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To be had

of the







John Rodker

To be had of the Author

1 Osborn Street


/CERTAIN of these Toems have
L/ appeared in the EGOIST, the NEW
while the "London Njght" is about to
appear in POETRY. To the editors of these
periodicals my acknowledgments are due.

J. R.







THE GAS FLAME - . -< 7



THE Music HALL ... .. . 9

. . . for the Soul - 10





SLEEP-SICK - . . , . . . . ... . . 15

SPELLED . . - . le

THE STORM - . " .... 17



THE PUB. - . .... 20


ITEM .41. ,- 22

LONDON NIGHT - ...... 23


The Poet to his Poems.

Introduction to his First Volume.

'' pOETS starve so near the stars

^Because they liJ^e to think of bars
Of pure bright gold near them in heaven, . .
And things we hardly understand,
Like mystic numbers three and seven
And all the things we know are dead
In a dead land.

They talk of brains from "which l thought bled '-
'Poor stricken brains what could they mean ?
Were ^ery happy here; we've been
Through /o><? and life and such lify things,
And have not burst our hearts
If our loves lea^e us, what of that ?
There's no wound smarts
Forever. . . . If our lifes flat
Its only that we cannot spend
All we would. . . .
yfyiv should this poet lend
Us something . . . (if he could), . . .
Wed show him life more splendid far
Than all his dreams or poems are."

A Slice of Life.

THE sky broods over the river
The waves tumble and flee.
And down go the dead things ever
Down to the sea.

A dog, an empty keg,
An outworn hat.
And with a broken leg
A pregnant cat.

In the Strand.

DESPERATE and disdainful showed his wares,
Stupid things, . . . laces, studs, . . .
I bought ... his look . . . and this verse.

The Gas Flame.

To Kathleen Dillon.

'T A HIS yellow, flickering flame
JL That endless anguished writhes in endless obscure


Contorted. . . . Thrusting ever upwards till the brain
Swoons with its arid pallor, feeling it flicker, . . . aim
High . . . and ashrill for clean air. ... It came
Bursting upon its stalk, and sudden drooping in sick bloom
Poured down the room ;
Trickling into the obscure, obscene places where the brain

reels ;

Incredibly mute, its pallor weaves me fire,
Bursting and searing the lead eye-balls with false wheels
That grate forever, clashing meet and sudden. . . .
Nothing. . . . Then again it writhes and stands incredibly


Swaying in a little weary spire
So very faint. . . .

There is a tale of Arcady, . . . but no ...
This bloom, this shuddering bloom
That trickles into the obscure, obscene places
Making the brain reel. . . .

There is a tale of Arcady . . . with marshes . . .
And swallows three that headlong wheel . . .

And . . . faces. . . .

But no. ... This bloom, this shuddering, drooping bloom

That trickles into the brain's obscure, obscene places,

With clatter of the first boot on the floor

And darkness surging sore on brains like ours. . . ,

Will no one pluck the bloom, the magic, weary bloom

That blows but once, ere night droops

Very weary in after the long war. . . .

There is a tale of Arcady. . . .

Soria Moria.

iKYOND the soul's edges

Drily whisper the sedges.
Patches of the lake gleam mournful white.
There is a hint of billowing towers
And the swish of huddling trees. . . .
But the lake glimmers in the moonlight,
And in some sad places is so giddily deep.

Laughter and jangle of bells, . . .
And something asleep. . . .

Laughter and jangle of bells
Beyond the soul's edges. . . .


COOL water pours
Into dim silence.
Through the tense shade
The musk of far roses
The sense. . . .

Cool water pours . . .
Dissolving thin sleep
From the corners of mind. . . f
But the eyes are more blind
And the slumber more deep. . . .

The fierce heart o' the rose
Bursts in the sun. . . .

... cool . . . water . . . pours.

The Music Hall.

THE group soul anguished drives up to the vane;
Shivers over the clamant band,
And tremulously sinks upon its padded seat, . . .
With such a pleasant shiver of the bowels.
(The first faint peristalt . . .)
And a thin hunger somewhere.
Beauty or woman ; something not over-rare
That will absorb the thrill, the gushing energic thrill. .
We watch and smoke . . . our trembling hands
That flutter for a space an arc of light
With acrid trailing fume. . . .
But oh ... the hunger. . . .


