The notion of the Logos is a core factor
in the presentation of the Tribe of Earth.
In this regard, art is directly related to the Logos
in that all creative human endeavor is identified as
art, formal art and informal art, that all human knowing
is a mode of revelation. This factor is interpreted
in the Christian tradition of the Logos as the presence
of the divine in the world, the notion of the Word of
God, notably as presented in the introduction to the
gospel of St John- “In the beginning was the word”
etc. While the Book of Kells is an actual script of
the four gospels in this respect, the illuminations
as presented here represent the totality of the notion
of the Logos, that is, an emergence of the world and
its creatures out of infinity- in terms of the supporting
philosophial theory, the preentation of beings in their
Being. This is why the creators of the illuminations
are presented as entering a period of intense meditation-
on top of their monastic practises- in order to reach
and express the deepest human memory.
Regarding the actual illuminations, the poem refers
not to the brilliance of particular artistic pieces
such as the Cho Ri nor the inspiration for aspects of
such art from the east, but to the overall artistic
memory and impulse of its creators.
The notion of the verbal word is ultimately based on
the notion of relationship, that is, that a being only
exists as it does in relationship with another being.
The dynamic of language was not arbitrary but was, in
our terms, of the creation of access to Being, not
to a Being, of the fundamental drive of
The sequence of poems begins with this quest of early
humanity to make sense out of the world around them,
driven by an overwhelming urge to create identification,
often expressed as the relentless sense of awe, sense
of the numinous, but in this identification, to create
a mould of access to an experience of Being through
the beings of the world around us. This is presented
in the opening poem as the early drama of humanity and
out of which fundamental language emerged and developed.
But the actual word only becomes active, becomes functional
when it is part of a basic phrase that is, a wedding
of verb and noun uniting monosyllabic utterance into
the actuality of the word.
This is followed by the surge to create the written
word, to put flesh and bone on memory, followed by the
preparation of the skin of the sacrificial lamb in the
creation of the vellum, and then the gathering of the
pigments from across the world and ultimately the creation
of the great monastic books, dramatically so the book
of Kells. The Sage tells of the early wanderings, of
the people driven by a presence beyond the senses to
make relationship with each other in the understanding
of the surrounding world.
The Sage tells of the spoken world
The wedding vows.
The Sage speaks of the written word.
The sacrifice of the calf.
On the assembling of the pigments.
The Illuminations of the books
THE SAGE TELLS OF THE SPOKEN WORD
And there we wandered, there we moved,
Our eyes wild with scan and scouring
On and on into the unrelenting presence,
Into the chasm of day, the abyss of night,
And that voiceless calling, deaf to the ear,
E ver following, ever unsleeping watching
And stare moving from daylight into dream.
Did we not grow mad at what drove us,
The knowing, the unknown knowing?
Was there not a passion in every move
Of eye and tongue and ear and touch,
And did we not in desperation
Reach out, stretch out to capture
What confronted us? What were we seeking
That we left our markings on stone,
Line and wave and spiral, pigment images
On the limestone shell of cave walls?
Were we not then creating a path,
A route to what impassioned us?
And yet, out of our distress
One soothing thing appeared.
A thing arrived to tame our ways.
The comforter, the healer. The word.
We began to round, to identify,
To shape and form, to travel and return-
We agreed to sounds made
In meetings of our lonely roaming,
That when we pointed together as one
Things took form at our bond of voice,
Things appeared out of the name we gave,
And so we filled the sky with star and bird,
We made river and hill and tree,
We made comet and moon appear
And yet- our moan, pine, our utterance
Isolated us again. We divided again,
We divided into verb and noun,
Male noun, female verb, and again,
The relentless boundless quest
Each seeking out the other, each
Full of the early passion now longing
Through the other, through the other,
And so, that something new be born,
Something full of both be born,
The word be born, the word be born.
Wedding ways must now begin,
Wedding vows be taken.
THE WEDDING VOWS
And the linnet sound her oboe call.
And out of the wild cacophony
All tune up into a single pitch
To shape the grand entry march.
And crow bass, and thrust soprano,
Lark and blackbird and the curlew
Enter a long harmony line,
Corncrake and cuckoo rasp and ring
And heifer drone, bull trumpet,
Drum roll of sheep and goat, then,
A sudden sprout of rooster yodel
Announce the coming of the bride.
She moves up to meet the groom
After their long, long courtship
Facing solemn toward each other,
He the plumage of an evening glow,
She a dawn greeting the morning star,
And there, together, each pronounce
The utterance of the other, and kiss
And clasp, standing locked in full embrace
And as the word rises out of their vows,
As the word makes its entry
A sudden voice proclaims the scene;
“Now that my sounds are made sense
I will tell the deep of this happening.
