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Poem by Gordon Bottomley
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 Ч And in two days the snow had covered it. The dog had howled again Ч 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 Ч 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 Ч 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 Ч He closed them thus but now of his own will. He can stay with me while I do not lift them.'
Gordon Bottomley's other poems:
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