Death came with night's falling
Upon a silver moonray struck
Through a thicket of darkening clouds
Where yonder I beheld some great storm
And upon that white ladder there lowered
To the waves of the sea
Like a raven's feather mislayed by winds,
That by which all destinies are eclipsed,
The hours of all men preordained—
Azrael, winged with one hundred eyes
That spread to darkening
Black as the measure of all human sin
By which the nightmares of children are kindled.
I saw him this last night, this final hour
Upon the vast and stormy sea
Where all souls culminate before their reckoning,
Taken upon that silver light to climb
Beside the Black Angel
Toward the gates of death.
SON OF THE SEA
Is it worth remembering what I came here to find?
Something in me which long has died
With none to mourn it but the slowly drifting waves
That quietly say their prayers.
And the hours in their dull passing.
They lament alone and empty
For I did not know them, those hours.
I thought I could know the sea
But to know her is to drown
And always at sunset as she glistens
Like a woman made of silver and gold
Before the watchless night.
THE BREAD OF DEATH
What is this thing we have swallowed?
After much gnashing of teeth, after much obscenity
After much blood's been let.
This is a thing that we have bitten impatiently
So that the truth was scorched straight off our tongues.
This is a thing which some ate cold and were ignored,
Which many ate last and were forgotten.
Has the taste left our mouths? Have we a sweet tooth?
Now we shove our fingers down our throats
To make the bile boil bloody
So as to retch fresh fodder into the trough.
Our bellies groan rotten, our craven eyes stare wild!
Satan whips our fatty hides and we go hurtling.
And I hear the mad ones squeal from the front ranks
As they lead the charge down the steep place:
Let us all turn into pigs and eat!
Blessed are they which hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
THE BEAST IS ANCIENT
I saw Him first in a vision which was preserved
In some cavernous subterranean beneath the upper ground,
Where through fiery columns which men had made with their natures
I saw Him sitting.
The lesser devils at His command bid me to fornicate
And to commit acts upon the souls who languished there
Whose tormented faces circumscribed the limits of His dominion.
What was that trimorphous face I saw? What words can describe it?
A face which immortality had engraved
For nothing reached his eyes but boredom born of insatiable hatred.
His ears were mute to all beside the sound of human suffering,
And knew no music nor laughter nor the gentle songs of birds.
His scarred flesh bore the mark of His number
His teeth were whetted on the bones of genocide
His fingers scuttered like ten lizards in tandem around His phallus
Which he used to seed the world with violence.
No one word was voiced from that gaping mouth
But multitudinous hexes from His hundred babbling tongues.
And also there He uttered numbers
And by that black art which is mathematics
He spontaneously manifested thing upon thing upon thing
Until all men were swallowed up in them
And each held no meaning beside the accumulation of their numbers.
He planted abstraction in the minds of men who lust for wisdom
As he placed fire in the hands of men who hunger for power.
When I gazed down into the lower depths
I saw the colossal anthill of men.
They were His slaves, and his slaves were slaves also unto themselves
Through vice and secrets and fetish, and all other things that are of darkness
And thus are of Him.
I can tell thee that no light shone there
But that my visions were formed of the shadows of shadows.
I can tell thee too that God was absent there
And thus love was absent also,
And that everything man holds dear to his heart
Was trampled under foot before my aching sight
By hordes of blind and deaf souls that had been transmuted into dogs
Yanked along by chains and leashes—as the pets of devils.
When I awoke it was spring
And the southerly wind was fanning the soft green grass
Where the cows were dozing like cherubs in their cots
Where streams of beautiful sunlight were falling from the blessed blue sky
As if to intimate paradise upon the earth
Whispering to all men that the truth is here whosoever should heed it.
And so from that bleakest vision I emerged in wonderment
At how a man could imagine such a thing—
That the sun may not shine tomorrow.
THE BRIDGE OF GOLD
There is a bridge of gold shimmering across the sea
Which no man may walk upon, for men are faithless
And to them all truth is illusion, all beauty a suffering.
But what a grace it is to watch the waters dance,
To watch the white doves dive and sail,
To see the dusk bloom red like a lover's kiss upon the earth,
And to behold in a tender hour
How the golden bridge burns like a million lanterns,
Like a thousand perishing souls upon a hundred homebound ships
Voyaging, sinking unto the eternal West,
Where only Christ might lay his bare feet upon Her
On the day of Judgement when the Beast will rise
And by the tongues of false prophets
Will etch his mark on the breasts of nations.
But the righteous will be received upon that bridge,
Hand in hand with that same light and that same truth,
Rejoicing in warmth and love
Over the bridge of gold.
THE TRUTH’S NOCTURNE
It was her who first shone
Through that cheerless night
With silver gaze and mystery’s ring.
In the sea, in the deep bosom of her waves,
Where she first whispered;
Where, upon a thousand ridges
Shimmered sapphire’s gloom.
And what a beauty she was—
Enough to go mad.
Over her sea and her secret wisdoms
All my stones were skipped
Until I’d none besides my weary form.