You now exist as an act of union,
You now exist in the vows taken
And one by one your children born,
Adverb and adjective, pronoun
And preposition, daughter and son,
Children, grandchildren and they will be
As the bloom of a full night sky.
My solemn blessings on this contract,
My solemn blessing on this vow,
So let the music rise again,
And the grand march sound again
For the word this day is come,
The word is this day born.”
And overhead a starling flock entered
Its spiral dance. An arrow of wild geese
Crossed the day in their rhyme of wing
And far out, far off from the shore,
Away close to the horizon,
A lone whale sounded its fanfare
Flaring a spout of ocean.
He tells of the urge to convert the word into sign
and symbol, to create the written way. The oral tradition
has its limitations and the spoken word must be released
from the imperfect faculty of human memory and be formally
re-presented and set in a physical system. He tells
that earlier primitive attempts at what appear as random
markings are actual actions of identification to create
a mould of access to Being and that the written way
is a development of this same human urge.
And after, when spoken ways gathered to confer
And the thought made loud that this early bonding
Of tale and saga carried in the head’s domain,
Of memories nursing flows of older memory,
Moving down the blood, circling inside the head,
A thing that stirred the early drone of throat,
Move into a dance of lips, a dance of tongue,
Danced the fire into verb and noun-
The call now made that this early way
That gave a shape to what possessed
Now be borne from the keep of the soul
And the word alight, the word come down,
The word be made into matter.
THE SAGE SPEAKS OF THE WRITTEN WORD
And so, let us once more recall
How sometimes at the evening gathering
After the fire had raised us into dance,
After our feet had settled from their steps,
Song followed song, sad and rousing
And long tales chanted, tales spoken free
Far after dusk, far into the moon’s
And often as the night grew old
And twilight bid the morning star farewell
Our sleep murmurings joined early bird-song
And thoughts there piling up on thought
To the rhyming blackbird and the wren-
Are our heads made for all this memory?
Do we not overflow and spill at times
And things slide away and are lost.
Our brethren in nature have their inner way,
They do not need our marks for travelling
But follow the bends in the wind,
Follow the laments and jigs of the air,
The smells and vapours, have eyes
That know twilight in our dark, ears
That hear thunder in our whisper,
Far off things as close to them,
They live off memories long gone from us
Certainties, securities, arrivings
Long emptied from our way, and now,
We must make our single boundless treasure
Safe beyond loss- the word, the word,
A thing beyond the scope of bird and
No drift must enter here, but guard and guard,
Cage, grip, trap, hold dire possession,
Lock memory beyond the head’s passing.
Have we not now put names on things,
The flower, the gull, the sea, the moon?
So let us now move to the opposing
Move more fully to the task
To put a thing upon a name,
To mark what’s spoken into shapes,
Mark rounded sounds made in the lips
And sounds come of blocked breath
Deep in the chasm of throat and gut,
Mark these out, one after one,
A shape made for every sounding.
Let us move from those early markings,
Those scrapings, shapings found
Cut with slate and bone edge on trunks of oak,
Cut with an iron point on granite,
Thoughts made into wave and into spiral,
The tracks and trails of things
Hollowed out in passion, in great beseeching,
In deeps of grief, deeps of thanks,
Yes. Already we have formed the way,
And all those folk long gone, their
Pause a wanderer, pause a lover,
And listening done, meditating done,
Remembering, bidding farewell.
So we the family of the word,
We the offspring of that wedding hour
Now move with pigment, with ink and
Identifying for eye as for ear,
Release, let free thought after thought,
Tales of wild and solemn things
Spread on stone and spread on scroll
Into the immovable, untouchable way,
The word alive beyond the life.
The word become immortal.
THE SACRIFICE OF THE CALF
He tells how the calf offers itself to be ritually
killed that it have eternal life in the transformation
of its body through the art of the master illuminators.
And on the evening of the new moon,
In the return of the lunar cycle
An unblemished one presents itself
In the fullness of the unblossomed bud,
The full of all that comes of life’s
Before maturing ways rouse and ramble,
Thicken muscle, roughen skin,
Before the voice deepens its pitch,
Before a mating siren sends its first
Across the lough waters, down a valley.
A sudden sound rises as a newborn cry.
It quickly dies with the dying calf.
There is little struggle. All is soon
As the busy knife draws off the skin
And borne away, washed and bleached
Before a stretching on the waiting frame.
Then firm stroking with the lunarium,
Over and over, down and down
And after this has been rightly done
A polish and shine with pumice stone
And lastly there, a caress of lime
Spread across the bone-white sheen.
For several days there all maturing
Under the dawn and noon and dusk
Before borne solemnly away
And the offering chanted to the bench.
There, old words long made, long sung
Are raised up in a lofty canticle
That the oblation of the blessed one
Will raise a flowering from the scroll,
At the early touch of the master’s pen
Will stir, will move alive again.
