from The Labyrinth
Since I emerged that day from the labyrinth,
Dazed with the tall and echoing passages,
The swift recoils, so many I almost feared
I’d meet myself returning at some smooth corner,
Myself or my ghost, for all there was unreal
After the straw ceased rustling and the bull
Lay dead upon the straw and I remained…
I could not live if this were not illusion.
It is a world, perhaps; but there’s another.
For once in a dream or trance I saw the gods
Each sitting on the top of his mountain-isle,
While down below the little ships sailed by…
That was the real world; I have touched it once,
And now shall know it always. But the lie,
The maze, the wild-wood waste of falsehood, roads
That run and run and never reach an end,
Embowered in error – I’d be prisoned there
But that my soul has birdwings to fly free.
Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
Edwin Muir 1949
One of my favorite poets, Edwin Muir wrote in Scotland, largely after World War II. His poems brim with allusion, drawing off of Greek myth and Biblical allegory in response to the horrors he lived through. Like "the Labyrinth," much of his poetry comments on the dark and tangled world that holds little trace to God any more.