Excerpts from Cantos I and II



A Procession on Saint Martin’s Eve: Arrival 3

And then upon Saint Martin’s Eve
A blinking stream of lights
Appeared before my glazéd eyes
And, quaint, bedecked the night.

The lights were intermittent motes
Collected onto strands,
Which weaved then paused then weaved again
Across the distant land.

Each tiny bead of light a lambent
Halo held encased
Created where the points of lights
And vapor interfaced.

A soft, appealing melody
Ascended from the tress
And wafted up the hillside where
I lay to watch and rest.

My lofty isolation had
Been punctured by the flow
Of muted light and music from
A village down below.

Harmonic voice and streaming light
Beguiled me and began
To tempt my jaded spirit to
Rejoin the realm of man.

With streams of light to guide me to
The hillside-nestled town,
With hesitance and cautious heart,
I wended my way down.

My loathing for the world of man
Near prompted me to flee,
But then I spied a quaint cortege
And knew I couldn’t leave.

The children of the ville, alit
By lanterns, made their rounds
Behind a mounted warrior dressed
In faux Saint Martin’s gown.

The lanterns cast an aural light,
Which radiated grace
And washed with gentle pastel hues
Each luminescent face.

The children’s well-worn clothing bore
A coat of patch and stain,
And resewn hems trailed scuffling feet
Down poor but well-kempt lanes.

They paused each time they passed a home
To sing Saint Martin songs
Receiving glazed pâtisseries
Before they moved along.

In tones unmarred by artifice
And free of worldly care,
Their melodies rode heavenward
On silver-frosted air.

I followed in the children’s wake
About the village square
Until I spied a hooded form
That cast a haunting stare.

Adèle: Arrival 4

She knelt upon a doorstep of
A stoneclad village church;
Her eyes reflected torch-lit fire
And sparkled whilst they searched.

Her eyes were unmistakable;
I’d worshipped them before—
Unblemished rings of moistened flesh
With jadestone colored cores.

I let the children go their way
And then, suppressing awe,
Stepped gingerly in disbelief
Toward the haunting draw.

Whilst I approached, she pensively
And flushing knelt in place
And so remained when I arrived
To greet me face to face.

We neither of us spoke but rather
Scanned the other’s face
To search for any clues about
The past that it might trace—

 As well, so as to glean how might
The other’s heart react
To chancing on a long-lost love
Recouped as artifact.

We lingered so until Adèle’s
Fraught countenance changed cast
And softened when my face revealed
My answer to the last.

Myself, I waxed unstable and
Began to shed my ken;
My heart began to tremble of
Hysteria, but then—

Her mellow gaze enveloped me
And all about me glowed
Then melted down beneath my flesh
And soothed my troubled soul.

When last I’d seen her, passion warped
A maiden’s anguished face,
But now her poiséd aspect rested,
Written o’er with grace.

The sweetness and the innocence
Embodied by her face
Were such to rouse an envy as
An angel would embrace.

The texture of her supple flesh
Had ripened just beyond
The litheness of a rose in bloom
Before the blush is gone.

Her glossy lips were swollen to
The likeness of a heart,
And ivory perfection glistened
Softly in the part.

Beneath an ashen homespun hood,
Her auburn tresses fell
Cascading down above her breast
And resting on the swale.

Armed and Disarmed: Arrival 5

The soothing warmth that lulled me off
Was slowly churned to dread
By gazing on a perfect love
Arisen from the dead.

By stages woke my spellbound wit
To fight the specter’s charm;
At length, its power to lull me my
Acuity disarmed.

I girded wit and spirit to
Confront the specter of
My adoration’s object, which
Since youth I’d ever loved.

Instinctively, I grasped a tarnished
Hilt then drew my sword
To slay a demon posing as
The love I’d known before.

My nurturing of long ago
Compelled a silent prayer
That God would turn my weathered blade
On target without err.

Sustained to offer combat to
A force I knew not of,
I heard my voice speak, softly, gentle
Words to my lost love:

“Adèle, Adèle, my cherished heart,
What miracle inspires
Thy risen form before me I
Saw trussed upon a pyre?”

Saint Martin carols faded as
The celebrants recessed,
Then silence rose to silhouette
The things Adèle confessed.

She rearranged her face before
She answered what I’d asked
Then answered with such ease it seemed
She’d practiced for the task.

She drew a cleansing breath that caused
Her bosom to expand,
Then, feigning stoic mien and tone,
My dear Adèle began.

