By the Dark River

By the Dark River

by Xanadu

My dearest, listen to me now.
These are my last words to you.
You’ll never know how deep, how
Much I loved you. But my death’s now due.

I must leave you, dearest, I must
Go now, to where no green leaves blow,
Where the irons all turn to rust
And where there’s nothing left to know.

Don’t cry, my dearest, please don’t cry
For what could have been. This is where
We are. Everything has to die.
Falls the leaf, and the tree is bare.

Go now, most precious, and remember
I loved you once. And will for ever.
Time cannot kill, nor death dismember
Us. Wait for me by the dark river.

27 thoughts to “By the Dark River”

  1. Beautiful piece, Lasha. It is especially touching to me because I have just returned from attending the funeral of the wife of one of my friends. He and she were married forty years, and he is grieving terribly. They were good friends to each other, and their son is nearly my own age, and is a friend, too. The presiding preacher talked about the promise of everlasting life in Christ, and told how we all must die to achieve it. I hope the river I encounter is cool and clean! 🙂

  2. Very nice, in a dark way. A dark river, though, doesn’t seem to me like a very appealing meeting place. Most people prefer light, and we were created for the brightness of the beatific vision, where there is no darkness, only light. As for rust, Jesus speaks of seeking our treasure in heaven “where rust does not corrode.” But still, a darkly beautiful poem appropriate for a Darkmoon.

    Here’s my dark take on death:

  3. Only those well versed in the Greek and Latin classics (like Lasha Darkmoon) would be able to appreciate the significance of the dark river in this poem. The river referred to is primarily Lethe (pronounced LETH-EEE), the river of forgetfulness, whose bitter waters need to be drunk by the newly dead. The memories of their past lives are then washed away, allowing them to reincarnate in a new life without being dogged by the memories of their previous existence.

    Milton, who was steeped in the Classics, refers to this river in Paradise Lost and LD has already quoted these lines in an old essay called “Magical Sound Effects in Poetry”:

    “Far off from these a slow and silent stream,
    Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
    Her watery labyrinth.”

    — Milton, Paradise Lost

    The picture of the boat and the boatman on the dark river offers a further clue that this is a classical allusion also to the ferryman Charon who ferries the dead across the river Acheron, another river of Hades or the underworld. In order to be ferried across to the other side, the dead have to offer Charon a coin, which is why the dead in the ancient world of Homeric Greece were always buried with a coin in their mouths.

    Again, to appreciate the significance of the rich literary allusions here, you need to be steeped in the Ancient Classics of Greece and Rome. Here is the same allusion in a famous 4-line poem by the great English poet Landor which will be found in most anthologies of English poetry. LD is referring in her poem to the mythological boatman Charon, depicted in the header picture above and here alluded to by Landor:

    “Stand close around, ye Stygian set,
    With Dirce in one boat conveyed!
    Or Charon, seeing, may forget
    That he is old and she a shade.”

    — Walter Savage Landor, Dirce

    These three rivers of the Underworld, Lethe, Styx and Acheron, are frequently referred to in LD’s poems and are highly significant to her. Don’t ask me why. I am just anxious to correct the misconception in the comment above that the image of the dark river is out of place and inappropriate. This is wrong. The opposite is true. The image of the dark river is highly appropriate and significant, but to appreciate that you need to be thoroughly educated in the Greek and Latin classics — especially in Greek mythology.

      1. @ TJ

        Sorry, I’ve expressed myself very badly. Mea culpa! let me try to explain.

        Of course you can like the poem without knowing all that Latin and Greek stuff! After all, if you read the poem you will see that it’s a simple love-and-death poem without any reference to classical mythology anywhere — except obliquely in the last line: “Wait for me by the dark river.”

        I think you can definitely like the poem without necessarily knowing this is a reference to the River Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, in Hades or the underworld of the dead. Darrell (the commenter above) didn’t understand the deeper meaning of this line because he wrote: “A dark river … doesn’t seem to me like a very appealing meeting place. Most people prefer light.” Darrell has missed the point, you see. He is thinking of this as a lovers’ assignation in the world of the living, of a boy meeting up his girlfriend on a date. And he’s thinking, “Hey, who ever arranges to meet his girl by a dark river?”

        Good point, but it’s the wrong question! Darrell has missed the point, the point being that these lovers are not living lovers dating each other. They will only meet up again in the next life, in the Beyond, because one of them is dying. And to do that, they must meet again “by the dark river” (meaning Lethe, the river of forgetfulness). They will then be rowed across to a NEW LIFE in the beyond, but only after they have drunk the waters of forgetfulness which will wipe away all the memories of their past existence.

