Ian Stewart Black

Modern master of classical poetry

Set In Stone

A footfall from the ravages
Of covetous society;
A leap or bound or glorious
Ascent into the bountiful;
One single step beyond the grey
Our fathers rung around our necks
Into a gleaming emerald:
A haven set in soulless steel.

Where waves of our immortal earth
Lie slumbering in slow crusade;
Innumerable rays of light
Descend into the verdant realm
On one such timeless pilgrimage;
And we who still remember pay
Our homage to the vital shrine:
The kiss of nature on our brow.

In reverence of those most rare
And precious acres still untouched
By man’s uncivilised design;
In love of truest origin,
We bid our primal spirits roam
The only country we call home:
The brook and bough more dear to us
Than any bauble of our youth.

And set in one immortal stone
Without the crutch of mortal tongue,
Inscribed into the ageless rock;
Dispelling shadows from our minds
In wordless whispers from the wind,
The earth in perfect slumber speaks:
Let all who live abide in peace,
For life is sacred to us all.


So comes the hour.
The godless stoop to pray,
And devils answer – their congregation veils
The sun; the day is night, and heroes cower.
Champions are slain; the bravest men are prey.
The last remaining hopes of our salvation fail
To hold, and monarchs quake for want of power.
Few survivors stagger from the bloodied fray,
And those who do, pursued; weary souls of pale
Complexion slouch toward the standing tower.
We exhausted remnants shudder in our grey
Asylum, hounded by the diabolic wails;
We are weak and feeble men.
So comes the hour.

Wings Of Dusk

The sprawling limbs of nation lie obscure
In shadow softly dark and darkly pure,
But seldom subject to the world’s regard;
A realm awakens to the scattered shards
Of light embedded in the wings of dusk.

Banal dominions of the day are made
Into an otherworldly moonlit glade,
Within whose bosom every man is king;
And from the earth at every corner springs
The manna to rejuvenate the soul.

A child of midnight from the darkling womb
Whose gaze deciphers the exquisite gloom,
The moon and stars resplendent in your eyes;
And all that once was tame and feeble dies
As this chimera from the dusk is born.

Glory In Descent

A swallow dive
On cinder wings
From here to Acheron

Moonlight Villanelle

As moonlight washes over me,
This little world is nothing but
An island in the endless sea.

I wait and wish to wander free,
Imbued with everlasting hope
As moonlight washes over me.

All things we stoop to build will be
Forgotten, as we cultivate
An island in the endless sea.

I stand upon the shore and see
A blazing star ascend the sky,
As moonlight washes over me.

The march of time will hear no plea,
No voice amid the darkness of
An island in the endless sea.

I’ve come to realise that we
Are blessed to watch it all unfold…
As moonlight washes over me,
An island in the endless sea.

Landscape In Blue

A grubby orphan
Cools his heels in the fountain;
Where else could he go?

Gentle-folk parade
Over sun-soaked cobblestones,
But they scald his feet.

He soothes his bare bones
In sight of everybody,
And seen by no one.


Vigilant Plato
Towers over his student
With featureless eyes.

Nestled in the shade,
A drunken philosopher
Mutters his musings.

An empty bottle
Clutched to his reverend breast:
Drained of every drop.


Cigarette vapours
Swirl in wintry wisps around
The woman in red.

A dreary drag for
Anaesthetic, numbing her
Scarlet solitude.

In her blackened eyes,
There is nothing left to give;
She wears her colour.


A shadow in rags
Emerges in an alley,
Eluding the sun.

The tattered garments
Turn out their empty pockets
In desperation.

A market seller
Sings the virtues of his wares;
The shadow is gone.


With unflinching gaze,
A mother cherishes the
Infant in her arms.

Motionless, she waits
For the sickly child to wake,
And she waits in vain.

Basking in the sun,
Strangers smile contentedly;
A beautiful day.

Ordinary Love

I’ve had my fill of fireworks and butterflies;
The river never dries, another stoops to drink
Those same familiar waters of my yearning years.
The gushing spirit of romanticism dies
Along with gasping youth – no, let another drink;
This common sustenance is boring me to tears.

Another Juliette for weary Romeo;
Another angel woven from the pale moonlight;
Enough! Infatuation holds its tired charms,
But that old river wends its way through commonplace
Horizons – nowhere that I haven’t seen before.
Give me the impossible, and I will love you.


Consign to history the muse of Troy
Whose beauty conquers any heart but mine,
Which loves and weeps in longing for a boy
In freshly burgeoned lustre on the vine.
Possessed of all that time and age dilute
And never find their way to reconstruct:
My own awaking, freshly ripened fruit
In perfect blossom but as yet unplucked.
Enamoured of this love that nature bore
To penetrate into the heart of me;
I gladly yield my hand to guide, and more:
Indulge in nature as it ought to be.
The boy would be a man in my embrace,
If I could harvest of his fruits – and taste.

