In his malodorous brain what slugs and mire, Lanthorned in his oblique eyes, guttering burned! His body lodged a rat where men nursed souls. The world flashed grape-green eyes of a foiled cat To him. On fragments of an old shrunk power, On shy and maimed, on women wrung awry, He lay, a bullying hulk, to crush them more. But when one, fearless, turned and clawed like bronze, Cringing was easy to blunt these stern paws, And he would weigh the heavier on those after. Who rests in God's mean flattery now? Your wealth Is but his cunning to make death more hard. Your iron sinews take more pain in breaking. And he has made the market for your beauty Too poor to buy, although you die to sell. Only that he has never heard of sleep; And when the cats come out the rats are sly. Here we are safe till he slinks in at dawn. But he has gnawed a fibre from strange roots, And in the morning some pale wonder ceases. Things are not strange and strange things are forgetful. Ah! if the day were arid, somehow lost Out of us, but it is as hair of us, And only in the hush no wind stirs it. And in the light vague trouble lifts and breathes, And restlessness still shadows the lost ways. The fingers shut on voices that pass through, Where blind farewells are taken easily . . . Ah! this miasma of a rotting God!
Isaac Rosenberg - 1890-1918
Killed in Action
Your “Youth” has fallen from its shelf, And you have fallen, you yourself. They knocked a soldier on the head, I mourn the poet who fell dead. And yet I think it was by chance, By oversight you died in France. You were so poor an outward man, So small against your spirit’s span, That Nature, being tired awhile, Saw but your outward human pile; And Nature, who would never let A sun with light still in it set, Before you even reached your sky, In inadvertence let you die.