Monday, December 13, 2010

Poetry Monday

Winter Nightfall
by Sir John Squire

The old yellow stucco
Of the time of the Regent
Is flaking and peeling:
The rows of square windows
In the straight yellow building
     Are empty and still;
And the dusty dark evergreens
Guarding the wicket
Are draped with wet cobwebs,
And above this poor wilderness
Toneless and sombre
     Is the flat of the hill.

They said that a colonel
Who long ago died here
Was the last one to live here:
An old retired colonel,
Some Fraser or Murray,
     I don’t know his name;
Death came here and summoned him,
And the shells of him vanished
Beyond all speculation;
And silence resumed here,
Silence and emptiness,
     And nobody came.

Was it wet when he lived here,
Were the skies dun and hurrying,
Was the rain so irresolute?
Did he watch the night coming,
Did he shiver at nightfall,
     Before he was dead?
Did the wind go so creepily,
Chilly and puffing,
With drops of cold rain in it?
Was the hill’s lifted shoulder
So lowering and menacing,
     So dark and so dread?

Did he run through his doorway
And go to his study,
And light many candles?
And fold in the shutters,
And heap up the fireplace
     To fight off the damps?
And muse on his boyhood,
And wonder if India
Ever was real?
And shut out the loneliness
With pig-sticking memoirs
     And collections of stamps?

Perhaps. But he’s gone now,
He and his furniture
Dispersed now for ever;
And the last of his trophies,
Antlers and photographs,
     Heaven knows where.
And there’s grass in his gateway,
Grass on his footpath,
Grass on his door-step;
The garden’s grown over,
The well-chain is broken,
     The windows are bare.

And I leave him behind me,
For the straggling, discoloured
Rags of the daylight,
And hills and stone walls
And a rick long forgotten
     Of blackening hay:
The road pale and sticky,
And cart-ruts and nail-marks,
And wind-ruffled puddles,
And the slop of my footsteps
In this desolate country’s
    Cadaverous clay.

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