Light takes new attribute
and yet his old
not this,
not this, they say,
lord as he was of the hieratic dance,
of poetry
and majesty
and pomp,
master of shrines and gateways
and of doors,
of markets
and the cross-road
and the street;
not this,
they say;
but we say otherwise
and greet
in new attribute,
insidious fire;
light reasserts
his power
reclaims the lost;
in a new blaze of splendour
calls the host
to reassemble
and to readjust
all severings
and differings of thought,
all strife and strident bickering
and rest;
O fair and blest,
he strides forth young and pitiful and strong, 
a king of blazing splendour and of gold,
and all the evil
and the tyrannous wrong
that beauty suffered
finds its champion,
who is god
and song.

He left the place they built him
and the halls,
he strode so simply forth,
they knew him not;
no man deceived him,
nor ever will,
with meagre counterfeit
of ancient rite,
he knows all hearts
and all imagining
of plot
and counterplot
and mimicry,
this measuring of beauty with a rod, 
no formula
could hold him
and no threat
recall him
who is god.

Yet he returns,
O unrecorded grace, 
and under
and through us 
and about;
the stage is set now
for his mighty rays;
light that batters gloom,
the Pythian
lifts up a fair head
in a lowly place,
he shows his splendour
in a little room;
he says to us,
be glad
and laugh,
be gay;
I have returned
though in an evil day
you crouched despairingly
who had no shrine;
we had no temple and no temple fire 
for all these said
and mouthed
and said again;
beauty is an endighter
and is power
of city
and of soldiery
and might,
beauty is city
and the state
and dour duty,
beauty is this and this and this dull thing, 
forgetting who was king.

Yet still he moves
this serpent creeping
and this shaft of light,
his arrows slay
and still his footsteps
in the market-place;
vision returns
and with new vision
to the impotent;
tired feet that never knew a hill-slope 
fabulous mountain sides;
dusty feet
sink in soft drift of pine
and anodyne
of balm and fir and myrtle-trees
and cones
drift across weary brows
and the sea-foam
marks the sea-path
where no sea ever comes;
islands arise where never islands were,
crowned with the sacred palm
or odorous cedar;
waves sparkle and delight
the weary eyes
that never saw the sun fall in the sea 
nor the bright Pleaiads rise.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.