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The island

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The way is dark, for underneath the trees
the gibbous moon is blotted from the sky;
and though no clouds above the world go by,
the way cannot be made with speedy ease.
So Meirion picks through the dark, slow trotting,
as muffling cloths tear ragged from her hooves,
and Trefor likes to watch the sky that moves
behind the rapid branches’ complex knotting -
or so it seems. But far above the trees
the moon is bright, and shines out cold and clear.
Away from human lights, the stars draw near;
the heavens press the sky that Trefor sees
to hug the earth close by, as if intent
on taking back the gift that God once lent.

At last the isle. Shall dawn be coming soon?
He knows the solstice sky this special day,
and gazes on the wondrous Milky Way,
dim glimmering and shiv’ring in the moon.
Above the ocean t’ward the north of east
should rise the sun; and on this shortest night,
he knows that he can judge the stars aright,
and lets his eyes devour the Eastern feast.
Down low, Capella’s shining lights the sky,
and at that moment winks below a star
along the dark horizon, seen afar,
which must be Castor, first of Gemini
to enter into sight of Northern lands.
Two hours, then, till sunlight sweeps the strands.

So time is on his side. He says farewell
to moonlight mild, and countless stars that beam -
will light exist in such a dreadful dream
as Helga made of dim and deadly hell?
He follows all along the shimmering band
through Perseus, in which are spangles bright;
innumerable tiny dots of white
created on a whim by heaven’s hand.
Up, up he looks; a Queen on glorious throne;
and up again, there stately shines the King,
as brightling Deneb heralds Cygnus’ wing;
due south above the isle, the swan has flown.
Sweet Vega, blinding white amidst the lyre;
the beauteous heavens’ shining night attire!

There low at south of west shines Altair’s eagle,
and tumbling o’er the edge the Archer goes.
What light is this, that twinkles by his toes?
The sorcerer, or king of planets regal?
He looks among the trees, and sees a wink,
then judges that is Saturn o’er the isle.
But best, the moon will shine its light a while
still left of dreaming trees, not yet to sink
denying light to him. He will have time.
Above the moon, fair Pegasus the Horse
with feathered wings flies all his nightly course;
his spreading splendour springs in flight sublime.
Looking to west, Arcturus, Boötes’ vassal;
last north, the mighty bear grips Robert’s castle.

He looks along the water by the isle;
then gasps, for in its face shine cold and clear
many of those who far above appear,
not mere reflected shapes, but sketched with style.
The King raised up the Queen to heaven’s airs;
the horse, the swan and eagle all surround
the sorcerer and petty king, who drowned,
while heaven’s shepherd keeps his flock from cares.
The bear rends Robert’s stronghold like a straw,
and all of this is played upon the lyre;
the archers to the forest all retire,
and then the vision vanishes. In awe,
young Trefor knows he saw by Fairy Sight
what no one else beheld this moonlit night.

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