        Hope I’ve explained this properly.

        Of course you can like the poem without knowing all this,
        but your appreciation of the poem is surely enriched by knowing its deeper meaning.

  4. Very edifying, Sister! It seems to me only natural to associate Styx with a deep, slowly-flowing stream. I’ve thought that since I can remember, and I am not steeped in the classics. Perhaps the classics are steeped in human nature?? Death is somber when given thought, and it is “only natural” that a poet addresses it thusly.
    I have a cabin near a high mountain trout stream. I fall asleep on the porch, there, listening to the steady sound of the water over the rocks. It, too, is peaceful, cool – but not deep; and certainly not bitter. It, to me, represents the things in life I do not look forward to leaving. The pleasant, living things. Contemplating Death is necessarily darker.

    1. Bless you, dear unknown friend. You are a true poet and think and feel like a poet.

      These are the two great themes of poetry: love and death. And this is what life is all about. The days of our youth, on the one hand: the days of wine and roses, passion and joy in the sun by the great sounding sea. And then, on the other hand, the dark side of existence: the shadows of nightfall, the melancholy twilight, the death of the loved one, increasing debility, pain, and, finally, the mossy tombstone and the dark night of the cemetery.

      Gosh, I got carried away there! Wrote myself a little prose poem without meaning to do so. Sister Monica reveals her sad soul to the world. A maudlin silly goose.

      Ah well, every day is a new day and has its surprises. I thank God for this gift: that I can believe in his possibility.

      1. Just know, Sister, that the monster ravaging The Bahamas as I speak is a “fury”, (noun – speaking of Greek mythology) an entity subservient to what many think of as “God”.

        But what God would be responsible for this mayhem of death and utter destruction? Whose “will”, as in this devastation being “the will of God”?

        What “God”?

        1. Dear Brownhawk,

          I understand your pain. You are going through the existential angst that many of us go through when confronted with the unspeakable cruelties of this world. You wouldn’t be human unless you had these doubts. Don’t let this negativity over God kill you. Many have struggled with these inner demons of doubt and managed to survive the onslaught, radiant in the knowledge that they are dearly loved by a God who is past all human understanding. The knowledge of God is not gained by reading books or being clever. It comes unbidden. You have to wait for the magic moment.

      2. Granted, the mythos pertaining to what a “fury”* is is most certainly patterned after the wild imagination of those ancient Greeks responsible for its embellishments. But insofar as what “furies” REALLY are, think of them as “agents of disquietude”. Subjugated entities to the false God of hatred and wrath known as the “Demiurge”. 😎

        *I re-name this storm “Hurricane Butterfly”🌬🦋🌬

      3. Sister
        I am well-acquainted with the “magic moment”, whatever negativity may be conveyed by some of the things I write aside.

        But you didn’t address my question directly. Whose will? What “God”?

  5. But you didn’t address my question directly. Whose will? What “God”?

    You ask the same age-old questions, dear Brownhawk, that the Sphinx herself was asked many moons ago and to which she gave her inscrutable answer: a Sphinx-like smile. 🙂

    1. Who I am beyond what I’ve been reduced to by being in this human form understands that hell on Earth is not the doing of “God” we know that appellation to reflect a loving entity

      We need to fully grasp the idea of the Demiurge..

      The Destroyer of Innocence
      The Master of Mayhem
      The Usurper of Divinity

      The Sphinx is getting ready to spill the beans 🙂

      1. Way more to the Sphinx, like pretty much everything else in Horatio’s philosophy, than has been dreamt of much less the truth been told.

        “In between the paws of the Sphinx is the “Dream Stella”. In the 18th Dynasty Thutmosis IV fell asleep under the Sphinx which was covered to the neck in sand. Thutmosis had a dream that the Sphinx came to him in the form of Ra-HARakhty (Hari) and spoke to him promising him that if he would free the Sphinx from the sand, Thutmosis would be destined to become king of Egypt.”
        (Photo: Andrew Bayuk)

        ADMIN: Sorry Hp, defective link had to be deleted.