. . . for the soul is as a little bird mounting to heaven rejoicing, when the bars of
thought, which are its cage, lie broken about it. ...

There is a little room inside my mind

With mirrors lined . . '.

It must be like the eye of some huge fly. ...

Whoever enters there swoons deep and deep . . .
So deep, the scared soul quite forgets to weep . . .
And wonders at itself. ... By and bye

Breasting the night ... it will forget

How distant thrust the light . . . how wet

And comforting it drenched him ; who might not descry

Nor place nor footing in that blackness ... ah ! so frail . .
Where scaur and precipice were mirrored pale
Drifting in icy darkness pitifully ...

And marvel at the horror of the sight
He barely may recall . . . one light
Bursting upon one mirror

Then mirror unto mirror . . . till he saw
That swart and anguished wriggling thing ;
His soul . . . take wing . . .

And ever mounting ; higher and more high
Warble a song of joy ... so glad
That being found it too might fructify.


Under the Trees, II.

IT is so desolate :
This blown leaf softly falling,
Without sound and helpless.
Each little wind thrills it-
Still without sound.
Not a bird sings . . .
Not a leaf stirs . . .
Suddenly the tawny brothers whisper
And are silent.
A long thin silence. . . .
The twilight grows,

And now and then the little brothers whisper,
And stir softly,
And lie still. . . .

" Come little sister,
You will sleep in a bed all agolden."

One star hides in a tree top
From its pale mother,
The little far moon,
Who washes the spangles
From her caught children. . . .
Poor stars. . . .
Little sad wind
O touch my hair.


Under the Trees, III.

WIND waking in the leaves
It is cold . . .
And pass wings ?

Wind waking in the leaves.
Each cold star burns them
Till they stir
Under its spear.

Wind waking


And pitiful.


SHE was so tired after the night.
Out of a dream all things grew utter white,
And calm with peace beyond imagining.
With one bird brooding there that dared not sing
But preened one wing.

Out of the widening white haze
Desire now mocked her. All her virgin days
Swung thin and shrivelled ; in lush undergrowth
Made ponderous her limbs and at her mouth
Bittered her lips with drouth.


Yet sweet the bitterness thereof
When each limb had sucked full from limbs of love.
Breast from soft breast and thigh from urgent thigh
And lip from lip ... while night passed by
Most wearily.

Leaving the needless heart to labour on:

Though life grew vain when the dear lust was gone,

And yet too tired to wish for Death at all.

The Mercury Vapour Lamps.

AT evening the blossom of the sun is blown ;
Its wantoned vivid music is not heard.
Its perfume from the earth for one short night is flown.

Then does its spawn at some dark word.

Swarm into many coloured bloom . . . clustring more


Than any shape that any man may know
In all those spacious heavenly fields, where change
Unending the world-stars . . . where all is flow
And ceaseless passionate call and counter-call.

Here where each spore bursts, where fall
From some, swift-shooting stars, strong shreds of light.
Where some among them whisper in the night ;
Some whistle shrill . . . some hiss and click,


And mutter fearfully, some trick
Themselves in scarlet ; some in gold.
And there are those which stamens hold
Fiery serpents fold on fold.

Now does the bloom that guards the night creep out.
1 1 writhes from out its nest. Its pallid flow
Etiolates the dark : its sullen glow
Pierces thro' all things. Now the shout
And bustle grow more sinister ; the street
Glooms pale and waste as any place in hell.
While at the hurrying feet
Clatters the chase of those proud souls that fell.

It striketh to the heart It shards the flesh.

The livid faces speak tlje livid soul ;

And each soul shows it livid in the mesh.

Yet will your love not pass through whole.

Her smile shall come two violet back-writhed lips

Round pallid teeth ; and her dead hips

Shall no more flex for you ... ah! the killed joy.

Yet glad in this, Love cannot more make happy or annoy.

O ! it is subtle this :

This monstrous spawning of the sun with man.
That cankers in sweet flesh and in each kiss ;
And leaves us wandering, all wan

And purposeless within this bruit . . . where none dare


Yet hurrying is quite lost . . . the spate
Takes speed . . . and noise . . .

Like a huge worm it sprawls,

Some orchis tangled in some monstrous place.

