Talliesin’s dream of the Empire
Taliessin slept beside a crooked stream, deep
in the heart of the mountains in the northern mists
and wilds of Wales; memories of the golden domes and brass bells
in the Imperial City puncuated his pleasant dreams
and in his thoughts he wandered her golden streets,
hearing the waves of the Propontis lap the seaward walls,
protected and safe in the impregnable citadel
at the heart of Christendom.
Taliessin dreamed of the Holy Wisdom, where heaven and earth
met there in the first church of the first city
of the whole world; and his heart was heavy, remembering
the heavenly chanting of black-robed monks and nuns
serving the divine service with simplicity and love,
and above all, the soaring majesty of the Greek languge,
expressing with all its philosophical subtleties
the surety of the Divine Mystery.
Even in his dreams, the king’s poet wept for certainty,
for what could be certain in the semibarbarous land
of his birth; men who had not seen the beauty and glory,
but only the rough humility and the restraint and taint of war,
knowing the penitance of asceticism, but not the greatness
nor grandeur of redeemed creation–and yet his own nation,
small though it may be, on the fringe of the oecumene,
produced as many and as great saints
as those more closely dominated by the Great City.
Taliessin’s dream of the Empire extended, from hence and to hence,
and in the quiet dark of the mountainous wilderness
his mind fixed upon the very meaning of empire, the connotation
and denotation resolved in the iconography
of Wisdom’s imperial majesty.