The Wastnesse, sonnets XXXI—XXXVI

The fourth and final instalment of The Wastnesse, a sequence of 36 sonnets on the topics of love, death, and disaster.

The Wastnesse



the hellish drone of street-trash splits the air
quite far from an English garden     rain in
summer snow in late spring       an idle street
condensed and partitioned         and wandering
loose amongst savage souls The     garden is
drained of moisture where   once we sat in chairs
adeckd with linen and          discoursed flatly
on meagre sums and overt   distractions
then at once in media res     a face
familière                              Taken to revisit
gramer-rule of scole-kid      ennui languor
flailing mindless with that   beauty-harlot
Face asks if i at last give      them pardon
—i drift away to my English garden


Effervescent darling of my heart’s word,
Fulgent lighthouse of my life’s sole return!
Such fulvous eyes that keep me from the herd,
Speckled sight-tawn that I forever yearn!
Ecstatic maiden, virgo-born and plump,
Yet slight and dainty all the blessèd same;
Sweet contradictions of my lovèd one,
Thou should be hailed for seeming such a way!
So glance at me and thus condemn my fate,
Allow this fool to genuflect thy grace;
Where thou shalt walk, my path is ever-made:
So shall I catalogue thy faerie face!
      This ecstasy, it rises from the land;
      Ah, such love is as mountain to a man!


Crystalline beauty is but a shell for your mind: 
Leonine leader; determined in strength, and kind
In the moment when you saved my loose, fraying strength:
I were to fall apart; you cast a note at length
Which brought me back from failure’s decadent despair:
Tho more apart since heavy hand, you are yet fair
In apprehension; how you are like a goddess!
I deify you in art, you could claim no less
Than the David born of maiden form, marble dress’d:
Yes, in full aspect you signify great virtue, 
And shall thus forever bloom as you were meant to:
Ah! If it were so simple, life would be quite dull;
How sad to gain a thing so easily made full, 
When true sated love one should longform mull:
      I know you have the spark’ling wit for chrysalis 
      To guide you to a truth-form metamorphosis.


And then, the end: curtain close; we depart
To cast aside those cloaks, to pillage on,
In drunken judgement. How the night does call!
One final bow for the raptured ovation?
Of course! We are at the end, oh, the end!
Do you feel it? Why, it is here, my friend:
No time to construct a dissertation,
No, just a base sonnet before the fall,
And a second to contemplate our all:
Aye — what is a man? Paragon indeed—
We are surely express in our action,
Definite in calculation, our art
Born by woman alone, refined by men,
Bowing to nothing but dust at the end.


      Embankment’s sweat, in Camden I seek death;
’Twixt Regent’s Park’s old graven oaks I hover,
A shrinking blade that captures terror’s face
In photograph of bloody disarray—
      And by the banks I wait alone with glee
To laugh at fallen men, to decry sympathy:
Now watch the sky become a deeper grey
As unknown faces lose their pallor
      And turn at once to see the shining star:
It hovers bleak atop Saint Paul’s tower,
Harbinges the tale of my rising power;
My soul becomes a nightmare’s aura—
      I am the Scholar of the Sable Joy:
      I am the Author of London’s Horror.


Pretty, pretty, pretty. So sweet a girl
   I am. Look at me! With my sunflower dress,
And bows in my hair. Pretty, pretty, pretty—
   Less than a whirl, a ditty, this city
Bends to my will. So I dance empowered
Upon overgrown windowsill, a prance
   For the Lost, for the Dead, for the Crier
Who cries out no more; and I am pretty
   In cornflower shawl, to rake quietus
And pet a raggled cat, a cute kitty,
And take it in my arms. Now, to the hill,
Where we may take a final glance of what was:
      O, greenest spires of glass and steel I see:
      Tho I knew you then, ’tis now that I do most love thee.

“I once crossed through Cumbran vales”

I once crossed through Cumbran vales […]

“I once crossed through Cumbran vales”

I once crossed through Cumbran vales
Host to slinking fog and unseen underbarrows,
Where Summer wanes to wind
Amid widow’s fingers push’d through umber soil.
I walked in towns beside gaelick ocean
And plucked strings ’fore unsober crowd;
A ringing pixie did take my hand
And return a kiss ’neath castle ruins.
The woods answered when the trees we crossed:
Where bluebells grow, and friends get lost.

Shard of lightning cracks in the distance
As water fills the dale;
River-break and bridge collapse, Callaszag’s domain—
Sunlight thrice a year, but Autumn pays its due.
A time to walk in auburn youth with young pixie girl,
Spirit-sister who grows old just as you,
With whom you faced eldritch music, afeared;
With whom you parted when the ground turned frost.
The woods answered when the trees we crossed:
Where the mist does slope, and friends get lost.

Romantic land of lakes, I knew you just:
Chaos addictions and sins of lust.
And ruthless hikes up promontories vague
In harried gales, when love was fresh;
And carried guilt when bonds did break,
Celebrations of a well-spent youth;
On indulgence and synaptical separation I do treat:
In serpentine forests did we break.
The woods answered when the trees we crossed:
Where the poets wander, and friends get lost.

We knew her, Lucy: her hair was foxglove
And her round cheeks smiled even in sorrow;
We planted mushrooms, walked grey streets at night,
And never did I know if she was truly real.
She died, and left to us an elusive memory
Of girl-child caught too soon by listless haze.
Her brother passed soon after—
We didn’t chance to say goodbye.
The woods answered when the trees we crossed:
Where the hills whistle, and friends get lost.

I passed the vales of Cumbran rain
And eventually travelled on my way;
No more wet valleys and whispering brooks,
No pixie girls amongst bankside trees.
But often my spirit wandered, and saw those crags,
Those windswept peaks where brothers sat.
Now all have left, and only ghosts remain;
People, memories — but ghosts all the same.
The woods will answer when the trees I cross:
Where the daffodils murmur, and friends get lost.