  6. “Steeped in the Ancient Classics of Greece and Rome” to understand the “afterlife” or its directions on how to get there Sister Monika?
    For myself who has very few or little ideas about Greek mythology, the old and new gods of the Roman “Republik/Empire” but tried to look at life from all different aspects and angles of the human condition, I would be afraid of that idea that a coin from the local money changer is needed to pay for “services” to a “third party” and being “ferried” off into the afterlife to back where one came from – a birthplace of the soul? How scary! It sounds exactly like the world we seem to “live” in. The need of coins to pay after death (reminds me of the “compulsory” Australian funeral insurance for good citizens to pay for the removal of ones remains after death)? Or a karma from last lifetimes that imprisons my life as a body and dependency, or suffering in Life itself as a holy virtue? Holding out the cheeks on a daily bases for non stop slapping from “authorities” or anyone who loves slapping others and that for all eternity? No, that is not life! That is man made hell! That is the world we seem to live in right now!
    Love, the greatest gift for mankind, the greatest treasure of all creation needs a scary dark ferryman in darkness that requires a coin that opposes and attacks all that love stands for: To be free and not being harmed or forgotten even through death?
    On the journey through “life” the moment will come in ones mind where one asks: “What am I doing here?” “WHO or what am I” and maybe “Where do I come from”. Some very scary questions that better be left alone if one wants to cling on to ones own perception of a given identity or to be answered by ones heart and the vision that will follow. How ever deep one descends into the search for truth and life, love will sooner or later show its miraculous countenance of beauty in a state of boundless offering and paradise where all seems to melt into one harmonious loving entity. There it will be where one declares to oneself deep in the heart: “That is what I want for all eternity” while the mind soon will take over matters of the heart “just to want and OWN Love for oneself to never let it go – again”.
    A bad mistake and “Paradise” is lost again and again in the dark nebulous fog (of ones own limited mind). Set love free again and free oneself from the limitation of a mortal body configured as a condition that brings a death that has no meaning at all. A mild flue that goes away quicker than it came!
    “What is it I am doing here?” Sitting live and longing at a dark river bank and waiting for “my love” to return to me. Even if will take all eternity to wait in patience in a seemingly senseless existence along the winding dark river the reward will be more than worth it – the money changers coin for the scary ferryman is just a waste. Xanadu’s poem is not!
    Please, Sister Monika no offense intended with my clumsiness of “wordery”, not at all. I do admire your knowledge and wisdom I just do not rely on or like coins or money changers (may be an allergy?) which is difficult enough in a world like this.

    1. No offense given, Jo! I believe the coin was called an “obol”. It was just a funeral rite in Ancient Greece to put a coin in the mouth of the dead. No more than a playful idea or superstition. When you got to the mythical river, you were met there by the grim ferryman called Charon. The coin was Charon’s fare for rowing you across the river to a new life on the “Other Side”. Think of it as a beautiful allegory.

      Here, this is from Wikipedia:

      The deceased [in Ancient Greece] were buried with an obol placed in the mouth of the corpse, so that—once a deceased’s shade reached Hades—they would be able to pay Charon for passage across the river Acheron or Styx. Legend had it that those without enough wealth or whose friends refused to follow proper burial rites were forced to wander the banks of the river for one hundred years.

      Here is a pre-Raphaelite painting (1883) called “Charon and Psyche”. It shows Charon the Ferryman about to row his female passenger Psyche across the River Acheron or Styx. Observe carefully. He is taking something out of her mouth. It is his fare, the coin known as “Charon’s obol” :

  7. Thanks a lot for your explanation Sister Monica. Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts also describe a similar journey after death as crossing a river. Though the Babylonians seem to be the first that “charged for the fare” in their ideas of getting to the afterlife. The new drawing of Charon and Psyche explains “the coin” well.

  8. Whether it’s a coin for the ferryman or a deep, dark river – it’s ALL just symbolic, related in terms understood by the original storytellers. Things like “chariots of fire” envisioned by the Prophets thousands of years ago could be the jet engines of today, or rockets, for instance. It gains its romance through antiquity. Like Thomas Beckett once said: We won’t really know until we die. As “Christians”, if we were so damn sure of heavenly glory and reward, we wouldn’t struggle to stay alive another day! Why bother?

