One day; a valediction

Those who've read More Deaths Than One may remember that Thomas Thornton, (previously John MacRae), always carried with him a copy of a poem sent to him by his father (his biological father, that is.) Young John was eight years old at the time of his receipt by post of the poem, which was quickly followed by news of his father's murder. Several references to it were made in my novel but the poem itself never came to the surface of the first edition.

I am just now completing a tidied up second edition of More Deaths Than One. This has a new introduction and a new ending page. Without giving any of the story away to those who have not read the book, this new ending page consists of John MacRae senior's poem, the one he wrote for his son. (Well the one I wrote for him to write for his son, if you see what I mean!) And this is the first time it has seen by anyone anywhere but in my own mind ...

Four Lights

My son, I’ve come to understand four lights,
by which I’ve walked my troubled way, knew
them as friends throughout my blackest nights.
And now it’s done and I sink out of view,
my son, I pass them gladly on to you.

The first lights up the eyes of God and so
through it we glimpse His face, infinity,
the universe, our place within the flow
of life: thus offers its stability:
His brightest hope for all humanity.

And yet the second lights our race, our world,
shows all our tribal actions on this tract
called little Earth, shines on the flag unfurled
by which we gladly march, pro patria intact,
to kill and still avoid hell’s cataract.

This third, so dear to me as my end nears
burns bright on us and each one we call ours,
those of our name, through joys and fears and tears
binds us together through the passing hours
should we be down some cave or in high towers.

And now this fourth, the brightest and the best,
that’s yours, that’s you the moment of your birth
unchanging should you guard its interest
that may live on if what you do has worth
so long as Man shall walk his mother earth
Son, tend it well: this fourth light is your sun
as you are mine to shine now I am gone.


John MacRae for John MacRae Junior
November 1st, 1970

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