Whiter than the swan on a lake
Whiter than the gull of the stream
Whiter than snow on the high-peak.
Like a wave of the sea from ebb to flood
Slender as the tall-birch, blowing…
Of a shape-sweet as full bodied clover, bobbing…
Of a colour-fair as summer’s bright morn, glowing…
Your presence, the dawning glory of the land.
Lovely the sun’s smile, rising…
Lovely the moon’s sheen, climbing…
Lovely the stars gleam, shining…
More lovely, the blush of your cheek.
The hermit showed Ewan a path
which led under the cliff, into the wood,
and on to a thorn tree beneath which was a well-spring.
He bade Ewan return to him at night-fall with his visions…
“Become not weary of looking,” he said, “what you seek lies
within the purvey of spirits, and that takes time.”
So Ewan took the path and found the well-spring,
which had been furnished with a hexagonal stone well-head.
He peered over the rim of the well-head and into the water,
but all he could see was his own visgae and the thorn tree behind it.
Three times Ewan peered into the well and he looked longer
and harder each time until just as he was wearying of the endeavour,
the water in the well, clouded and cleared so that it was as if
he was peering into another world.
…”Surely I heard a voice,” said Ewan,
“although that voice was neither mine nor yours?”
“I heard it too,” said the hermit,
“and many more like it before. In solitude
there will be voices as in still water, there are visions.”
As Ewan thought on those words he saw only before him,
the racing, tumbling, burbling stream outside.
“Where is the still water of your visions?”
“Not far,” said the hermit,
“but the looking is longer than way that reaches it.”
In the morning the hermit set two bowls
of milk with bread on the table,
and Ewan sat where the murmuring
of the stream outside came in at the window,
and a soft air came with it, and made his world anew.
Ewan ate with few words for his tomorrow had come
and still he knew not whether to stay or go…
He looked at the hermit as he thought,
and the hermit looked back and nodded,
as if he had heard all he was thinking.
At one time there was a voice which said simply,
‘For delight men stay but for desire they go on.’
An again the hermit nodded, though he had spoken no words.
…When Ewan looked at the hermit’s face
he could hardly see it for the twilight
was covering him little by little…
Only, his two eyes stood out clearer in the fading light,
and Ewan’s heart lay open to them like water to stars.
‘The words I told him not,’ thought Ewan,
‘He has gleaned them with those eyes!’
Then the hermit stood up and went out.
When he returned he had brought heather and fern
and he made up a bed for Ewan beyond his own.
They slept as darkness descended.
…But the hermit spoke on, “The part of a man
is to know whether his desire be a wise child or a wayward one.”
“And if a wayward child?” asked Ewan.
“Then swiftly will he be led wandering,
and just as swiftly left to wander,” said the hermit.
“And if a wise child?” asked Ewan.
“The wise child will never completely leave the wanderer,” said the hermit.
“How so can this be true?” asked Ewan.
“By nature,” replied the hermit, “for every man is that which has been,
and that which shall be.”
And Ewan was yet more astonished.
…So Ewan stood up
and went to the door in the rock,
and called to the hermit,
who came to the doorway and stood
shading his eyes with his hand…
The hermit took in the figure
which stood on the threshold
and invited him into his cave.
He bade him sit at his table and eat.
As Ewan sat and ate he found himself
telling the tale of the child that came to his kingdom
and led him from it into his new life
as a wanderer of which this was his first encounter.
“Aye,” said the hermit, “desire is a child, yet will he
take a man by the hand and lead him away.”
And Ewan was astonished at the hermit’s wisdom…
… And as the hermit entered in at his doorway,
the shadow was momentarily cool and dark upon him,
and then he was gone from sight like a fox to its earth.
But Ewan mused awhile longer on the scene
that he had just witnessed.
All that he had seen seemed to him
to be both strange and good,
like some elvish tale told to children,
who also have dealings with the little things of earth
and have chosen to live far from man.
Ewan wondered if, after all,
this might be the end of his desire…
…Ewan sat down to take in the hermitage.
The house was small and secret,
and it warmed his heart to think on it.
The carving of the stone was simple,
yet displayed the careful art of him that had laboured on it.
Just then, the hermit emerged from his sanctuary.
He held a loaf of bread in his hand,
which he broke and scattered upon the lawn.
Instantly the grass became full of small birds,
hopping and leaping after the bread as it was thrown.
When all the bread was gone,
the hermit drew his hood around his neck,
and went back into his house in the rock.