    1. Sure it is all symbolic Gilbert. Why is that so that one can not express once own reality without being ridiculed or is locked up in a nuttery or is silenced in a world that cherishes death more than life??
      Water is a perfect example for human hippocracy. Water, which you surely are aware of from the trout stream near your cabin is a perfect living entity and fully alive as an “element”, cleansing and cooling itself naturally and constantly, while it is charged through resistance/friction in its natural flow in a creek or river bed, loaded with oxygen and natural elements picked up along the way and is a constant energy and life itself while man in the cities are consuming a liquid that completely has been “killed” and raped through a toxic mix of chemicals and poisons, long time storage and to make things worse gets beaten with metal impellers from pressure pumps to kill the element and source of life once and for all for human consumption while ridiculing anyone who is against “modern technology”? There are no more excuses for the stupidity of man and time will run out with or without the human destroyer of life itself. The most energized place I have ever been to during my existence in “hell” was a flat rock in the middle of a fast flowing white water creek below a waterfall in Tessin, CH. I spent all my free time there and was energetically drawn to it like metal to a magnet while having the most incredible spiritual experiences that where neither bound to space or time and which one can only symbolize or to be silent when trying to talk or to write about it. Energy of water is a very powerful source of unity in creation. Why constantly looking the other way for profits or personal survival while ending all that means the most to us and the life we seem to love? Viktor Schauberger, an Austrian “uneducated” forest ranger developed a “trout turbine” just from watching a trout stand still in fast flowing waters in the forest’s of Austria. He later also came involved in gravity compulsion though many of his patents where either ignored or ridiculed by the “industry”, or stolen by secret agencies of national security (3rd Reich and also USA after WW2) and Viktor returned home to die as a broken and heartbroken man. One finds lots of intense symbolism here too and especially – in “our own reality”!
      Water cleanses and might wash all the human sins (and stupidity) away when “crossing over” into real life and all that one not needs (symbolic or not) is the idea of paying SOMEBODY for it. When we leave this realm one will need to “unpack” all ones bags and belongings. No room for coins or form either way.

      1. Jo –

        What I intend to convey is that our concepts of Death would better be placed on “faith” than simple “beliefs”. The Bible tells us that even demons “believe”. It is only through faith in God’s Word that the greatest of crossings are achieved – either to absolute peace of mind, worldly achievements, or crossing Styx. Faith is very important. Far more so than however we might perceive that inevitable crossing. Our faith is challenged every day by our resistance to the inevitable destiny of the grave.

      2. Gil
        Sister Monica used the term, “magic moment”. What this is transcends all of the deliberative thoughts we may have. Whether it be about life, death, hope, faith, belief…anything that would require contemplating on its subject matter. Whereas when we effectively disengage from the brain and simply BE in the “moment”, only the heart is being engaged. Do this, and VOILA! There’s the “magic”…..pure life force….love.

      3. Gilbert, faith came to me instantly and through a “simple and very personal experience” that eradicated all “my previous insane and arrogant believes of being greater than anything else in existence” including God, the son of god, eternal life and creation itself. I have never read or studied the bible voluntarily but recognized “the word of god” flawlessly. No demons there!
        “Dead” people believe in graves and death while hoping that they are very wrong when “body” time runs out. Another personal experience as I once was one of them but nothing here or anywhere is about “me” at all.

        Brownhawk, thank you for perfectly defining a “magic” moment. I intended to inquire to you or sister Monica about it – and voila – here it is without any words written or spoken.
        Though in creation there never will be room for “magic”. It is simple perfection encompassing all ingredients of creation after all.

  9. And what a beautiful work of art it is.
    The color is wonderful.
    Even better in person, I’d imagine.

  10. Carlos –
    John –

    As strange as it might seem today, Trent in 1633 may have been attempting to help the tribes to remain intact by inoculation of smallpox by the only methods available then, since vaccine did not become available for another 150 years.

    Smallpox had been a scourge for MANY centuries by the 17th century.
    In the 6th Century…. increased trade with China and Korea introduces smallpox into Japan.

    On average, 3 out of every 10 people who got smallpox died. Those who survived were usually left with scars, which were sometimes severe. Those odds are not evidence that the European settlers were wanting to annihilate the good tribes!

    One of the first methods for controlling the spread of smallpox was the use of VARIOLATION, which is not the same as vaccination. The method of protection was named after the virus that causes smallpox (variola virus), variolation is the process by which material from smallpox sores (pustules) was given to people who had never had smallpox.

    *Variolation was done either by RUBBING the material into the SKIN…. or INHALING it through the nose. With both types of variolation, people usually went on to develop the symptoms associated with smallpox, such as fever and a rash. However, *FEWER* people died from variolation than if they had acquired smallpox naturally!!

    Since we were not there, and they did not realize their actions would be scrutinized hundreds of years later….. the tribal chiefs may have been told that sharing blankets from smallpox ward would actually help them! They were likely even told to breathe into them heavily.

    See what Ben Franklin noted:
    “In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret that I had not GIVEN it to him by INOCULATION. This I mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.”

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