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    Gordon Bottomley

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    The End of the World

      The snow had fallen many nights and days;
      The sky was come upon the earth at last,
      Sifting thinly down as endlessly
      As though within the system of blind planets
      Something had been forgot or overdriven.
      The dawn now seemed neglected in the grey
      Where mountains were unbuilt and shadowless trees
      Rootlessly paused or hung upon the air.
      There was no wind, but now and then a sigh
      Crossed that dry falling dust and rifted it
      Through crevices of slate and door and casement.
      Perhaps the new moon's time was even past.
      Outside, the first white twilights were too void
      Until a sheep called once, as to a lamb,
      And tenderness crept everywhere from it;
      But now the flock must have strayed far away,
      The lights across the valley must be veiled,
      The smoke lost in the greyness or the dusk.
      For more than three days now the snow had thatched
      That cow-house roof where it had ever melted
      With yellow stains from the beasts' breath inside;
      But yet a dog howled there, though not quite lately.
      Someone passed down the valley swift and singing,
      Yes, with locks spreaded like a son of morning;
      But if he seemed too tall to be a man
      It was that men had been so long unseen,
      Or shapes loom larger through a moving snow.
      And he was gone and food had not been given him.
      When snow slid from an overweighted leaf,
      Shaking the tree, it might have been a bird
      Slipping in sleep or shelter, whirring wings;
      Yet never did bird fall out, save once a dead one --
      And in two days the snow had covered it.
      The dog had howled again -- or thus it seemed
      Until a lean fox passed and cried no more.
      All was so safe indoors where life went on
      Glad of the close enfolding snow -- O glad
      To be so safe and secret at its heart,
      Watching the strangeness of familiar things.
      They knew not what dim hours went on, went by,
      For while they slept the clock stopt newly wound
      As the cold hardened. Once they watched the road,
      Thinking to be remembered. Once they doubted
      If they had kept the sequence of the days,
      Because they heard not any sound of bells.
      A butterfly, that hid until the Spring
      Under a ceiling's shadow, dropt, was dead.
      The coldness seemed more nigh, the coldness deepened
      As a sound deepens into silences;
      It was of earth and came not by the air;
      The earth was cooling and drew down the sky.
      The air was crumbling. There was no more sky.
      Rails of a broken bed charred in the grate,
      And when he touched the bars he thought the sting
      Came from their heat -- he could not feel such cold . . .
      She said, 'O, do not sleep,
      Heart, heart of mine, keep near me. No, no; sleep.
      I will not lift his fallen, quiet eyelids,
      Although I know he would awaken then --
      He closed them thus but now of his own will.
      He can stay with me while I do not lift them.'


    Babel: The Gate of the God

      Lost towers impend, copeless primeval props
      Of the new threatening sky, and first rude digits
      Of awe remonstrance and uneasy power
      Thrust out by man when speech sank back in his throat:
      Then had the last rocks ended bubbling up
      And rhythms of change within the heart begun
      By a blind need that would make Springs and Winters;
      Pylons and monoliths went on by ages,
      Mycenæ and Great Zimbabwe came about;
      Cowed hearts in This conceived a pyramid
      That leaned to hold itself upright, a thing
      Foredoomed to limits, death and an easy apex;
      Then postulants for the stars' previous wisdom
      Standing on Carthage must get nearer still;
      While in Chaldea an altitude of god
      Being mooted, and a saurian unearthed
      Upon a mounain stirring a surmise
      Of floods and alterations of the sea,
      A round-walled tower must rise upon Senaar
      Temple and escape to god the ascertained.
      These are decayed like Time's teeth in his mouth,
      Black cavities and gaps, yet earth is darkened
      By their deep-sunken and unfounded shadows
      And memories of man's earliest theme of towers.

      Space -- the old source of time -- should be undone,
      Eternity defined, by men who trusted
      Another tier would equal them with god.
      A city of grimed brick-kilns, squat truncations,
      Hunched like spread toads yet high beneath their circles
      Of low packed smoke, assemblages of thunder
      That glowed upon their under sides by night
      And lit like storm small shadowless workmen's toil.
      Meaningless stumps, upturned bare roots, remained
      In fields of mashy mud and trampled leaves;
      While, if a horse died hauling, plasterers
      Knelt on a flank to clip its sweaty coat.

      A builder leans across the last wide courses;
      His unadjustable unreaching eyes
      Fail under him before his glances sink
      On the clouds' upper layers of sooty curls
      Where some long lightning goes like swallows downward,
      But at the wider gallery next below
      Recognize master-masons with pricked parchments:
      That builder then, as one who condescends
      Unto the sea and all that is beneath him,
      His hairy breast on the wet mortar calls
      'How many fathoms is it yet to heaven!'
      On the next eminence the orgulous king
      Nimroud stands up conceiving he shall live
      To conquer god, now that he knows where god is:
      His eager hands push up the tower in thought.
      Again, his shaggy inhuman height strides down
      Among the carpenters because he has seen
      One shape an eagle-woman on a door-post:
      He drives his spear-beam through him for wasted day.

      Little men hurrying, running here and there,
      Within the dark and stifling walls, dissent
      From every sound, and shoulder empty hods:
      'The god's great altar should stand in the crypt
      Among our earth's foundations ' -- ' The god's great altar
      Must be the last far coping of our work' --
      'It should inaugurate the broad main stair ' --
      ' Or end it ' -- ' It must stand toward the East!'
      But here a grave contemptuous youth cries out
      'Womanish babblers, how can we build god's altar
      Ere we divine its forordained true shape?'
      Then one ' It is a pedestal for deeds ' --
      ''Tis more and should be hewn like the king's brow ' --
      ' It has the nature of a woman's bosom ' --
      ' The tortoise, first created, signifies it ' --
      ' A blind and rudimentary navel shows
      The source of worship better than horned moons.'
      Then a lean giant ' Is not a calyx needful? ' --
      ' Because round grapes on statues well expressed
      Become the nadir of incense, nodal lamps,
      Yet apes have hands thad but and carved red crystal ' --
      ' Birds molden, touchly talc veins bronze buds crumble
      Ablid ublai ghan isz rad eighar ghaurl . . .'
      Words said too often seemed such ancient sounds
      That men forget them or were lost in them;
      The gutteral glottis-chasms of language reached
      A rhythm, a gasp, were curves of immortal thought.

      Man with his bricks was building, building yet,
      Where dawn and midnight mingled and woke no birds,
      In the last courses, building past his knowledge
      A wall that swung -- for towers can have no tops,
      No chord can mete the universal segment,
      Earth has not basis. Yet the yielding sky,
      Invincible vacancy was there discovered --
      Though piled-up bricks should pulp the sappy balks,
      Weight generate a secrecy of heat,
      Cankerous charring, crevices' fronds of flame.


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