Posted by: John Looker | 3 January, 2015

In the Time of El Dorado

 

Beneath his feet the raft is rocking slowly.
Disdaining the cold, he stands proud

To receive the gift of the sun as it clears the peaks.

Moments before – naked, erect –
He had stood on the shore with the dark water lapping
While they clothed him in flakes of gold.

When they come to the spot of auspicious co-ordinates
He must fill his lungs and plunge
To the depths of the lake where the old gods are sleeping.

He will rise in pain, to be lifted out
With acclamation and carried to the strand with singing,
Shimmering with pearls of clear water.

Far to the east, above the undreamed-of ocean,
The sun blazes on painted ships
Stealing forward, aching with empty holds.

.
© John Stevens 2015

.With the imminent publication of my first book by Bennison Books, I shall introduce progressively the pen name John Looker on this blog..

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Responses

  1. What an extraordinary cliffhanger you have created in this poem, John L.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. …especially love the final line.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another wonderful image John!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cinematic stuff, indeed. Brings to mind the film, “The Mission” but your words stand up well without the need for pictures. The last lines are truly powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with Bart Wolffe, this is very cinematic. The careful, sensuous building of imagery particular to the king at Lake Guatavita seems to drive power to those final lines, which point outward to the future gold-lust expeditions—almost like a whip to Edgar Allen Poe’s “Over the mountains of the Moon/ Down the valley of the Shadow/ Ride, boldly ride, the Shade replied,/ If you seek for El Dorado.” There’s gold in this here poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve sent me reaching for Edgar Allan Poe. Now there’s vigorous verse! And, thank you Cynthia.

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  6. Perhaps I may add a note of praise suitable for the editorial drudge within: these verses especially please with their elegant yet idiomatic use of tense and mood. Each stanza seems to be devoted to one or the other. This is one reason the final stanza is so moving. Call it the present of contingency. Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do appreciate your generosity, Tom, in careful reading of my verse. And I’m always interested in your observations.

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  7. Great poem and truly very evocative…
    I wonder if it related to the Lost city of El Dorado, which was said to be placed in South America, probably in Brazil?….
    I am quite sure that was a rhetorical question~ Anyhow if it then it may be related to many other things such as Utopia, hope, innocence…
    Thanks for sharing. i much enjoyed your poem John. Aquileana 😀

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  8. Yes, the legendary land of the golden man, somewhere in South America — and thank you!

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  9. What a subtle poem, John! I had to read it a couple of times before I caught on to what I suspect is the meaning. You are such a great poet. I’m going to buy your book as soon as it comes out.
    Cynthia, of course, knows the legend of Eldorado with her reference to “the king at Lake Guatavita.” Your first three stanzas concern that legend where the king,
    “naked, erect –
    He had stood on the shore with the dark water lapping
    While they clothed him in flakes of gold”
    prepares to dive into the lake’s waters. The image is powerful, as the old legend is powerful, driving ambitious men, including Sir Walter Raleigh, off on great journeys of exploration to find the city of gold.
    The king, of course,
    “must fill his lungs and plunge
    To the depths of the lake where the old gods are sleeping.”
    This is not a part of the Eldorado legend, at least as I know it, but makes sense and helps build the central irony of the poem.
    “He will rise in pain, to be lifted out
    With acclamation and carried to the strand with singing,
    Shimmering with pearls of clear water.”
    Always those who seek and find the old gods are celebrated.
    But, of course, gold is, in human affairs, a powerful magnet.
    “Far to the east, above the undreamed-of ocean,
    The sun blazes on painted ships
    Stealing forward…”
    The old gods, divined for protection in a universe that is always uncertain, are always powerful enough to protect the gold possessed by the people and a cause for celebration. Far to the east painted ships steal forward “aching with empty holds.”
    For even though the celebration clothes the king in flakes of gold and
    “the gift of the sun as it clears the peak,”
    empty holds in the ships of the mighty ache for their human cargo, giving into the sailors of those ships Eldorado.

    Like

    • Thank you Thomas. You are very kind. I was very interested in your remarks about ‘the old gods’ by the way.
      Mybook should be out in a day or two now and I’d be honoured if you bought it! 🙂

      Like

  10. Lots that I like about this, it paints a great picture.
    Love the line…
    “He must fill his lungs and plunge
    To the depths of the lake where the old gods are sleeping.”
    and also
    “above the undreamed-of ocean”.

    Like


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