Phillip Medhurst

Wisdom from a Gnostic Sage

Category: Pagan

A Ship For My Death


I wish to leave some monument, before

I die, so I am able to reflect

On what I should have been; because the shore

That I must pass has no return, once wrecked

The only ship that might have brought me home –

Dismembered, rolling on the pallid foam


Of the Dark Sea. From splintered matchwood, who

Could reconstruct the beauty of that boat,

Or purpose, why and where it meant to go

In carrying my soul, how it would float

Back to that far original sunrise

Whose light exposes what is truth, what lies,


And what the nature of its cargo was?

So I must build a ship for death, a barque

That bears a memory of me, because

That other ship, my body, will not hark

Back to my life, for once its subtle winds

Become dispersed, and once the cord that binds


It has been cut by fate’s capricious hand,

Then those still travelling upon the sea

May never contemplate before they land

On shore unknown my last vitality,

As once I did in tombs that I then saw

Like upturned boats upon the Lycian shore.


Of what then can I build this ark of mine,

To bear within my immortality?

What oak or ash can I cut down, what pine

Or cedar hew for my security?

Whatever forest, and whatever wood,

I shall be taking what has been made good


By other planting, toil and nurture, long

Before the hand that plunders that slow growth

Had digitally sprouted from among

The cells established by a plighted troth

Of two conjoined in random circumstance

By centripetal force of nature’s dance.


And who am I to pluck the fruit of slow

Maturity? Such sacrilege negates

All righteous memory. Where can I go

When every broken bough thus violates

The work of nature if not husbandry,

And tooth of saw destroys a legacy?


The matter that I work on must needs be

Some thing I almost made from no thing –

An interstice which every one can see

And filled by what I was – a vacant ring

Become a diadem, a hollow bell

That tolls a fame no mortal voice could tell.


Perhaps the treasure I will use to deck

My ship was won by force of arms, and set

A record straight, a torque torn from the neck

Of a foul enemy who won a bet,

And came by it without a just dessert –

A harvest sprung from bitterness and hurt,


Now righteous cause of this my great effect.

Or maybe I could cause to rise from dross

Some thing magnificent, some thing correct

From what was wrong, to turn what was a loss

Into a gain, and thereby leave my mark,

And turn a waste, perhaps, into a park –


But then be charged with exploitation of

Goods purchased at a knock-down price, a way

To white the sepulchre I raised above

A mess of bones that will not rise, the pay

That I must give, too grudgingly,

To get what should be rendered to me free:


Unstinting praise from men for my good deeds

Which should be done with no reward in mind,

Except to make a no thing of those needs

Which buried folk alive, and help them find

A new beginning. This should be the way

My chantry-priest receives his fee to pray;


For well we know that knights of olden times

Paid handsomely for masses in their name,

Because the ones who wondered at their tombs,

Illiterate, saw eulogies in vain,

But yet could hear an echo of the gold

Which brought a kind of warmth to what was cold


And hard: the real blood enchaliced there

(At least to faith if not to sight) spelled life

Eternal to a statue’s stony stare,

And monkish chant could pass for keen of grief

As long as those whose arms, there carved, prevailed,

And could ensure it was for them it wailed.


But now the masses read. And read they shall,

If they are so inclined to now descend

These metered steps, to read upon the wall

Of this my tomb my verse, just how my end

Has justified my ragged means: my lines

That vanish to eternity in signs.


So thus it is: my ship for death, festooned

With leaves torn from the story of my life,

A rich thesaurus where each item, honed

From love and hate, from passion and from strife

Goes up in flames that blend with setting sun,

And sheds some light on what was lost, what won.


Except no one will read it, that’s a fact –

Unless their own concerns will prompt them to.

Then my reflections in a mirror cracked

Become a virtual quarry for some new

Memorial to some one unknown to me

Which leaves no trace of what I used to be.


So that’s the end of it, the full stop to

My life, the chiselled epitaph obscured

By overgrowth, my only hope a clue

In worn-out letters made out on the floor

Made smooth by those who come, then go

Of what the story was of those below.

The Immortal Apathetics (Zardoz)


Immortality confounds

our zest for life.

Apathy has frozen us

To monuments.


Come, Oblivion, as friend:

a longed-for harm,

Pyramidic heavy, light

as chambered dust.


Death Eternal grant, O Lord

of Sudden Ends.

Dozed with soporific balm

your bullets zing.



Etruscan Sarcophagus


Seianti Hanunia Tlesana

Now wants to protest. But the lack of

Her jaw-bone and loss of her front-teeth

(As well as her flesh) means that she is

Unable to speak for herself and

Is glad to accept this scribe’s service.


When still in her prime she foresaw in

Her wisdom decay would prevail. Thus

Some clay was amassed, and instructions

Were given to artists to model

Her image seductive and buxom,

All tinted in natural colours.

Thus she was shown forth as a gift to

The future, that this work of beauty

Might sound a soft echo of pleasures

That she brought to men. The fine lady,

This done, could put up with old age and

The dribbling of lips that in youth were

Adorned with love’s whispers and kisses

Before her sweet breath became foetid.

And so her life’s shade could endure the

Denial of sunlight, content that

Her beauty shone over her coffin,

Preserved just as she had decided.

But cruel necromancers, the priests of

Your science, put flesh on the time when

She did not have beauty, so they could

Enjoy some cold cerebral pleasure. In

The impotence that death has imposed, her

Indignant remonstrance can not be

Sustained without pity’s assistance

In place of the promptings of love. But

True praise, she asserts, must derive from

Erections desired, not from duty.


Behold this effigy, and while you have a tongue

Pronounce out loud once more my long-lost name.


The Fight at Finnsburg


Brand beat edda,

Doom on dooming.



Fetherhoma, or, The Poet’s Cloak

This sark, so fierce, in a trice can shift

To down, cloud-white, that glides above

The sorry squats of thought-bound men.

The wrinkled coast and furrowed lea

Frown as I fare on the road of the swan,

And sing the spells of a soul outgone.