How I danced alive across the moonlit waves,
Destined to drown beneath her raptures,
Singing to her: “Farewell, farewell, wild-eyed nights!”
And drowned I would have done in darkness,
If not for what truly shone there,
That rose again in that dark.
DRUGS FOR THE MONKS OF DESPAIR
We set foot on the peak at midnight,
Upon the withering summit of despair
Where even the distant lights of distant towns
Fell funny on our eyes like colourful pandemoniums.
We wonder here and get lost somewhere
In the wildernesses of depravity.
We follow cloven prints in the turf
Through myriad scenes and mirage of self
Unto the crumbling ruins of yesterday
Where monsters sleep queerly like insomniacs.
Medusa rises out of a dream like dawn
And spreads her whorish tendrils
Over our motley, unshaven heads,
As we tilt our faces in unholy prayer
Toward inglorious chemicals.
Half our brains are dashed in piss steeped rivulets
In sunless cubicles strewn wall-to-wall with sublime obscenities.
Midnight swallows night in transient roars
Escaping the hellish scapes of our heads.
We are the Monks of Despair, perusing this place
Like the devil upon the earth.
Night watches us and stalks us
Like a thousand lonely, unmanned lighthouses
Casting new constellations onto the starless sky.
Cocaine dries our throats like the Sun doth the desert
And no more words can come from us.
You will not hear us muttering inanely at the walls,
You will not see us—us who are mad,
As we follow those lights to our demise.
We are the Monks of Despair.
We escheweth truth and trusteth evil
And experience we shall consume unto the pitiless end.
For nothing exists but the pleasure of living,
And all that the universe contains falls under our dominion.
We shall fill it further with the fantastical contents of our minds;
Fill it and bury all in our subterrainicon,
And the children will have to eat, sniff and claw their way out
Without ever opening their eyes to the horror
For they would die of surprise.
Oh children of this world,
Divine in thyself a new Path!
Do not dine on the corpse,
Nor suckle at the barren roots
Like a lamb silly to be a tree.
I have lusted after the greatest lust and found only madness.
I have searched inwardly by the greatest vanity and found the same.
I was a Monk of Despair meditating like a lunatic in lunacy.
But I have escaped the temples they constructed for us
And come bearing an ancient truth like a stone:
Be careful, ye who seek, what you wish for,
For it will come true!
THE TRUTH BEFORE DAWN
How thin the walls are before the dawn,
When the flock, like a rain-clouds’ rise and fall
Resounds with a peal of maddened squawks.
Torrid with anger do they tear down what a thousand years made;
What a thousand souls perished over and a thousand hearts
Bled over through long, lamentable wars.
The truth is the wounds they suffered
That the idiots know nothing of—
The wounds that spilt a thousand rivers of blood
And roared through the geysers of Hell
So that men could know its sound.
The idiots who are sheep without meekness;
Who are lame for wolves’ easy gorging;
Who will stand naked and burn at the fiery Eastern Gate
Beside the emptiness of their words.
And there will be no water to save them but more blood,
And all the truth will vanish under our hatred like a dream
Before the Day breaks.
STRANGE MEETING by Wilfred Owen
It seemed that out of battle I escaped
Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped
Through granites which titanic wars had groined.
Yet also there encumbered sleepers groaned,
Too fast in thought or death to be bestirred.
Then, as I probed them, one sprang up, and stared
With piteous recognition in fixed eyes,
Lifting distressful hands, as if to bless.
And by his smile, I knew that sullen hall,—
By his dead smile I knew we stood in Hell.
With a thousand fears that vision’s face was grained;
Yet no blood reached there from the upper ground,
And no guns thumped, or down the flues made moan.
“Strange friend,” I said, “here is no cause to mourn.”
“None,” said that other, “save the undone years,
The hopelessness. Whatever hope is yours,
Was my life also; I went hunting wild
After the wildest beauty in the world,
Which lies not calm in eyes, or braided hair,
But mocks the steady running of the hour,
And if it grieves, grieves richlier than here.
For by my glee might many men have laughed,
And of my weeping something had been left,
Which must die now. I mean the truth untold,
The pity of war, the pity war distilled.
Now men will go content with what we spoiled.
Or, discontent, boil bloody, and be spilled.
They will be swift with swiftness of the tigress.
None will break ranks, though nations trek from progress.
Courage was mine, and I had mystery;
Wisdom was mine, and I had mastery:
To miss the march of this retreating world
Into vain citadels that are not walled.
Then, when much blood had clogged their chariot-wheels,
I would go up and wash them from sweet wells,
Even with truths that lie too deep for taint.
I would have poured my spirit without stint
But not through wounds; not on the cess of war.
Foreheads of men have bled where no wounds were.
“I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.
I parried; but my hands were loath and cold.
Let us sleep now. . . .”
Wilfred Owen (1893-1918).
From this lone arch do they bail
Tears of those sadly lost and tirelessly saved,
And for themselves never dwell in fear.
For us they mount the assault
On death’s indiscriminate demeanor,
And not for praise but kindness alone.
And the applause in our hearts from our homes,
Shall not fade in vain,
When on the eve of battle.