Canto II: Departure

A Love That Slumbered Deeply and a Tempest on the Horizon: Departure 1

“My flesh was spared the cleansing flames.
I’m here, as thou can see.
Forebear a while, and I’ll confess
My sins and crimes to thee.

“In near a score of years, I’ve seen
Thee once, and that the day
That I betrayed the Simple Soul
And cast my soul away.”

She drew a breath and parted lips,
Preparing to resume
What seemed a record, memorized,
Meticulously groomed.

But when she paused, the stoic mask
She wore began to slip
Revealing raw emotion that
A stricken heart equipped.

Abruptly came the change of face,
But briefly did it last,
Beginning when her voice caught up
On noticing my cast.

It seemed to catch her unawares;
Perhaps it left no mark
When earlier she strained to read
My past and then my heart.

Whatever may have been the case,
Whatever cue provoked
Her change of cast, too, creased her voice
When next it was she spoke.

“But sweet Gilbert,” she tacked away,
“How haggard be thy face,
Which wears so many jagged scars
In memory’s sweet place.

“The tender flesh I once embraced
Is hardened into stone,
And where a lithesome seedling grew,
A chiseled oak has grown.

“Yet, still my captive heart, enraptured,
Swells within my breast
O’erflowing with a tenderness
That time cannot arrest.

“For seeing thee awakens fresh
The love that slumbered deep
And dreamt these many years the dreams
That pacified its sleep.

“Our youthful days, I nestled in
Remembrance’s soft down,
And often have I let my dreaming
Heart its folds surround.

“But always doth remembrance end
The day thou rode away
To smite Dolcino’s heretics
And quash what they purveyed,

“The day thou mounted then rode forth
To win thy treasured spurs
Before the age a knight could swear
Allegiance had occurred,

“To win my parents’ hearts (who’d have
Me spliced to nobler lines)
Through feats of arms in Christ, that blood
Be trumped by deeds in fine.

“Thou knelt before me by thy steed
Before thou took thy leave
Then pressed upon my trembling hands
A verse thou penned for me.

“I held it close against my heart
And prayed that thou would stay,
But then thou took thy reins in hand
And went upon thy way.

“I watched thy precious image fade,
Unblinking whilst I stared,
Then through a blear of teardrops
Watched thee vanish into air.

“I northward looked and saw a springtime
Tempest gather strength
But reckoned I had time to moon
Before it struck at length.

“A gentle zephyr ushered me
To where our hearts were paired,
And dreamfully I followed, sensing
Rain upon the air.

The Green Cathedral: Departure 2

“I slowly turned then walked the pathway
Leading to the brook
Where, in our youth, our separate hearts,
A single beat o’ertook.

“Two sets of billowed willows lined
The banks above the stream
And filtered from the sunlight
Any harshness from its beams.

“The columns of the willows bore
An intricate relief,
Which God had crafted knowingly
With tools of vine and leaf.

“The columns’ branches vaulted up,
O’er reaching till they clave,
Enclosing stream and garden bed
Within a verdant nave.

“I lingered in the garden that
We cultured by the stream—
Our chancel where, betwixt us, we
We partook our childhood dreams—

“And where we laughed and gently played
The games that children play
Before our dreams and innocence
A savage world unmade.

“The densely knitted swallow’s songs
Retraced each other’s flow,
And in the choir re-echoed hymns
A gentle God composed.

“I laid a rose’s petals on
The grass in heart-like shape
Then placed the verse thou penned for me
Atop the silken crepe.

“The flowery altar’s sacred scent
Suffused the brookside air
With nectarous incense God had lit
To censer votive prayer.

“I prayed that God would ride with thee
And vouchsafe thy return
To recreate ourselves in me
And seal our love etern’.

“And then I opened up mine eyes
To gaze upon thy verse
And felt a rising passion that
My heart had not rehearsed.

“In days to come, thy precious verse
The north wind swept away,
But ere it did, upon my heart,
Thy love its words inlaid.”

That said, she let her eyelids fall
Upon her glittered eyes.
Then slipped into a distant dream,
Reciting whilst she cried.

So moved she was, her voice changed cast,
Assuming soulful tone
To dress an altered cadence more
Relaxed and lilting grown.
 
My frayed and tender heartstrings her
Recital gently nursed
With rhapsody of yesteryear
Whilst, touched, she quoth my verse:

Gilbert’s Poem to His Adèle: Departure 3

“Thy most gracious and beauteous being doth gleam
A vision so pristine, so pure
That the poet within me is summoned to sing,
And the beast in my heart is abjured.

