“The Rime of the Ancient Arator”

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The Rime of the Ancient Arator

By Bella Gamboa ’18

The sun was hot and high,
The earth unyielding as rock,
And the seeds shriveled in their coats.
The salty sea air no longer burned my nostrils —
I had been farming these fields for far too long —
But I never grew accustomed
To the crushing heat
And painful brightness
Of the celestial orb that both gives life,
And burns both human and plant
Indiscriminately.
As I rose for a moment from my plow,
I lifted my eyes to the skies once more,
Basking for a moment in the radiant rays
(Or trying, at least — I still hated the heat).

But then —.
A sight that confounds, that elates:
At first I thought they were birds,
But no avian species grows
That large, and I was well-versed
In their types: I had to know
Which would eat my crops,
And when they’d migrate,
And their calls kept me company
In days of both planting and harvest.

But these were not birds.
Their wings glowed in the light of the sun,
So the thin membranes, fine as silk,
That somehow supporting their weight
Appeared to be burnished gold.
And in that moment I knew:
They were gods.
Nothing else was remotely possible,
For when has man ever flown?
And they were too majestic to be mortals.
I recalled the story of the gods
Seeking a host to test the people’s piety,
But these gods never came down to us.

I still wonder what they were after.
And I was not the only one
Who saw this vision
(Otherwise I’d hardly believe it myself):
The young shepherd —
Or once young; now he is older than I was then —,
And the man at the market
From whom we bought our fish also saw;
We working men of the village,
Laboring in the sun,
Witnessed the spectacle,
And all our work felt worthwhile
After that one incredible image.

I have never forgotten this moment, children,
Though it was many years ago now,
For I have never seen a sight so glorious
As those two well-formed figures
Shining as the sun itself,
Soaring overhead,
Approaching the infinite horizon.

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