“I’ll bear affliction till it do cry out itself ‘enough, enough’, and die.” Gloucester, King Lear 4.5.

by Anthony Mills

The grey light of early morning bent over earth
splinters on tidal pools retreating under rock.
Huge sets of curling waves land with the green 
weight of sea-shudder, trampling the bay.

Gulls flash like steel, sharpen their shrill voice
against howling wind; knotted strings of kelp 
litter the beach; a fishing boat flounders among
clashing wind and light.

Atop cliffs imagined, a man plucked blind,
wind-wrung, wrestles grief. Hostage of chaos, 
his mind’s knives prod him to the cliff’s edge.
Far below, the sea struggles with its undercurrents.

Flinging himself into air, he falls not far and soft,
dead in his imagining. A pulse of breath blows 
inwards, his death startles to life.
Humbly feathered he yields to a new sky,

his mind cloudless, free from fear,
heart buoyed in the blue air of assent.

The poem ‘Assent’ is based on the scene from King Lear where the blind Gloucester attempts suicide. Gloucester is led to the top of an imagined cliff by his son Edgar. When Gloucester wakes, after his fall, he finds he is still alive.  Gloucester is subsequently ‘reborn’ and is prepared to suffer whatever trials life sends him. I greatly admire this scene for showing the power and use of the imagination in healing and for the stoic acceptance that  ‘whatever fortune sends we master it all by bearing it all’. 

Anthony Mills lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW. He spent most of his working life as a public health worker in the area of physical and mental health well-being. For a number of years he managed a WHO project in the Illawarra called ‘Healthy Cities’.

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