[from Collected Works, T.E.Brown]
SUNSET AT CHAGFORD
Is it ironical, a fool enigma,
This sunset show?
The purple stigma,
Black mountain cut upon a saffron glow
Is it a mammoth joke,
A riddle put for me to guess,
Which having duly honoured, I may smoke,
And go to bed,
Having a soothing consciousness
Of something red?
Or is it more?
Ah, is it, is it more?
A dole, perhaps?
Tossed from the table of the revelling gods ?
I taste them Lazarus
Was nourished thus!
But, all the same, it surely is a cheat
Is this the stuff they eat ?
A cheat ! a cheat!
Then let the garbage be
Some pig-wash ! let it vanish down the sink
Of night ! tis not for me.
I will not drink
While, throned on high, they quaff
The fragrant sconce
Has Heaven no cloaca for the nonce?
Say tis an anodyne
It never shall be mine.
I want no opiates
The best of all their cates
Were gross to balk the meanest sense;
I want to be co-equal with their fates;
I will not be put off with temporal pretence:
I want to be awake, and know, not stand
And stare at waving of a conjurors hand.
But is it speech
Wherewith they strive to reach
Our poor inadequate souls ? "
The round earth rolls ;
I cannot hear it hum
The stars are dumb
The voices of the world are in my ear
A sensuous murmur. Nothing speaks ,
But man, my fellowhim I hear,
And understand ; but beasts and birds
And winds and waves are destitute of words.
What is the alphabet
The gods have set ?
What babbling ~ what delusion !
And in these sunset tints
What gay confusion !
His meaning, has a letter
Determinate. I know that it is better
Than all this cumbrous hieroglyph
The For, the If
Are growth of mans analysis:
The gods in bliss
Scrabble a baby jargon on the skies
For us to analyse!
Cumbrous ? nay, idiotic
A party-coloured symbolism,
The fragments of a shivered prism:
Man gives the swift demotic.
Tis good to see
Of poor upstriving man!
Since time began,
He has been sifting
The elements ; while God, on chaos drifting,
Sows broadcast all His stuff.
No doubt ; but why this waste?
See ! of these very sunset dies
The virgin chaste
Takes one, and in a harlots eyes
Another rots. They go by billion billions:
Each blade of grass
Ignores them as they pass;
The spiders in their foul pavilions,
Behold this vulgar gear,
Catch rosy gleams through rushes,
And know that night is near;
Blow bugles to it;
And a wrong-headed poet
Will strut, and strain the cogs
Of the machine, he blushes
To call his Muse, and maunder;
And, marvellous to relate!
These pseudo-messengers of state
Where there is no intelligence to meet them,
Nor even a sensorium to greet them.
The very finest of them
Go where theres nought to love them
Or notice them : to cairns, to rocks
Where ravens nurse their young,
To mica-splints from granite-boulders wrung
By channels of the marsh, to stocks
Of old dead willows in a pool as dead.
Can anything be said
To these ? The leech
Looks from its muddy lair,
And sees a silly something in the air
Call you this speech ?
O God, if it be speech,
If Thou wouldst teach
That I shall be a gainer!
The age of picture-alphabets is gone :
We are not now so weak;
We are too old to con
The horn-book of our youth. Time lags
O, rip this obsolete blazon into rags!
And speak ! O, speak!
But, if I l)e a spectacle
In Thy great theatre, then do Thy will:
Arrange Thy instruments with circumspection;
Summon Thine angels to the vivisection!
But quick ! O, quick!
For I am sick,
And very sad.
Thy pupils will be glad.
" See," Thou exclaimst, " this ray!
How permanent upon the retina !
How odd that purple hue!
The pineal gland is blue.
I stick this probe
In the posterior lobe
Behold the cerebellum
A smoky yellow, like old vellum!
Students will please observe
The structure of the optic nerve.
See ! nothing could be finer
That film of pink
Around the hippocampus minor.
I touch it, and it turns bright gold.
Again !as black as ink.
Yes, the delicate pale sea-green
Passing into ultra-marine
A little blurredin fact
This brain seems packed
With sunsets. Bring
That battery here ; now put your
Negative pole beneath the suture
Thats just the thing.
Now then the other way
I say! I say!
(A little more will do no harm)
Now this is the most instructive of all
The phenomena, what in fact we may call
The most obvious justification
Of vivisection in general.
Observe (once ! twice!
Thats very nice)
Observe, I say, the incipient relation
Of a quasi-moral activity
To this physical agitation!
Of course, you see. . . ."
Yes, yes, O God,
I feel the prod
Of that dissecting knife.
Instructive, say the pupil angels, very :
And some take notes, and some take sandwiches and sherry ;
And some are prying
Into the very substance of my brain
I feel their fingers !
(My life ! my life!)
Yes, yes ! it lingers
The sun, the sun Goon! goon!
Blue, yellow, red!
But please remember that I am not dead,
Nor even dying.