INFLATABLEMONSTER

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Edwin Muir - The Labyrinth

By inflatablemonster, Mar 16 2017 06:28PM



Since I emerged that day from the labyrinth,


Dazed with the tall and echoing passages,


The swift recoils, so many I almost feared


I’d meet myself returning at some smooth corner,


Myself or my ghost, for all there was unreal


After the straw ceased rustling and the bull


Lay dead upon the straw and I remained,


Blood-splashed, if dead or alive I could not tell


In the twilight nothingness (I might have been


A spirit seeking his body through the roads


Of intricate Hades) – ever since I came out


To the world, the still fields swift with flowers, the trees


All bright with blossom, the little green hills, the sea,


The sky and all in movement under it,


Shepherds and flocks and birds and the young and old,


(I stared in wonder at the young and the old,


For in the maze time had not been with me;


I had strayed, it seemed, past sun and season and change,


Past rest and motion, for I could not tell


At last if I moved or stayed; the maze itself


Revolved around me on its hidden axis


And swept me smoothly to its enemy,


The lovely world) – since I came out that day,


There have been times when I have heard my footsteps


Still echoing in the maze, and all the roads


That run through the noisy world, deceiving streets


That meet and part and meet, and rooms that open


Into each other – and never a final room –


Stairways and corridors and antechambers


That vacantly wait for some great audience,


That smooth sea-tracks that open and close again,


Tracks undiscoverable, undecipherable,


Paths on the earth and tunnels underground,


And bird-tracks in the air – all seemed apart


Of the great labyrinth. And then I’d stumble


In sudden blindness, hasten, almost run,


As if the maze itself were after me.


And soon must catch me up. But taking thought,


I’d tell to myself, ʻYou need not hurry. This


Is the firm good earth. All roads lie free before you’.


But my bad spirit would sneer, ʻNo, do not hurry.


No need to hurry. Haste and delay are equal


In this one world, for there’s no exit, none,


No place to come to, and you’ll end where you are,


Deep in the centre of the endless maze’.




I could not live if this were not illusion.


It is a world, perhaps; but there’s another.


For once in a dream or trance I saw the gods


Each sitting on the top of his mountain-isle,


While down below the little ships sailed by,


Toy multitudes swarmed in the harbours, shepherds drove


Their tiny flocks to the pastures, marriage feasts


Went on below, small birthdays and holidays,


Ploughing and harvesting and life and death,


And all permissible, all acceptable,


Clear and secure as in a limpid dream.


But they, the gods, as large and bright as clouds,


Conversed across the sounds in tranquil voices


High in the sky above the untroubled sea,


And their eternal dialogue was peace


Where all these things were woven, and this our life


Was a chord deep in that dialogue,


As easy utterance of harmonious words,


Spontaneous syllables bodying forth a world.


That was the real world; I have touched it once,


And now shall know it always. But the lie,


The maze, the wild-wood waste of falsehood, roads


That run and run and never reach an end,


Embowered in error – I’d be prisoned there


But that my soul has bird wings to fly free.



Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.


Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,


And woke far on. I did not know the place.





...I hear ya Edwin Muir.


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