on the anniversary of Marlowe’s death

Cranach Studios, Presentation of Jesus at the Temple


The snake rises to her altar and reposes herself.

The common folk cower before the arts of the scholar

That tend the serpent, build her brazen altars,

Collect her secrets, and extract their sacrifice.

An army of lame, crooked, sick, and crippled bodies

Flocks to the temple of the great scholar

Who promises to heal all ills, all poverty, all gaping need.

The ailing and deformed submit to the lancet,

Draw blood, and sacrifice their own to promised comfort.

But the panacea is temporary, insufficient,

Each healing bringing an army of new ills.

As their numbers swell to monstrous multitudes

They thrust every earthly creäture out of its habitat

And poison every breathing body with toxic remains.

The scholar grows greater and all-powerful

His penitent subjects misshapen, in blooming grief

Grow greater in number and in need as he

Vanquishes the faithful of the Shepherd of the Cross

Who had replaced the Snake in times long past.

The scholar signs in blood and builds in clay,

He raises the great snake once again

And crowns her ruler of the fallen dominion

As he betrays in unkindness every child that comes

With love and promise of the future kingdom,

Robs the Shepherd of His pricey flock,

Cheats God of His crowned and sceptred regents

Reforms, reshapes, inverts His glorious issue

Into the base and twisted image of the ignoble beast.

Knowledge is sin redeemable only by faith in the Son.

Enter the poets, God’s soul-menders and apothecaries

Made of this ancient imperishable certitude,

Their courage tested in the task of charging the transgressor.

Will they withhold God’s grace from the beast’s apprentice

And have their little lives dashed to pieces?

To charge or not to charge, their predicament grows

For Christ is the snake that replaced all certitude

Save for the one nestled in the beating breathing heart

His commandment more binding to poets

Than to the fisher, shepherd, and the tinsmith.

The poet who damns the gravest of sinners

Damns himself and cuts his life shorter than a lark’s

For though the deluded Faustian scholar pretends to reign

It is the poet God charged with re-creating earth’s garden,

The guilt of self-slaughter lodged deep within his mobbed breast.


The crowd of ghosts closes in on the fallen sparrow

Its blood still warm, its heart no longer beating.

In the curt moment before the ascent, before

The grace of the Father swaddles the fading remains

Of the birdie bard whose song cheered and charmed

The blue heavens on summer days and inky nights

The swarm turns into a blood-thirsty gang

Lusting, drooling over the birdie’s warm but still heart,

As if reaching for the words that had refused to love them,

The lines that could have saved them from

The dusty greyness of their urban existence

And given them sweet, blessed Elysian peace,

The verses that failed to feed them while they lived

Briefly in the breath of his prolific oeuvres.

All the men, women, creatures, kings, and batsmen

The bard damned in his verse, strangled with a rhyme

Still clamour for life, reaching with their pale lanky limbs

For the cup he denied them, the breath of creation,

The eucharistic blessing, the blood that is the life.

The poet’s trembling soul hovers between the little corpse

And the big heavens beyond, unable to spread his wings

Held back by the love it still owes its creatures.

Too late for repentance, too late for mending and redress,

Rehearsals are over, and the last curtain burst in flames,

Fall he must, and with him the wondrous shades,

The dreamy shapes, the floaty world he lent his breath.

Beware, inky genius, judgment is not yours to have

And neither will you be pardoned for the seduced souls

If you fail to uphold God’s golden commandments.

Threading the dangerously thin lines between

Love and sin, judgment and forgiveness,

You, of all birds of heaven and all crawling creatures

Must stay true to your heart or be consumed

By the zombie crowd of your own making,

Your gift is your curse: to hear the unholy thoughts of others

And show them a faithful mirror of their unconscious world,

And then to find the strength to let God judge, NOT YOU,

To find the grace they need to survive eternity in a word,

A phrase, a line, a volume, a rhyme or monologist portrait.

Pale, trembling, sleepless, in life the poet stumbles

Among the graves and shepherds the shadows of death,

Loans them his rattled limbs and gives them voices to sing,

Makes sinners beautiful but sin itself an ignoble monstrosity.

This bird of heaven needs the redeeming eucharistic blood

More than any other creäture and holy personage in our neigh,

Lest he feeds the sprites his own blood and signs with it

The grand plans and treacherous communion of Lucifer.

In the hour of death his soul gains its wings by the strength

Of the forgiveness he could afford his sprites and creatures.

Beholden more to truth than to righteousness, the charity

Of the bard shapes the jewel in the crown of all creation,

His soul in the hour of flight, truth of his testament.


Meghan Troup, Sparrow 2016 image available for purchase here: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-sparrow-meaghan-troup.html


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