Friday, March 18, 2011

The poetry of the Space Marine First Legion

For those who haven't seen this before, let's have some poetry. This poem is by a poet called Lionel Johnson and is titled The Dark Angel. Read to the end, it's a very good piece and discussion follows afterwards.

None of this is my work but it is very thought-provoking and so hopefully people enjoy. Please visit the links given at the end.


The Dark Angel
DARK Angel, with thine aching lust
To rid the world of penitence:
Malicious Angel, who still dost
My soul such subtile violence!

Because of thee, no thought, no thing,
Abides for me undesecrate:
Dark Angel, ever on the wing,
Who never reachest me too late!

When music sounds, then changest thou
Its silvery to a sultry fire:
Nor will thine envious heart allow
Delight untortured by desire.

Through thee, the gracious Muses turn,
To Furies, O mine Enemy!
And all the things of beauty burn
With flames of evil ecstasy.

Because of thee, the land of dreams
Becomes a gathering place of fears:
Until tormented slumber seems
One vehemence of useless tears.

When sunlight glows upon the flowers,
Or ripples down the dancing sea:
Thou, with thy troop of passionate powers,
Beleaguerest, bewilderest, me.

Within the breath of autumn woods,
Within the winter silences:
Thy venomous spirit stirs and broods,
O Master of impieties!

The ardour of red flame is thine,
And thine the steely soul of ice:
Thou poisonest the fair design
Of nature, with unfair device.

Apples of ashes, golden bright;
Waters of bitterness, how sweet!
O banquet of a foul delight,
Prepared by thee, dark Paraclete!

Thou art the whisper in the gloom,
The hinting tone, the haunting laugh:
Thou art the adorner of my tomb,
The minstrel of mine epitaph.

I fight thee, in the Holy Name!
Yet, what thou dost, is what God saith:
Tempter! should I escape thy flame,
Thou wilt have helped my soul from Death:

The second Death, that never dies,
That cannot die, when time is dead:
Live Death, wherein the lost soul cries,
Eternally uncomforted.

Dark Angel, with thine aching lust!
Of two defeats, of two despairs:
Less dread, a change to drifting dust,
Than thine eternity of cares.

Do what thou wilt, thou shalt not so,
Dark Angel! triumph over me:
Lonely, unto the Lone I go;
Divine, to the Divinity.

Lionel Johnson

"As far as I am aware, 'The Dark Angel' and the sin it refers to specifically concern dissident sexual desire and the poem was probably expressive of Johnson's struggles with his homosexuality in a Christian setting..." [Professor Jane Wright]. Johnson's conversion to Catholicism in 1891 was the primal drive for his later repressed state, there is a streak of angst and self-loathing running through the poem, a plea for understanding both at a personal level and the greater issues of acceptance within the context of his religious beliefs. The polarity of his poition was almost impossible to reconcile and this is reflected not only in The Dark Angel but in other works too.

So what can we deduce from this and are there any links (real or imagined) to 'our' Dark Angels and what of the influence upon the game designers of the day?

In many ways we can see echoes of the poems sentiments within the psyche of the Dark Angels Chapter. They are engaged on a crusade to atone for their own deep-rooted catastrophe of so many falling to Chaos, and to ultimately find redemption and forgiveness reflecting the need for them to wipe the slate clean – by becoming even purer, even single-mindedly more loyal.

But these were not merely internal struggles of conscious as Johnson, like the DA, needed to physically hide their "sin" from those of higher authority too. Johnson for legal reasons (homosexuality was only decriminalised in the UK in 1967, and in Scotland in 1980), the Dark Angels to keep themselves out of the gaze of the suspicious Inquistion. It's basically self-preservation which drives the motives of both – a common human condition.

Despite there being no official acknowledgement as such, we must conclude that the poem did influence the backdrop of the Chapter, and Lionel Johnson is indeed the first Dark Angel. The combined coincidences not only of both names but motives too are just too great to pass off as mere chance. Interestingly and possibly in an attempt to 'hide' this literary connnection, the original founder of the Dark Angels was once named "Lyyn Elgonsen".

Poem copied from poet's corner, scroll down for The Dark Angel.

The points of discussion I posted are taken from an excellent piece at The Dark Fortress and are not my own work. Please visit this site for all of their excellent Dark Angels background, tactics, photos, artwork etc.

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