And such an appetite I have to feast
Voraciously upon his primal spire:
To make of that unseasoned buck a beast
Beneath the moonlight of my own desire.
Or better yet, he should remain endowed
With all the innocence of boyish charm:
Inhibited by youth’s forbidding shroud
Until he lies surrendered in my arms.
My kingdom for that one, indulgent hour
Of such elusive satisfaction; just
To fall upon his promise, and devour;
To soar in rapturous delight of lust.
Would sorrow perish in his passion-throes…
Or appetite, for having tasted, grow.

I sail for conquest of uncharted land:
To seal, in one almighty trembling gasp,
The majesty of his dominion’s span
Forever in my domineering grasp.
Full-bodied in my yearning, tantalised
By all that waits on that abundant shore:
My lust-begotten longings realised
In plundering his undiscovered store.
A conqueror of Eden, yes, but more:
A liberating idol from beyond
The swollen sea of time – to be adored
As emissary of the coming dawn.
Oh, love! To venture where my dreams have roamed:
To move within his realm, and call it ‘home’.

What dreams they are, for fallen cherries taste
As pale and bitter counterfeits to those
Of blushing, blooming, fruitful lips – encased
In pallid flesh to rival virgin snows.
A longing glance from his delirious,
Enraptured eyes; unspoken questions met
With certainty from my imperious
Device; amid elation, sighs and sweat:
Apotheosis! Oh, perfection of
A little death! Immeasurable wealth
In those climactic moments wherein love
Has conquered breath, and form, and thought, and self.
The world that here awaits your eyes may seem
A paradise; Alas, ‘tis all a dream.

My sweet chimera – damsel, maiden, knight!
A fearless beauty lingers in your youth;
But time will see your heart is broken – night
Will fall enwrought with darkly fashioned truth;
And I, with all my triumphs and my charms,
Will witness beauty wither on the vine;
My everything in some seducer’s arms:
A subject to a lesser love than mine.
Fair Dorian, forbid despair to waste
What once is lost and never thus regained;
Oh, lust! Release yourself in my embrace
‘Til only you and I and love remain.
Ascend to that euphoric, sacred plane
‘Til only you and I and love remain.


We’ve said enough of nothingness
To bury us, and I confess
To nothing less than emptiness
In garbled wails.

My lustrous mind resigned to Grief,
The all-devouring master thief:
His greed abiding no relief
Until the grave.

Their feathers fall like dusk, and sit
As bible-black assailants flit
In maddened haze throughout the pit
That was my brain.

The spirals spiral downward still;
They narrow, suffocate, and kill,
But never seem to have their fill
Of suffering.

There are no words, there is no time;
No tolling bell, no song or chime;
Our heaven’s built of rubble, grime,
And feasting worms.

Tell Mother Death to wrap me up
In tattered blankets: I will sup
Eternal from her bosom’s cup,
And ever rest.

As haven to a mourning crow,
A barren tree in years will grow
From in the shadow-sea below,
Where I reside.

The vestige of a soul, I sleep
Where neither lies nor whispers creep:
In frozen ages of the deep
‘Til kingdom come.

Sonnets To The Earth

I – Dawn

A shimmering epiphany of gold
Erupting from the heart of night; a rose
Whose glinting petals over all unfold
To wake a world of beauty in repose.
Elusive riches of the day distilled:
Dissevered from the formless void of time;
Ethereal made tangible – unwilled,
Unbidden, unbridled – and yet sublime.
A moment’s meaning stolen from the dim
Uncertainty of life: a chance to lose,
Amid a lustrous morning’s breath, the grim
Awareness that we walk in dead men’s shoes.
The dawn is nature’s doting soul unfurled:
A light of reverence cast o’er the world.

II – Earth

Fertility and fruitless acres, still
Amid cyclonic history – whose gust
Is master over man, but not the will
Of lordless kingdoms wakened from the dust.
The earth arises in defiant spires,
With man as ever laying claim to his:
We revel, live, and die in our desires
While stone has want nor wish, but simply is.
And as the most courageous mountaineers
Descend to claim the old colossus slain,
Interminable time will siphon years;
A man will wither, and his foe remain.
The bone of barren rock, and flesh of field:
The ancient earth will give, but never yield.

III – Air

Nomadic breath of all creation: saint
Of hatchling jay, and spur of weathered sail;
A will obliged to answer no constraint,
For neither grit nor guile can tame the gale.
The soothing flourish of the evening breeze
Imparting comfort to the mewling foal;
The scourge of turbulent and blighted seas,
Whose wrath is apt to still the bravest soul.
An exhalation from the boundless wild
That wends its way into the great and small;
Ubiquitous elixir, nature’s child:
A nemesis to some, a part of all.
In pilgrimage unseen, without a sound:
In one nomadic breath, our life is bound.

