The Utter East

The Utter East – by Jef Murray

Aslan – Sketch © by Jef Murray

The Utter East

When e’re the road flows by my door
And beckons loudly in its haste
to sweep me off through mist and moor
unto some rich uncharted waste,
I feel that tug of tempting fate:
September hailing from her hills,
insisting secret paths await
all souls who seek to shed life’s ills.

And so, on glowing eventide
I don my cloak and down the track
I pass, not knowing what might hide
in hedge or brake to turn me back
into the orbit of my life:
the one that now I seek to shed.
I may be courting untold strife,
but to such ventures I am led.

And so I jump the turnstile whence
the road resumes its onward march
past field and furrow, fen and fence,
through oak and hazel, pine and larch.
Soon sorrows fade and I embrace
that mystic sparseness that beguiles
those who would fain their fears outpace.

Over hills I swiftly stride
then pause and harken to some sound
pursuing me; but who would ride
this night through copse and barren ground?
Yet padded footfalls nearer fall,
their maker hidden in the murk
and clammy mists that cover all
the fetid glens where fell things lurk.

I panic, though I know not why,
and seek to flee this stalwart shade
that mocks my steps as forth I hie.
I plunge headlong through grove and glade,
terror stricken as I seek
to shake this specter from my track;
yet, I consider that I’m weak,
unable to withstand attack.

Then I remember deepest faith
that whispers aye of blessed themes
and counsels that no shade or wraith
might overcome baptismal streams.
And so I turn and trust that fate
will fend me from the wicked wight
that closes fast with quickened gait
to bring some crowning to this night.

But then, in glint of silver moon,
from lo, beyond the sylvan shade
a figure lopes, and light of noon
precedes its steps into the glade.
It stops and shakes a gilded mane
and roars; the echoes of that blast
sting ear and heart. Thus evil’s bane
must ever conquer sin at last.

I stand transfixed as if in stone;
trapped, I fear what doom resounding
comes, commanding flesh and bone.
This grand lord, glory surrounding
his great visage, brimming grace,
approaches gently, eyes downcast
until we both stand face to face.

He then lifts up his noble head
and I descry beneath those pools
of emerald wisdom, tears unshed
have welled; what evil, think I, fuels
such anguish in this noble breast?

He turns away, and passes on;
but like a moth by dusk oppressed,
I, to this glorious Light, am drawn.

I puzzle then, and hesitate;
my will to flee my life recedes,
but I, to seize my destined fate,
sense I must fare where this king leads.

I turn and gaze into the night
the road is straight, yet to one side
I see a trail that strays from sight
into the rugged waste, untried
by any traveler. There he
has turned aside and makes his way
down bramble-laden tracks; I see
that black path does not him dismay.

So I, too, take the thorn-filled trail;
this doom I choose not to evade.
Through wind and thunder, smoke and hail,
I bear all, yet am not afraid
of pressing shades that quail and shrink
from sight as I, with this warden,
persevere. And soon I think
of coming dawn, and my burden
rests much lighter; could it be
that these torments relent at last?

I scan the rugged trail and see
him scale the heights; he courses fast
to greet the coming dawn. ‘Tis meet
that I continue in his wake
for, though alone, my feet are fleet,
and soon the promised day will break.

So then, on glowing morning-tide
I lift mine eyes unto the pass
ahead, aware that this divide
my life would take, should I trespass
beyond it to be with my king.
So, here I shall steadfastly wait,
for his command, my soul to bring
unto that land and through that gate.


Jef Murray is an internationally known Tolkien and fantasy artist/illustrator and counterfeit essayist. His paintings, sketches, and writings sprout sporadically from the leaves of Tolkien and Inklings publications (Amon Hen, Mallorn, Beyond Bree, Silver Leaves, Mythprints) and Catholic journals (The St. Austin Review, Gilbert Magazine, The Georgia Bulletin) worldwide. Visit Jef’s website at www.JefMurray.com.

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About the Author

Jef Murray is an internationally known Tolkien and fantasy artist/illustrator and counterfeit essayist. His paintings, sketches, and writings sprout sporadically from the leaves of Tolkien and Inklings publications (Amon Hen, Mallorn, Beyond Bree, Silver Leaves, Mythprints) and Catholic journals (The St. Austin Review, Gilbert Magazine, The Georgia Bulletin) worldwide.

Contrary to all sense and sensibility, his images most recently wended their way into The Magic Ring: Deluxe Illustrated Edition by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque and Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien by Hilary A. R. Tolkien.

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