Edmund Griffiths  

E d m u n d   G r i f f i t h s


Through glacial ages
he was perfecting his devices,
alone among Utgard’s
vast empty places.
Season after season
he’d stand and watch
the skating of the gulls
from a desolate beach
where only a seal
lifted bodily in a wave
might stare back at him:
thus he learnt to weave
delusions from spray
and uncertainties about water
that would unhinge the senses of
Thunder and the Traitor.
Then he walked in the tundra
and it taught him long
spells to be recited,
brief charms to be sung;
and the clatter of the wind
in the bare oaks
of the Utgard forest
suggested tricks.
He made night last all winter
and day all summer;
he taught the sky
to dance and shimmer;
and, even now, journeying
in those lonely roads,
people glimpse things they can’t
quite fit into words,
things that slip between the trees—
and these are what remains
of his early illusions,
straightforward routines
that he mastered fully,
then, growing bored,
left to run back down to nature
in the depths of the wood
while he was improving
more difficult skills,
more exacting mysteries,
to help him make fools
of the shining audience
he knew would appear.
And it happened, once:
big Thor
and his lissom companions
strayed across
the Utgard line
under the whispering mass
of canopied branches,
and Utgard’s man met
the venturesome gods
with a display of his art.
The performance he gave them
was restrained and classic:
nothing tawdry or dazzling,
just elegant basic
substitutions and glamours
and afterwards, to finish,
a faultlessly executed
general vanish.
For a while he listened
as Beardie and his men
wandered off grumbling
at being taken in:
and then he was alone
with his learning and his leisure
in the measureless space
of the Outer Enclosure.