First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Supposed Confessions Of A Secondrate Sensitive Mind In Dejection


Time was when I have loved the bards whose strains Saddened the heart, and wrought a heavy mood; Aye, and my spirit felt a joy to brood O'er melodies which told of ancient pains.

Lovely the tones when poet's lips have moved For very mournfulness....O fair the sight (As now we see it) of a Spirit bright Bowed on a southern strand; his work approved Of none; his name despised or else unknown. O then, how firm and close was his embrace Unto Despondency!---Her shadowed face, Methought, how fair! What music in her moan! Ye, too, have sometimes wished her near; Loved a chill dampness round the path, and known Her voice, which like a weary wind and lone, Fled through the woods with lamentation drear. But think not, if your life-blood still is warm, That ye have looked upon Despondency. Ye have but seen her in another's eye, As Perseus fearfully beheld the form Of Gorgon, mirrored in the stilly well. There may ye guess the beauty of that Head, The pallor and the mystery---but the Dread Ye feel not, nor the horror, nor the spell.

But, face to face, she fixed on me her stare: Woe, woe, my blood has never moved since then; Down-dragged like corpse in sucking, slimy fen, I sank to feel the breath of that Despair.

With Autumn mists, and hand in hand with Night, She came to me. But at the break of day, Went not again, but stayed, and yet doth stay. '---O Horror, doth not Pain take note of light And darkness,---doth he not hold off betimes, And yield his victim for an hour to Sleep? Then why dost thou, O Curst, the long night steep In bloodiness and stains of shadowy crimes?' She hears my cry, and mutters yet, 'No rest, no rest for thee, O Slave of mine'; Till I do hate myself and would resign My life to pay a murderer's awful debt.

Out, out to moorlands, from such thoughts I flee And seek the balm that fair fresh woods distil. There find I all things in a hushèd thrill For dread of that grey fiend that walks with me.

She leads me forth, and poisons autumn eves With hellish scenes; shows me an aged tree Bending and groaning in its agony Before a wind tormenting it for leaves; Spreads out a wild strange sky where towering shapes, Black and chaotic, choke the sickening day. Voices moan round; and from the sodden clay Mist-shrouds crawl up, in token that there gapes A grave for me at hand. Aching with fears I stumble towards the town, whose distant lights Glint feebly and go out, and glint again, Like some retreating ship's unto the ken Of a lost man, who, sinking, feebly fights Alone in the wide waste behind. The murmuring tone Of busy streets a moment gladdens me; But there, too, comes the Spirit secretly; At feasts I see her shade, and am alone With thoughts of pain and nothing hear but her.

So that I may not handle a keen knife, But flashes to the mind a fearful use That men have made of it, to loose The heavy-weighted burden of their life And make an end. But Death is not the end: No death for such as thou, O Chatterton! Until the Second Death; and I do shun The thought that death is misery's friend. Since my dread Ghost has once a finger laid Upon my flesh, and left a burning mark; This mark (saith she) shall fester on, and cark Will Death draw near, and halting, shade His withering eyes, and know the Sign. O dense The darkness that shall flood around me then; Denser the clouds of biting arrows, when Vile devil-broods to torments bear me hence!

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