been taken
To satisfy cold Chaos in His courts.“

The growth did swallow them before Her eyes,
Away to sore entreat their kindred, boons
So needed for the forest there to clash
At terrors fell and searching in the mist.

To all the corners of the deer-lands flew
Resolve unstinted, galvanised by what
True Charity the ponies brought to them,
The lash of grim appeasement broken out.

“But I am one a-part,” spake She alone,
“And now the deed be mine to see so done,
For as the knight hath given Charity,
Mine own for It is to have him quest on.”

She took her course and gallop’d back unto
The thorny barrow where the knight had gone.
She found the altar bare of any life
Or any vessel for it, so she pressed.

The daggers of the thatch tore at her wings,
The unwell coils of brambles sought her crown
To be pluck’d from her head, yet on she braved,
Heedless bound in for the sanctum’s maw.

All thought and breath was stole away from Her
As She beheld the measure of the ill:
A vast and reaching chamber of he-deer
Suspended in a viscous salivate
The hue of tainted emeralds in black.
A-cross the gloom’d expanse in legions dwelt
The changelings, insect-ponies which take shapes
To shamble in periphery of those
They would devour. Though She could not mark
The knight, cares did She harbour for the stags
Who curled upon themselves like babes in sleep,
Their shrivel’d souls tormented by the scrape
Of stark rapacity. Her horn then shone
Sky-blue, the shade of what She heraldeth
Betwixt the Night and Day, and out was loosed
A lance of magick, seeking up to-ward
The heavens, piercing through the bleakest scape.
The moon was setting, and the sky took on
The colour of Her coat, tinged violet
At fringes like Her wings. The changelings cowed,
For Love Herself was come amongst them now,
And She would not be challenged for her charge.

They parted for their queen, a hollow thing,
Gave flight by gossamer cicada-wings
And sight by demon-eyes, both foul in get
As she appraised the nascent goddess there.

“What filly be this?” said she, “This, who dares
Pretend at me and breaketh up the fine!
Thou comest here to simper, or to treat,
Or to bargain, mayhap, for what I’ve won?”

“Thou takest much in tribute from the deer,”
Spake firm Cadenza, “and now from my knight—
Yea, verily, too much, as I account.
Thy board of soften’d hearts doth bloat the cups
Of balance, making out to be consumed
What should not ever destroyed, i’faith.
I ken that thou and thine must feed, but pray!
The forest-land of Cervinox beyond
Be now a spectre, life forbidden there
To breed as thou grows ever strong from it.
Away, away, my changing-queen, away!
Thou tarry'st here too long, and maketh blight
Upon the peaceful, who might be thy friends!

Her cackle gnaw’d upon the swimming hope
Which foundered then, so taken with the ebb
Of innocence. “How now, concerneth me
With this? Prithee, what need have I for friends?“

The Goddess of the Heart and Dawn spake thus:
“Love’s to be shared in its menagerie,
Not to be guarded like a dragon’s hoard,
For ever jealous, keeping it so close
That life be stolen from it as would prey!
An couldst thou find a Harmony with them,
There would be bounty for thee, not a scourged
And salt’d land, sank of its worth,
Which coughs thee out to find another prize!
I am the Love Herself, I boast it not,
Save for my simple ventures. I am She
Who knows apace what due capacity
Love hath for thee, and all unhappiness
Which could be here erased but for thy will.
I wish for even thee to take what Love
Is due, as is my get, for all need Love,
Forsooth; Love be prelude to life itself!
An there be here a dearth of Charity,
The deer to thee, or thou to them in turn,
No gladness ready will be come to here.
We all would be friends, close in Harmony,
Yet would we not give first in Charity?
The deer availeth thee no more their harts;
They would instead see thee to death with them
In fasting where a plenty could have been.“

“Thy words are crystalline; they would seem fair
But lo! how easily they shatter out
Upon a reason’d hardness. This be mine;
As I did take it, quick prosperity
For what it is, and charitable deer
Afford me little to mine own designs.
I culleth more, yea, ever more to me!
Mine hunger knoweth, then or now, no end,
As I would conquer, swallowing the world,
Could I but conjure it! And Charity?
Naught could I e’er present but misery
And bleating fawns lamenting what is lost
Which I, i’faith, give gladly unto them.
They will not offer to me? So be it,
I will but take them, and sup all the same!“

Cadenza stood, so haloed by the morn.
“O insect-queen, thou art the soul of Greed,
And hence wilt thou find but a famine here;
Begone! an thou dost value fortune fair.”

The she-beast snorted, pawing at the earth,
With hooves made mockery of pony-kind,
A body eaten through by scarcity.
Her fangs were needles, and her eyes a void.

The alicorn before her was a foe
Drawn up in holy splendour, challenging
At triäls she could not contend in strength.
She languish’d there in scorn for but a breath.

“A daughter of my daughters’ daughters’ brood,
In times of by and by when all is changed,
Will visit Thee and take from Thee Thy love,
And bring him to her ruinous delights.”

The princess gave rebuke: “So might it be,
“And not for simple venery, methinks,
But sowest thou no fear within My breast,
For I am mighty, and My Love the same.”

The swarm ascended, no words giving forth
From queen or subjects breaking out to dawn,
The dirge of wings imparting Her its curse,
But great Cadenza hearkened not to it.

So Love excised from ev’ry stag within
The membranes of the foul, and back to light,
The green of pure consumption now the pink
Of young and growing day-time, to the last.

The knight She freed as well, and he was low,
Yet not remorseful, for he had his deed,
And he had served out gladly from his heart.
He took his counsel as Cadenza bid.

“Thou seest it, knight, the way of temperance,
And how the virtue can be made a vice
By way of better ends. Again I mark
Thy readiness, and yea, thy Charity,
Yet in far duties be a stronger pull, at times,
Petitioning thy hooves to tread in place
But for a moment to bring potency
Unlooked-for to thine acts: true Charity!
Thou didst deliver one back to his doe,
But now all are deliver’d, as we would.“

The knight’s proud ears betrayed his mood and sank.
“I bring myself to penitence for this,
A rashness in my conduct, meaning good
To be so done, but counting short my worth.”

“Thy worth be not alone in valour, sir,”
So shrove the goddess, “nor in temperance,
But in the treacherous scape of the two,
Where they, with others, make the knight I see.”

“And I see victory!” whinnied the knight.
“My brave companion, now my saviour, come!
Let us see now the harts to their appoint
Within the glades where they shall reunite.”

The forest grew the greener for the joy
That morning, not the changeling-green of sick,
But rather bright and budding greens of health
In earth and grass, which deer are to attend.

The Chaos had been struck, but still affirmed
To take His glories and make sport of them.
His reach was long; His gaze was longer still,
As all portents would fall upon His claw.

The Day gave up to glad solemnity
Befitting ones of earth as knight and deer
Who rapt did move across the wound to mend
Unholy thorns left in the scourge’s wake.

With gifts of food apportioned ‘twixt them both,
The knight and princess fared the deer-folk well
And struck to forests of the Æther-Free,
The land bereft of Magick, where none trod.

Cadenza’s star shone brighter ever on
From all the Love return’d to Cervinox,
A goddess young, a friend who saved a knight,
And gave, as Charity, part of his quest.

Author's Note:

Yes, I'm alive, and I have been for quite some time now!

Now that my 100,000-word story is done and dusted, I mean to get back to seeing Six Deeds to its end. Thanks to everyone who's hung in there and patiently waited for me to get back to it. Hope you enjoy!