Mortal Night

On a dark, disturbing night, alone at gravesite,

In the park that holds the right to hold the grave sight

Of the bones that men have left behind in urns,

Which a gravely digging gravedigger inurns—

I there did sit, in grief recalling him,

In woeful requiem and sacred hymn,

At graveside gravely sighed in plaintive prostrate

This threnody, the rage of grief to placate:

“My good and noble sir, or sir who was,

Ambassador of Death, who sirs undoes,

Do tell me plainly of thy resting place,

Pronounce in simple speak with gentle grace,

The tails of antique shades, whom I infer

Take refuge in infernal sleep, as ’twere;

They rest retired bones of theirs in sleep

Where time’s anachronistic bones do keep.

Most courteously, my friend, in verse or prose,

With dirgeful dirigibility of woes,

In mild tongue, with mild mood comported,

So say the surreptitious secrets o’ th’ morted

To mortal living ears who haven’t heard

Post-mortuary dreams in living words

Of dancing demos of deceased daemons comprised,

Of living men whose fatal ends fate’s devised.

O sing the solum songs of sorry souls

Who’ve slipped so silently to unhappy doles,

Consult the somber muse and sing the doomed

Inhabitance of Hades’s living room.

What terrors there torment fantastically?

What torments terrify tremendously?

O tell the horrid words unspeakable!

Convey the dreadful thoughts unthinkable!

And you, kind sir who was, where did you beach?

What deathless ground did Charon’s fairy reach?

Where is your final fate, my former friend?

Wherefore is past life’s gate thy dwelling’s end?

O how my most piteous, and inconsolable of living souls,

In horrid grief intolerable condoles

With cycloptic slayers and unseen seers

Whose prophetic visions madden my mind with fears

Of mysterious misery.

O hear me!

Will you not answer me, kind sir of old?

Will you not let me hear thy tellings told,

As shouting o’er the thunderous wind I crave

An insight into the inner earthly gave?

Answer me merciful man, whom I beseech

Mercifully mystery known of death to preach!”

Just so I wept o’er friend eternal parted,

And felt the woes of the living broken hearted;

I recalled the terror of an unknown final end

That awaits us all, as it thus has met my friend.

Just so I wept o’er silent sepulchre

And felt the woes to which long loss inures,

In monologic dialogue with death

Recounting sad those woes with waning breath.

As the violet eve departed, grave with guile,

I invoked, in vocative verse, that villain vile;

At the ceasing of the twilight’s purple hue

Post-luminary life did thus renew:

“How may a breathing mortal sleep at night

When by way of bereaving portal to seep he might?

To breath no more, what does it mean?

To tread the path to fate unseen?

To sleep the final sleep and never wake

When Hermes away to dreams thy soul doth take?

O Death, what do you mean, will no one say?

O ye who could, black Death hath stole away!

Sublime, tremendous, hideous, horrendous Death,

What lies on the other side the mortal cleft?

Benign, ingenuous, perfidious, and strenuous friend,

What dreams do haunt the souls below the bend?

Reveal your hidden deadly mysteries,

Kind tyrant, sir, be not my enemies;

Come forth and confess what you temporise to tell

Of the season after death, when life’s dusk is befell;

Do not delay a moment longer, Friend,

For soon, I fear, my quandary will come to end,

Without a word, but answer nonetheless,

Through passage fast from life to lifelessness!

I’ll die for fear of death, ‘lest fear’s forgot—

I’ll dream a haunting nightmare self-begot!”

And the roar of wicked wind was all there heard

In response to desperate cries and empty words.

As I lie in plaintive prostrate begging hell

For kind report, infernal words of well,

The difficult deliberation dampened

And insidious interrogation weakened

My vexed and weary soul.  And so it must,

On you, kind reader, take such a kind of toll, I trust.

You too must feel the weakening effects

Of the loquacious lyric literature of life-wrecks.

How can it be but life is all for naught

If living lasts a lesser length than ought?

A life that ends is worth as much to me

As one that from the start ne’er starts to be.

So how am I to live an ending life

When ending I do not live, but die in strife?

On this I lie awake in contemplation,

On the grave of death, I thought sans consolation

(Such thoughts as might induce their dreaded subject

By the life draining potency with which they affect)

For nighttime’s breadth I breathed such sorts of speech

‘Till morning’s blush th’ bewitching hour impeached.

The seven sisters set so long ago

That I’d forgot the night’s beginning woe.

Then russet, crimson day did walk abroad

And fend the field from that fiendish gaud—

Selene’s sly and sanguinary subject,

Who fleeted form the ferment reject.

The earth grew strangely still, and all was well;

The dead of night departed back to hell.


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