Thread Rating:
  • 0 Vote(s) - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
The gifted English painter & writer, Mervyn Peake, author of the incomparable Gormenghast trilogy, served in the Second World War as a "war artist". As such, he was amongst the first allied troops to arrive at Belsen, in 1945.

His experience led to this poem:


If seeing her an hour before her last
Weak cough into all blackness I could yet
Be held by chalk-white walls, and by the great
Ash-coloured bed,
And the pillows hardly creased
By the tapping of her little cough-jerked head -
If such can be a painter's ecstasy,
(Her limbs like pipes, her head a china skull)
Then where is mercy?
And what
Is this my traffic? for my schooled eyes see
The ghost of a great painting, line and hue,
In this doomed girl of tallow?
O Jesus! has the world so white a yellow
As lifts her head by but a breath from linen
In the congested and yet empty world
Of plaster, cotton, and a little marl?
Than pallor what is there more terrible?
There lay the gall
Of that dead mouth of the world.
And at death's centre a torn garden trembled
In which her eyes like great hearts of black water
Shone in their wells of bone,
Brimmed to the well-heads of the coughing girl,
Pleading through history in that white garden;
And very wild, upon the small head's cheekbones,
As on high ridges in an icy dew,
Burned the sharp roses.

Her agony slides through me: am I glass
That grief can find no grip
Save for a moment when the quivering lip
And the coughing weaker than the broken wing
That, fluttering, shakes the life from a small bird
Caught me as in a nightmare? Nightmares pass;
The images blurs and the quick razor-edge
Of anger dulls, and pity dulls. O God,
That grief so glibly slides! The little badge
On either cheek was gathered from her blood:
Those coughs were her last words. They had no weight
Save that through them was made articulate
Earth's desolation on the alien bed.
Though I be glass, it shall not be betrayed,
That last weak cough of her small, trembling head.


Here is the "painter's ecstasy":
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war

Messages In This Thread
Poetry - by Magda Hassan - 04-10-2008, 03:54 AM
Poetry - by Jan Klimkowski - 04-10-2008, 06:21 PM
Poetry - by David Guyatt - 05-10-2008, 06:38 PM

Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)