Dark Poems

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I had a dream, which was not all a dream.

The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars

Did wander darkling in the eternal space,

Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth

Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air,

Morn came and went and came, and brought no day,

And men forgot their passions in the dread

Of this their desolation and all hearts

Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light,

And they did live by watchfires and the thrones,

The palaces of crowned kings the huts,

The habitations of all things which dwell,

Were burnt for beacons cities were consumed,

And men were gathered round their blazing homes

To look once more into each other’s face

Happy were those who dwelt within the eye

Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch,

A fearful hope was all the world contained,

Forests were set on fire but hour by hour

They fell and faded and the crackling trunks

Extinguished with a crash and all was black.

The brows of men by the despairing light

Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits

The flashes fell upon them some lay down

And hid their eyes and wept and some did rest

Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smiled,

And others hurried to and for, and fed

Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up

With mad disquietude on the dull sky,

The pall of a past world and then again

With curses cast them down upon the dust,

And gnashed their teeth and howled the wild birds shrieked

And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,

And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes

Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled

And twined themselves among the multitude,

Hissing, but stingless they were slain for food.

And War, which for a moment was no more,

Did glut himself again: a meal was bought

With blood, and each sate sullenly apart

Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;

All earth was but one thought and that was death

Immediate and inglorious and the pang

Of famine fed upon all entrails, men

Died, and their bones were tumbles as their flesh,

The meagre by the meagre were devoured,

Even dogs assailed their masters, all save one,

And he was faithful to a Corse, and kept

The birds and beasts and famished men at bay,

Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead

Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,

But with a piteous and perpetual moan,

And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand

Which answered not with a caress he died.

The crowd was famished by degrees, but two

Of an enormous city did survive,

And they were enemies: they met beside

The dying embers of an altar-place

Where had been heaped a mass of holy things

For an unholy usage; they raked up,

And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands

The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath

Blew for a little life, and made a flame

Which was a mockery; then they lifted up

Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld

Each other’s aspects saw, and shrieked, and died.

Even of their mutual hideousness they died,

Unknowing who he was upon whose brow

Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,

The populous and the powerful was a lump,

Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless.

A lump of death a chaos of hard clay.

The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,

And nothing stirred within their silent depths,

Ships sailor less lay rotting on the sea,

And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropped.

They slept on the abyss without a surge,

The waves were dead, the tides were in their grave,

The moon, their mistress, had expired before

The winds were withered in the stagnant air,

And the clouds perished, Darkness had no need

Of aid from them, She was the Universe.

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