Unknown Arts

By William Walsh


Keyhole Press
February 2012


Unknown Arts

From A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

"And he sets his mind to unknown arts" — Ovid, Metamorphoses

They pressed upon his brain
as upon his lips as though they
were the vehicle of a vague speech;
and between them he felt an unknown
and timid pressure, darker than the
swoon of sin, softer than sound or odour.

Death and judgement, brought into the world
by the sin of our first parents, are the dark portals
that close our earthly existence, the portals
that open into the unknown and the unseen,
portals through which every soul must pass,
alone, unaided save by its good works,
without friend or brother or parent or master
to help it, alone and trembling.

A sense of fear of the unknown moved
in the heart of his weariness, a fear of
symbols and portents, of the hawk-like
man whose name he bore soaring out
of his captivity on osier-woven wings,
of Thoth, the god of writers, writing
with a reed upon a tablet and bearing
on his narrow ibis head the cusped moon.


An Act

From Exiles (1918)

A kiss is an act of homage.
An act of impulse.

You called it an act of folly,
then—nine years ago.

It is an act of union
between man and woman.