This blog's poems are from my published poetry book Star Steeds and Other Dreams: The Collected Poems (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2009) and are © Dr Karl P.N. Shuker, 2009. Except for author-credited review purposes, it is strictly forbidden to reproduce any of these poems elsewhere, either in part or in entirety, by any means, without my written permission.

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Friday, 12 November 2010


It was my mother who introduced me to the evocative light-classical compositions of English composer Albert Ketèlbey (1875-1959). Many of his best-loved compositions were thematic, such as ‘In a Chinese Temple Garden’, ‘In a Persian Market’, ‘In the Mystic Land of Egypt’, and perhaps his most famous work of all, ‘In a Monastery Garden’. It was while listening to this lovely composition one afternoon that the idea came for the following poem, which I duly wrote while the strains of Ketèlbey’s music played on, inspiring and shaping it into its final form.


Out of the nightmare of War’s raging battle
Struggled two soldiers away from the field,
Walking in silence so far from their homeland,
Hoping that somewhere a vision would yield,

One that would show them why War must continue,
Why they must struggle when all else seems lost,
Why so much bloodshed should lie over Europe,
Death being Victory’s ultimate cost.

And as they wandered, they heard from a clearing
Singing and psalms drifting softly all round,
As in the branches a nightingale’s lilting
Filled all the vales with melodious sound.

There, up ahead, lay a monastery’s garden,
Golden and peaceful in sun-dappled bliss;
Fountains danced brightly in dazzling crescendos,
Flowers stretched up longing for sunlight’s warm kiss.

Here the two paused, looking into the garden;
Then to the gate they approached side by side,
Gazed for a time, and, refreshed by its beauty,
Opened it slowly and entered inside.

And in the wonder and peace of the garden,
Each sat there thinking of all that was past,
Knowing that they could reshape the world’s future,
Knowing that freedom forever could last.

Blossom fell gently upon the two soldiers,
Fragrant and fragile as transient dreams,
Bringing them sleep to escape from the fighting,
Hiding War’s shadow with Light’s golden beams.

And in their dream stood an Angel of Mercy,
Towering over the spectres of War,
Till, when his countenance gazed on these phantoms,
Each one was shrivelled, and War was no more.

Now, when they woke, they possessed a new wisdom,
Knowing at last what their fighting must bring;
Blessed with new Hope ‘midst Despair’s cloak of Panic,
Hearing the churchbells for Victory ring.

And as they sat there, they talked of the battle,
Each one now conquering War’s bitter Dread.
Then, as the first paused in thought for a moment,
Up stood the other in silence, and said:

“Never has so much been lost by so many,
Lost in the dream of a kingdom of Peace,
Hoping their sons will be born into Freedom,
Praying that by their own deaths War will cease.

“Never again must our world be divided,
Fighting in vain for the pleasure of War;
Next time the war will not end with our dying,
Next time our world will be lost ever more.”

Then they walked slowly away from the garden,
Back to the fighting, the guns, and the war.
Yet they knew not of the Presence who watched them,
For they looked back not, and so never saw

There in the garden an Angel stood softly –
He who had sent them their vision of Peace –
Watching them go to a world draped in Sorrow,
Doomed till their fighting could bring them release.

And as they vanished, the Seraph spoke softly:
“Eden was lost to you, children of Greed;
Never again must such war come to being,
Next time from Woe you will never be freed.

“Next time your fighting will be your destruction,
Mankind will wither, and Mankind will die.
And of the world left polluted with Evil,
Only a mushroom will rise through the sky.”
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