Under all beauty that I know,
All vital dreams,
Sharp loveliness,
Under the hair, the lips of laughter,
The dusk-dim eyes of pain,
Lurks the single thing I fear,
Hard-mouthed, implacable-eyed,
The monster,
The satyr-thing, futility.

I cannot look on loveliness
Or burn the flame of ecstasy,
Or even dream for very long,
Without the annihilating fear
That it will suddenly tear some veil
And bare its dreadful face.

When I am light with the exaltation
Mysteriously born of worship,
Filled like a cup with the wine of wonder
At some great cloudy bloom of color,
Or learning the infinite secrets of rapture
With bared heart held to love’s lips—
Light’s eyes are suddenly blinded,
Life gropes in empty twilight,
And the mocking mouth of the satyr-thing
Leers at me from a veil of dust.

Shuddering I crouch to earth,
Trembling lest it come more near,
Trembling lest it stretch a hand
And touch me! Choked by an agony
Of horror lest its deadly eyes
Should shrivel my flaming heart of dream.
Sometimes I think the universe,
Mind, passion, beauty, wisdom, light,
All fathomless life-wonders,
Serve only for its cloak.

It lurks like death in everything
That has a singing heart:
In all exultant voices,
In all desire’s burning eyes,
In youth’s true soul,
In love’s slim hands,

Sometimes I think it is life’s core,
This mocking-mouth’d implacable ghost.
Sometimes I think it is life’s core.
Sometimes I think it must be God.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain.