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
Returning, We Hear the Larks
Sombre the night is: And, though we have our lives, we know What sinister threat lurks there. Dragging these anguished limbs, we only know This poison-blasted track opens on our camp— On a little safe sleep. But hark! Joy—joy—strange joy. Lo! Heights of night ringing with unseen larks: Music showering on our upturned listening faces. Death could drop from the dark As easily as song— But song only dropped, Like a blind man’s dreams on the sand By dangerous tides; Like a girl’s dark hair, for she dreams no ruin lies there, Or her kisses where a serpent hides.