Poem - Firewood

  • I mentioned Horace's epistle to Numicia in another thread. I wrote this poem as an Epicurean response to his question.



    While walking in the woods, I am at pains

    To pause at each cold circle of burnt stone.

    A totemic blending of the profane

    And sacred: a human altar where none

    So human live—where memory and time

    Are sacrificed in their concentric rings,

    The ageless for the transitory. Each

    Ring is a dolmen, or a stele of lime,

    And tells of the past in a varied speech.

    It gives me pause, this strange chaleur vitale¹.

    I think on sacred groves—such that deterred

    Thoreau², and Horace, with that old Ital-

    ic saw: Do you think Virtue naught but words,

    A forest only firewood? For though

    The greater mass goes up in flame, pile

    Upon pile of charcoal lying near

    Sighs at this loss; of what, I do not know—

    But that it pleases me to wander here.


    ¹French, Vital Heat

    ²Walden; "I would that our farmers when they cut down a forest felt some of that awe which the old Romans did when they came to thin, or let in the light to, a consecrated grove (lucum conlucare), that is, would believe that it is sacred to some god."