By Alexander Schoenenberger
Not in those climes where I have late been straying,
Though Beauty long hath there been matchless deemed,
Not in those visions to the heart displaying
Forms which it sighs but to have only dreamed,
To Ianthe, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,
“Is he there?” Sophie asked mother, her hand clinging to her new bag as they sat: waiting.
“Be quiet” came the reply. Mother wasn’t happy.
“No it’s okay mother, she should ask,” the burdened voice of father came from further down the line. Without looking at the girl he said “Sophie, have you ever wondered why we wait?”
“And have I told you of the time He spoke to me?”
“Well let me rectify that now. It was in this place, long before you were born, that He became known to me. I stood there next to that rock… Well, perhaps not that rock, but a rock similar to it in the very least.
There stood I, a man of little learning and even less intent to learn, waiting, as people do, for something.
I continued in this vain for quite some time moving only to breathe and to scratch an itch, for, as you well know, an itch must be scratched.” Father paused, considering his last words carefully, all the while relentlessly scouring the grey-velvet sky. “That is, of course, unless the itch is one of the mind: in such cases it is often better to leave it unscratched, so as to avoid confusion you see…
Anyway, there I was, sitting… No! Definitely standing – and waiting…when I heard a sound. Round that corner He came, all blue silk and dandy hair. Something worth waiting for – a hero,” Father stopped – dramatically.
Silence answered him, so he continued: “He walked toward me with strong strides that spoke of order – and an unflinching stare. I wanted to listen to him, to hear everything he had to say and to learn about why he was there.
Unfortunately he started with a question ‘Where is this place?’ he said – his voice saturated with life. I told him where we were, and upon hearing he sighed and sat. We remained in silence for a while (he will be able to tell you how long) before he said words which I will never forget:
‘People consider me a Romantic God, a capricious and altogether admirable deity. I love their love, and will die for it, but I expect they will do nothing. I have been in all of man’s experience, joy and war, hatred and unity, and yet here I sit – on some forsaken mount – with you my closest friend. I feel I ought to cry, but they would only be tears of contradiction. A “romantic god” indeed – “mad, bad and dangerous to know”, that is more apt. But they will go on singing my name without ever fully knowing me. I am their hero, but what is that? Something to aspire to? I hope not. Something to worship? It would appear I have little choice in the matter. So I will die and they will sing’.
“And with that he stood and began walking away. I wanted to follow, but I couldn’t move, I cried out to him ‘What should we sing?’ I think he didn’t hear me, because no reply came, he was gone. I understood everything he meant, and decided then and there that I should tell all mankind. He scorns us and yet we must admire him, you see he loves us all.”
“But he said that he loves our love?” Sophie questioned.
“Let us not confuse detail with interpretation, we must sing for all our hearts and he will hear us. He is a Lord and as such knows better than we.” Father, seemingly satisfied with his rendition of events, gazed harder than before.
Sophie wasn’t satisfied.“You said he came from round that corner” she said.
“Yes my dear, from down there.”
“Then why do we look at the sky?”
Silence was her reply. She waited patiently for father to speak, as she always did on these occasions. She gripped her bag less tightly now, her hand loosening with each unanswered minute. The desire to be answered was unrelenting; she was sure other people felt it too.
She leant forward and caught a glimpse of father, just enough to work out the direction of his gaze. Leaning further forward, making sure she could be seen by the whole line, she removed her hand from the bag altogether and pointed with all her might to the spot where father was looking:
“Is he there?” she asked.