First World War Poetry Digital Archive

A Child's Nightmare


Through long nursery nights he stood By my bed unwearying, Loomed gigantic, formless, queer, Purring in my haunted ear That same hideous nightmare thing, Talking, as he lapped my blood, In a voice cruel and flat, Saying for ever, 'Cat!...Cat!...Cat!...'

That one word was all he said, That one word through all my sleep, In monotonous mock despair. Nonsense may be light as air, But there's Nonsense that can keep Horror bristling round the head, When a voice cruel and flat Says for ever, 'Cat!...Cat!...Cat!...'

He had faded, he was gone Years ago with Nursery Land, When he leapt on me again From the clank of a night train, Overpowered me foot and hand, Lapped my blood, while on and on The old voice cruel and flat Purred for ever, 'Cat!...Cat!...Cat!...'

Morphia drowsed, again I lay In a crater by High Wood: He was there with straddling legs, Staring eyes as big as eggs, Purring as he lapped my blood, His black bulk darkening the day, With a voice cruel and flat, 'Cat!...Cat!...Cat!...' he said, 'Cat!...Cat!...'

When I'm shot through heart and head, And there's no choice but to die, The last word I'll hear, no doubt, Won't be 'Charge!' or 'Bomb them out!' Nor the stretcher-bearer's cry, 'Let that body be, he's dead!' But a voice cruel and flat Saying for ever, 'Cat!...Cat!...Cat!'

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