IV – Fire

Of flitting flames and furious desire,
Of fickle fate and flickering affair;
For loves and hates and passions all afire
Shall peter into embers of despair.
In vulgar shadows, ever burning bright:
The warmth of blood, and man’s seraphic spark;
Without the gift of flame to fend the night,
The best of men are quarry for the dark.
And love – the ever blazing torch – whose light
Is manna to a world of dusk and gloom;
Illuminating all until the night
Consigns both love and lover to the tomb.
We are destruction’s breath in mortal frame:
Our flesh, a living pantheon of flame.

V – Water

Pulsating rivers surge incessant through
Forgotten reaches of the void; a dearth
Of life undone, unnumbered joys ensue
Where sorrows of the sky caress the earth.
The heavens over withered wilds are burst
On land that neither man nor vulture knew;
Relentless solitudes assuage their thirst:
Imbibe the deluge, reservoir, and dew.
Abyssal gorges brim and overspill
With precious essence; watercolours rise
From in the desert sand and arid still,
Wherein the tranquil spring of being lies.
The vacant eyes of weary men outpour
Their weathered souls, as ghosts upon the shore.

VI – Twilight

The opulence of day and grace of night
Entwined, and yet uncompromised; demure,
Envisioned bloom of half-surrendered light:
The dusk and dawn in twilight’s realm endure.
Apollo falters and his flame recedes,
His kingless sovereignty in silhouette;
For blessed darkness from the vista bleeds,
And Artemis will seize dominion yet.
In wisps and vapours stream the coming gloom,
Its shadows over blazing day prevail;
But light will linger in exotic plume
Against the silken night’s amorphous veil.
Between the vying gods, a vacant crown:
The blue and dim – divided, kindred, bound.

VII – Flora

Miraculous and noble ‘lesser’ life,
Akin to earth and fuller creatures both;
Endowed with neither care of joy or strife,
But fashioned for the modest aim of growth.
Concocted from the elements’ sublime
Chaotic surge, and carried in the soil
As if a womb; their only urge to climb
Toward the sun – to reap its love, their toil.
Vitality unburdened by the weight
Of thought – at once, to be and not to be;
To bloom in beauty unaware bestows a great
And quiet dignity on plant and tree.
Of humble spirits, and of colours gay,
They want for nothing but the light of day.

VIII – Fauna

Oh sweet and joyous life that burgeons, bursts
And gambols forth into existence; free
From that interminable nothing: nursed
Upon the verdant, sun-exalted lea.
Divinity that first in silence grew
Amid the grim perdition of the sea
Has soared to boundless liberty – and who
Among us never longed to fly with thee?
Let human beings unto other beasts
The full compassion of our hearts extend:
To find the virtues of our souls increased,
And end the sorrows of our honest friends.
The joy of life would be so rare a thing
If not for morning song on merry wing.

IX – Wilderness

Abundant realm of man’s archaic seat,
Of verdurous and plentiful expanse;
In whom we dwelled before the great conceit
Of human glory sealed us in our manse.
Innumerable sights of wonder wait
A step beyond our reach, and still we crowd
Behind our weathered walls and gloomy gates:
Too ‘civilised’ – pretentious, numb and proud.
There’s something lost to modern man who fought
His nature from the cradle, falling far
From our essential selves; so let us not
Forget – the wilderness is who we are.
Society’s constraints see man defiled,
For we are all but children of the wild.

X – Humanity

So much to answer for, our reasons owed
Not least unto ourselves; content to die
With little wisdom, grace or joy bestowed
Upon the world, but simply pass it by.
Another generation brought to be,
Inhabiting a realm that we designed;
Without a purpose in our lives, I see
No meaning in the void we leave behind.
Oh base humanity, I love you still,
As ego drags you to a worthless fate;
If only common souls revered the will
To set aside their urges, and create.
The sword of Damocles is poised to fall;
We mortal spirits – we are beggars, all.

XI – Bounty

My dreams are least of many treasures, I
Have all the world to love and call my own;
And if I weep, then I am glad to cry:
My joys outweigh the sorrow I have known.
The earth has harboured me in solitude,
Its branches grasping to avenge the night;
Delivered me to hope, and faith renewed,
Beset by morning’s unrelenting light.
The wilds have wakened me, the rose inspired,
My woes have washed away upon the waves;
This ancient sphere that I have long admired
Shall be my love and muse – or else my grave.
And from my first, until those final days,
I proudly walk this earth of ours amazed.

XII – Dusk

The still and silent majesty of night:
A nebulous abyss of stars unfurled;
Intoxicating all in subtle light
And quiet beauty of another world.
Familiar colours of the day begin
To harmonise and dim – obscure, arcane,
Unknowable – our realm enveloped in
The gloom of this mercurial domain.
Illuminated by the moon’s embrace:
The latent soul concealed in all is free
To wander through the night’s enchanted grace;
The day’s prosaic burdens cease to be.
The earth in seeping, soothing darkness drowned;
The second nature of our world is found.


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