THE GREEN SHEPHERD
~ by Louis Simpson
Here sit a shepherd and a shepherdess,
He playing on his melancholy flute,
The sea wind ruffles up her simple dress
And shows the delicacy of her foot.
And there you see Constantinople’s wall
With arrows and Greek fire, molten lead.
Down from a turret seven virgins fall,
Hands folded, each one praying on her head.
The shepherd yawns, and puts his flute away.
It’s time, she murmurs, we were going back,
He offers certain reasons she should stay…
But neither sees the dragon on their track.
A dragon like a car in a garage
Is in the wood, his long tail sticking out.
Here rides St. George, swinging his sword and targe,
And sticks the grinning dragon in the snout.
Puffing a smoke ring, like the cigarette
Over Times Square, Sir Dragon snorts his last.
St George takes off his armor in a sweat.
The Middle Ages have been safely passed.
What is that sail that crosses the still bay,
Unnoticed by the shepherds? It could be
A caravel that’s sailing to Cathay,
Westward from Palos on the unknown sea.
But the green shepherd travels in her eye
And whispers nothings in his lady’s ear,
And sings a little song, that roses die,
Carpe diem, which she seems pleased to hear.
The vessel they ignored still sails away
So bravely on the water, Westward Ho!
And murdering in a religious way,
Brings Cortez to the gulf of Mexico.
Now Portugal is fading, and the state
Of Castile is rising purple on Peru.
Now England, now America grows great–
With which these lovers have nothing to do.
What do they care if time, uncompassed, drift
To China, and the crew is a baboon?
But let him whisper always, and her lift
The oceans in her eyelids to the moon.
The dragon rises crackling in the air,
And who is god but Dragon? Wings careen,
Rejoicing, on the Russian hemisphere,
Meanwhile, the shepherd dotes upon her skin.
Old Aristotle, having seen this pass,
From where he studied in the giant’s cave,
Went in and shut his book and locked the brass
And lay down with a shudder in his grave.
The groaning pole had gone more than a mile.
The shepherds did not feel it where they loved,
For time was sympathetic all the while
And on the magic mountain nothing moved.