5. Godbluff

The Undercover Man

Here at the glass – all the usual problems,
all the habitual farce.
You ask, in uncertain voice, what you should do
as if there were a choice
but to carry on miming the song
and hope that it all works out right.
Tonight it all seems so strange –
my spirit feels rigid,
my body deranged;
still that’s only from one point of view
and we can’t have illusion between me and you,
my constant friend, ever close at hand –
you and the undercover man.
I reflect: 'It’s very strange to be going
through this change
with no idea of what it’s all been about
except in the context of time…’
Oh, but I shirk it, I’ve half a mind
not to work it all out.
Is this madness just the recurring wave
of total emotion,
or a hide for the undercover man,
or a litany – all the signs are there
of fervent devotion –
or the cracking of the dam?

It’s cracked; smashed and bursting over you,
there was no reason to expect such disaster.
Now, panicking, you burst for air,
drowning, you know you care
for nothing and no-one but yourself
and would deny even this hand which stretches out
towards you to help.
But would I leave you in this moment
of your trial?
Is it my fault that I’m here to see you crying?
These fantom figures all around
you should have told you,
you should have found out by now,
if you hadn’t gone and tried to do it all by yourself.

Even now we are not lost: if you look out
at the night
you’ll see the colours and the lights seem to say
people are not far away, at least in distance,
and it’s only our own dumb resistance
that’s making us stay.
When the madness comes, let it flood on down
and over me sweetly,
let it drown the parts of me weak and blessed
and damned,
let it slake my life, let it take my soul
and living completely,
let it be who I am.

There may not be time for us all to run
in tandem together –
the horizon calls with its parallel lines.
It may not be right for you to have and hold
in one way forever
and yet you still have time,
you still have time.

Scorched Earth

Just one crazy moment while the dice are cast,
he looks into the future and remembers
what is past,
wonders what he’s doing on this battlefield,
shrugs to his shadow, impatient,
too proud yet to kneel.

In his wake he leaves scorched earth
and work in vain;
smoke drifts up behind him – he is free again,
free to run before the onslaught of a deadly foe,
leaving nothing fit for pillage,
hardly leaving home.
It’s far too late to turn, unless it’s to stone.
Charging madly forward, tracks across the snow,
wind screams madness to him, ever on he goes
leaving spoor to mark his passage,
trace his weary climb.
Cross the moor and make the headland –
stumbling, wayward, blind.
In the end his footprints extend as one single line.

This latest exponent of heresy is goaded
into an attack,
persuaded to charge at his enemy.
Too late, he knows it is, too late now
to turn back,
too soon by far to falter.
The past sits uneasily at his rear,
he’s walking right into the trap,
surrounded, but striving through will and fear.
Ahead of him he knows there waits an ambuscade
but the dice slip through his fingers
and he’s living from day to day,
carrying his world around upon his back,
leaving nothing behind but the tell-tale
of his track.

He will not be hostage, he will not be slave,
no snare of past can trap him,
though the future may.
Still he runs and burns behind him
in advanced retreat;
still his life remains unfettered –
he denies defeat.
It’s far too late to turn, unless it’s to stone.
Leave the past to burn – at least
that’s been his own.

Scorched earth, that’s all that’s
left when he’s done;
holding nothing but beholden to no-one,
claiming nothing, out of no false pride,
he survives.
Snow tracks are all that’s left to be seen
of a man who entered the course of a dream,
claiming nothing but the life he’s known
– this, at least, has been his own.


Stub towers in the distance, riders the blasted moor
against the horizon
Fickle promises of treaty, fatal harbingers of war,
futile horisons
swirl as one in this flight, this mad chase,
this surge across the marshy mud landscape
until the meaning is forgotten.
Hood masks the eager face, skin stretched
and sallow,
headlong into the chilling night, as swift
as any arrow.

Feet against the flagstones, fingers scrabbling
at the lock,
craving protection.
'Sanctuary!’ croaks a voice,
half-strangled by the shock
of its rejection.
Shot the bolt in the wall, rusted the key;
now the echoes of all frightfull memory
intrude in the silence.
What a crawl against the slope –
dark loom the gallows
One touch to the chapel door,
how swiftly comes the arrow.

„Compassion” you plead, as though
they kept it in a box
– that’s long since been empty.
I’d like to help you somehow,
but I’m in the self-same spot:
my condition exempts me.
We are all on the run on our knees;
the sundial draws a line upon eternity
across every number.
How long the time seems, how dark the shadow,
how straight the eagle flies,
how straight towards his arrow.
How long the night is –
why is this passage so narrow?
How strange my body feels,
impaled upon the arrow.

The Sleepwalkers

At night, this mindless army,
ranks unbroken by dissent,
is moved into action
and their pace does not relent.
In step, with great precision,
these dancers of the night
advance against the darkness –
how implacable their might!
Eyes undulled by moon,
their arms and legs akimbo,
they walk and live,
hoping soon to surface from this limbo.
Their minds, anticipating the dawn of the day,
shall never know what’s waiting mere insight away
– too far, too soon.

Senses dimmed in semi-sentience,
only wheeling
through this plane,
only seeing fragmented images prematurely
curtailed by the brain,
but breathing, living,
knowing in some measure at least
the soul which roots the matter
of both Beauty and the Beast.
From what tooth or claw does murder spring,
from what flesh and blood does passion?
Both cut through the air with the pendulum’s swing
in deadly but delicate fashion.
And every range of feeling is there in the dream
and every logic’s reeling in the force of the scream
the senses sting.
And though I may be dreaming and reality stalls
I only know the meaning of sight and that’s all
and that’s nothing.

The columns of the night advance,
infectiously, their cryptic dance
gathers converts to the fold –
in time the whole raw world will pace
these same steps
on into the same bitter end.

Somnolent muster now the dancing dead
forsake the shelter of their secure beds,
awaken to a slumber whose depths they dread,
as if the ground they tread would give way
beneath the solemn weight of their conception.
I’d search the hidden corners of all this world,
make reason of the sensory whorl
if I only had time,
but soon the dream is ended.

Tonight, before you lay down
to the sweetness of your sleep
do you question your surrender
to the drop from Lover’s Leap
or does the anaesthetic darkness
take hold on its very own?
Does your body rise in service
with not one dissenting groan?
These waking dreams of life and death
in the mirror are twisted and buckled,
lashes flicker, a catch of breath,
skin whitening at the knuckles.
The army of sleepwalkers shake their limbs
and are loose
and though I am a talker, I can phrase no excuse
not to rise again.
In the chorus of the night-time I belong
and I, like you, must dance to that moonlight song
and in the end I too must pay the cost
of this life.
If all is lost none is known
and how could we lose what we’ve never owned?
Oh, I’d search out every knowledge
that I could find,
unravel all the mysteries of mind,
if I only had time,
if I only had time,
but soon my time is ended.

All lyrics by Peter Hammill

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