Milton’s Well

by Aidan Andrew Dun

In a little-known corner of Gloucestershire is Milton’s Well. Here, after being released from a London prison by the intervention of some well-read cavalier who knew ‘Hymn on the Morning of Christ’s Nativity’ and luckily realized that its author was languishing on death-row, Milton, now blind, is believed to have dictated Paradise Lost to his daughter. A friend and I found this heavenly place as a result of a motor-accident blocking the road nearby. Only the night before I’d been reading her Milton’s epic …

 
 
 

Predestination stopped her on the road,
speeding in some overcommitment,
racing impetuous down green skylines,
pushing the envelope of the just-possible.
On an S-bend with reversed camber,
on a suspicious twist of black ribbon,
fate overturned her world at sixty-five,
crushed a tin bubble with fluffy toys.
And she crawled out of a smoking hell
to stand on skid-marked tarmac, broken.

Just out of sight, hearing the sirens,
lamentations of the ambulance,
he, heretic, regicide and divorcee,
sits by the water, blind and reflecting,
rebel angel after the Restoration. Now
God sprawls on his Cavalier throne again,
after the civil war in the earthly paradise,
when sweet Oxfordshire was Lucifer’s
hiding-place along the burning lake,
when tyranny was taking back the sky.

The warts on the round face of Satan,
the bogus sainthood of the King,
the cannonades of both sides, bring
sickness to the soul. His lips move.
Eve, still clutching keys of ignition,
writes in copperplate as his whisper
interrupts the dictation of the river,
liquid sound that goes on forever,
poetry of water running over stones.

 
 
 

Note: In many languages the word ‘poem’ is found to mean ‘water running over stones’.

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