ON THE ASSEMBLING OF THE PIGMENTS
He tells of the order issued by the Abbot to assemble
the pigments, inks and quills for the creation of the
Bring from the abundance of the ochre clan
Their sunset flare of reds and yellows.
Then kermes insect dye, bring that,
Gathered and taken from the hot Sahara,
Folium, find and carry its purple root
Of penitential and of royal array.
Bring orpiment from arsenic, a copper glint
As sunlight breaking in the low west.
After, raise on her throne the queen of colour-
That richest blue of powdered lapis
Coming as the heaven’s deepest noon,
And bring the black inks of bone, the night
From where pole and plough appear,
And after they have arrived
And all made ready in the waiting dials,
Hammer out, stretch the gold leaf base
Thin as a layer of sunlight,
A dawn spread ready for the day.
Bear all out in a slow moving manner,
Bear them in the rise of horn and harp
And set on the bench of the master artist.
When done, let the abbot enter with the oils.
Let him three times bless, anoint the hands,
That heaven spread its bounty on its earth.
And from water taken at the dawn well
Dip oak twigs and sprouts of the yew
Sprinkling wall and door and roof
That all afflictions of the soul, of body
Be barred from entry to the sacred haven.
Lastly let there be brought the quills,
These from the wings of returning geese
After the long strum across the polar lands,
Rhyming wing in the rhyme of their call
And appearing out of the north skies
Glide, glide the homeward landing.
All is then ready. And all others be gone.
And let the master move his noble way.
And let what fills the head now fill the pen.
ON THE ILLUMINATION OF THE BOOK OF KELLS
As stated, this poem presents
the illuminations of book of Kells as the ultimate artistic
affirmation of the Logos. It also represents the creation
of the dominant letter, a grand arch out of which the
texts of the gospels appear.
It presents the overall approach of the artist/scribe
to the entire illuminations as told by the sage that
the former must make a final intense meditation to further
purify even deeper his ongoing monastic experience.
He must clear his head of all traces of rational thought
to let the purest, deepest memory dictate the actual
form of the art. In the theory, this is termed the primordial
memory of Being of which all memories exist where the
pure memory and the pure knowing are the one factor.
The overall illuminations are presented as an emergence
out of infinity, a vast affirmation of the newborn world.
“Before your hand moves to caress
Before your eyes steady on the scroll,
Before you limbs roost unto the seat
Return to the cavern of your meditation.
There, for one hour, drain out all remnants
Of rational intrusion, all drifting clouds of thought
That still remain to shade the pure
In ways long purified in the flames of fasting
Shade the final entry to utter abandonment
That when your head rises at
the hour’s end
Things move in the surety of the returning
Starling, of the rook preparing the rookery.
One hour. Let there be nothing. The
Of that nothing where all knowing dwells
Shorn of the husk and pod and shell of thought.
Only then, when memories settle
Into the flow of the great memory
Can you begin, will the quill know the hand.”
As he stared unto the waiting page
And silent heart, a calm sea in full tide,
And from the first kiss of pigment on vellum
As a shape appearing out of camouflage,
The petal being born out of the bud,
As the gull following its wing,
The blackbird following its song,
As the filling of a dusk sky
He became his task.
Day by day followed dawn to the desk,
Nor midday bell, nor gap of light opening
From a dull sky, nor rising vespers
In the lull of evening breech his art,
Relentless from the late August start
He moved through the autumn equinox
Into October’s flux of falling,
Into the flute of bare November,
Hand and eye, breath and heart,
And vault and pillar, arch and buttress
Forms appearing, reaching, touching,
Things gathering, weaving things,
Shapes unfolding, shapes rising,
Forms alighting seeking space
And spiral, loop and coil and knot
In ecstasy of blossom, wild eyed
Creatures, half trance, half dance
As the great fanfare spread and spread
On into mid-winter eve. And all was
Though fresh of finger and thumb and wrist
A throb of body followed the final touch.
Pain moved in- the eyes now unlocked
From their focus, and heart and lung
Burn from the drought of free rhythm,
And head pain in the prow of the skull
As normal thought began to enter,
Pain in a stomach loosened of tension
He moved and sat through the longest
Nor comfort come, nor sleep arrive
Hour on dark hour in its slow, slow flow.
Then matins were rising out of the
The contours loosening the dark.
Pains were lowering in the loudening hymn
As he stood into the night’s
Stood into the gathering dawn
At the bare window, through there,
And the contours of his work appear
Out of the twilight, more and more
Slowly brighten as the brightening east,
Slowly color in the flow of chant
And the blinding flare of dawn broke,
And struck, lit up his countenance
And the flare of the page risen
Into its full affirmation
As the moments held their spasm
Until distant matins sounded a long
And the sun began its journey into noon.
And breakfast bell and turning, moved away.