BLACK CAT POEMS
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Bad Dreams: II
YOU in the flesh and here--
Your very self! Now, wait!
One word! May I
Must I speak in
Stay while I ruminate!
The fact and each circumstance
Dare you disown? Not you!
That vast dome, that huge dance,
And the gloom which overgrew
A--possibly festive crew!
For why should men dance at all--
Why women--a crowd of both--
Unless they are gay? Strange ball--
Hands and feet plighting troth,
Yet partners enforced and loth!
Or who danced there, no shape
Did I recognize: thwart, perverse,
Each grasped each, past escape
In a whirl or weary or worse:
Man's sneer met woman's curse,
While he and she toiled as if
Their guardian set galley-slaves
To supple chained limbs grown stiff:
Unmanacled trulls and knaves--
The lash for who misbehaves!
And a gloom was, all the while,
Deeper and deeper yet
O'ergrowing the rank and file
Of that army of haters--set
To mimic love's fever-fret.
By the wall-side close I crept,
Avoiding the livid maze,
And, safely so far, outstepped
On a chamber--a chapel, says
My memory or betrays--
Closet-like, kept aloof
From unseemly witnessing
What sport made floor and roof
Of the Devil's palace ring
While his Damned amused the king.
Ay, for a low lamp burned,
And a silence lay about
What I, in the midst, discerned
Though dimly till, past doubt,
'T was a sort of throne stood out--
High seat with steps, at least:
And the topmost step was filled
By--whom? What vestured priest?
A stranger to me,--his guild,
His cult, unreconciled
To my knowledge how guild and cult
Are clothed in this world of ours:
I pondered, but no result
Came to--unless that Giaours
So worship the Lower Powers.
When suddenly who entered?
Who knelt--did you guess I saw?
Who--raising that face where centred
Allegiance to love and law
So lately--off-casting awe,
Down-treading reserve, away
Thrusting respect ... but mine
Stands firm--firm still shall stay!
Ask Satan! for I decline
To tell--what I saw, in fine!
Yet here in the flesh you come--
Your same self, form and face,--
In the eyes, mirth still at home!
On the lips, that commonplace
Perfection of honest grace!
Yet your errand is--needs must be--
To palliate--well, explain,
Expurgate in some degree
Your soul of its ugly stain.
Oh, you--the good in grain--
How was it your white took tinge?
"A mere dream"--never object!
Sleep leaves a door on hinge
Whence soul, ere our flesh suspect,
Is off and away: detect
Her vagaries when loose, who can!
Be she pranksome, be she prude,
Disguise with the day began:
With the night--ah, what ensued
From draughts of a drink hell-brewed?
Then She: "What a queer wild dream!
And perhaps the best fun is--
Myself had its fellow--I seem
Scarce awake from yet. 'T was this--
Shall I tell you? First, a kiss!
"For the fault was just your own,--
'T is myself expect apology:
You warned me to let alone
(Since our studies were mere philology)
That ticklish (you said) Anthology.
"So, I dreamed that I passed
Till a question posed me sore:
'Who translated this epigram
By--an author we best ignore?'
And I answered 'Hannah More'!"
poems by Robert Browning