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
On Receiving the First News of the War
Snow is a strange white word; No ice or frost Has asked of bud or bird For Winter’s cost. Yet ice and frost and snow From earth to sky This Summer land doth know; No man knows why. In all men’s hearts it is: Some spirit old Hath turned with malign kiss Our lives to mould. Red fangs have torn His face, God’s blood is shed: He mourns from His lone place His children dead. O ancient crimson curse! Corrode, consume; Give back this universe Its pristine bloom.