“What a sonorous melody sounds in thy breast,
With tempo so faithful, so calm
That it renders the rage from a warrior’s breast
And provisions the want with its balm.

“The empyrean spice of thy soul doth exalt
The places thy presence perfumes.
Its intoxicant lulls and entices my heart
To enrapture itself on the fumes.

“Thy deft, feathery touch sets my spirit a’hum,
Like gently stroked strings on a lyre,
And elicits a tone from my heart that I’d never
Heard played, for a want of desire.

“Thy sweet innocence freshens my palate with tastes
That are delicate, choice, sublime,
And its nectarous aftertaste lingers about
With a savor that waxes with time.

“The remembrance of thee, like a mirror, reflects
The image thine essence ingrained;
Its ethereal luster on memory falls
With the softness that morning mists rain.”

Distant Vistas And Flashing Jade: Departure 4

She finished, but her jadestone eyes
Stayed shuttered whilst she wept,
And whilst they were, she knelt in grace,
Affixed upon the step.

But elsewhere did it seem her mind
Had wandered whilst she cried,
Affixed to distant vistas she
Beheld with inner eyes.

I wondered what it was she saw
That cast her in such grace,
Provoking tears of sorrow, which,
A’glisten, streaked her face.

Sweet memories and dear Adèle’s
Appearance, swathed by grace,
Combined to summon tears of joy
That long had been displaced.

I sought to summon my Adèle
From where it was she dwelled,
That I might tend with empathetic
Words the tears that welled.

“Adèle,” I wept, “Adèle, Adèle,
It’s God’s unfathomed art
That’s led my erring footsteps to
The lodestone of my heart.

“What saved thee and what fetched thee forth
Are not my heart’s concern;
Rejoice, therefore, and dry thy tear
And let thy past be spurned.”

The words I spoke scare registered
Before I saw her flinch
When pressed she close her eyelids
Ere they, flashing jade, unclenched.

And then her torso slightly moved
Most gently to and fro.
The movement waxed progressively
Until she swayed in throes.

Whilst simple, pristine grace transformed
To passion, unrestrained,
A terror struck my heart, which wit
And sense could scarce restrain.

By increments, my dear Adèle
Began to leash her throes,
And ere my heart recovered, once
Again she knelt, composed.

Whatever conflict seized her heart,
She’d managed to resolve,
And, resolute, she undertook
The tasks her heart devolved.

A brackish crust began to form
Where glistened tears had shone;
Resolved and keenly focused, she
Resumed in stoic tone:

“Again I beg forbearance, for
To stop me would be cruel.
So harken to my fable, love,
Before thou play the fool.”

Her change of face had been so stark,
So earnest, so abrupt
That, well rebuked, ’twould be some time
Before I’d interrupt.

I listened, then, with tongue a-leash
To words my heart caressed
But shuddered at, on hearing what
It was Adèle confessed:

About this poem

The poetry in the post consists of edited excerpts taken from the first two cantos a long narrative poem titled Adèle and Gilbert. The poem is a work of historical fiction set in gothic France. The narrative involves two young loves who were separated by circumstance. Each having reason to believe the other dead, over the course of twenty years, they travel separate pathways to a chance reunion on the doorsteps of a church in an obscure village. In a series of confessions, Adèle and Gilbert depict the calamities that befell them during their travels. Afterward, they unite to confront a specter risen from Adèle’s past. The poem is preceded by a prose introduction in which a fictitious super narrator provides the poem’s fictional provenance and other information pertinent to the poem. The poem includes a prose introduction, a prelude, thirty-nine cantos, and a coda. 

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Submitted by carton78 on April 09, 2023

Modified on April 30, 2023

11:46 min read
521

Quick analysis:

Scheme Text too long
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 12,288
Words 2,353
Stanzas 103
Stanza Lengths 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

D. S. Fly

D. S. Fly is a garage poet who wanted to be a storytelling poet from the time he read the Classics Illustrated version of the Iliad to write a book report in Junior High School. (That effort did not turn out well.) more…

All D. S. Fly poems | D. S. Fly Books

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1 Comment
  • Teril
    You are a wonderful storyteller. Your images are so clear, your characterization of Adele and Gilbert make them come alive, all contained in a perfectly metered poem, perfect rhyme and rhythm. I am waiting to read what Adele confessed.... 
    LikeReply1 year ago

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"Excerpts from Cantos I and II" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 22 Jun 2024. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/155809/excerpts-from-cantos-i-and-ii>.

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