Where the far light comes trembling under the vast walls

That stretch forever . . .

Yet . . . for a space

Music will rise ; a paean from the sun

Though Death creep down 'ere twilight is begun.


JOY has gone out from me and warmth
And whether she sleep or no
It matters not . . .
Or whether the sleep be long
I will not heed . . .
For my lids grow heavy as night is
Without stars.

Have I not offered up my hours before her pain
Till all my days went thin as her own pain ?
And now my lids grow heavy as night is
Without stars . . .
And she sleeps.


Whether she sleep or no
I must not heed
Lest I wake.

Whether she sleep or no
I will not heed . . .
Or whether the sleep be long
I care not now.


T^EERING through the tangle of her hair
J- I saw
The sun shafts

The enchanted web
That was all bronze.

And in cool deeps behind

I dreamed . . .

While the warm shafts


On that enchanted web

Which was all golden

Against my eyes.

Till blood grew thin.


The Storm.

NO wind in all that place.
Only the sun beating down.
Like sleepy cats we moved within the shade.

And when I touched him

Such a thrill went through my arm

And ceased where my ring was. . . .

It left me tingling. . . .

The air was so full charged

Of the electric force,

It overflowed in mystic flare.

Pale blue, it dazed the sky

Pale blue

And vast

It challenged all the sky.

In the evening

A small chill wind

Brought back the moisture to our veins of wilted flowers.

The rain came

Challenging the night the western sky lights up


And all the sky is in a flare
With all the winds
And all the stars


Rushing . . .
And the rain

The moon

Mad queen of the earth,

Walks in the pools,

On the bridge's edge

The raindrops burst in spray


To the London Sparrow.


rab and
but not much
between feeding and



Laying up children . . .
Dung growing less too.
What will become of you.
Your four broods yearly . . .
(or is it oftener.)

Will you go back to the country
Corrupt poor relations. . . .



MOIST warm towels
at my face
smell queerly . . .
chill me. . . .

I am afraid. . . .

. . . Unguents

smoothed into my face

like yellow silk

over my forehead.

. . . smoothed into cheek

into hollow.

Spasm . . .

Stress . . .

Pain . . .


of keen sweet tears

from the lachrymals.





exploring . . .

murmuring . . .

pulsing. . . .


The Pub.

Body waiting . . .
yearning . . .
dreading. . . .

Again . . .

Ecstatic . . .

Eyes shut,

Body shut,

Muscles tense,


like a kiss . . .

the touch of hated hands.

Moist warm towels
at my face
smell queerly . . .
chill me. . . .

Cold wet towels burn me
their smell of death.

HOW long, how very long have I been sitting here.
Tongue-tied and fixed within this murmuring stability.
Gaunt and immutable through eyes that see not
Dim faces watch me.

The automatic piano plays and plays
I grow sick, with anguish at the heart.
The piano thumps, skirls, goes out.


I fumble for a penny

More music . . .

And again I grow sick.

Huge jewels glow behind the counter
Where the light comes through full bottles.

And still they urge me "Drink."

While the black-stoled murmurous figures

Dole the pain

At jingle of the coins.

Why does the barmaid there drink stout


Surely her breasts are big enough.

The After-Dinner Hooter.


A voice

Raucous, distensive,
Shatters and smashes
Unto the dimmest
Furthest proliferance
Of this pale whiteness.


Shivers the sphere . . . jangling.

Peace . . . trembling . . .

Still, still ... be still!

Jangling, shivering . . . trembling.


Shatters the sphere . . . jarring,
Bursting, jarring, bursting . . .
Still! still! Be still . . .
Ah . . .! shivering, BURSTING.


To Margaret Drew.

YOU said
your heart was

pieces of

in a
peacock blue satin



London Night.

Introduction. Still the void turns ...
And creaks . . .
And spatters me

With spume of gaunt fatuity . . .
And again turns ... .
Unceasingly . . .
Till the quiet burns.

The night is full, with laughter in its wings
(And faint wan faces ouched in yearning

Laughter that weals the face of night . . .

and stings . . .
The anguished soul drifts by.

I will not go ...

Still the void turns . . .
And sickening thuds . . .
Creaking . . .
Still the quiet burns . . .
With flame that floods
The secret inner sky ...
And yearns to the sound
And to the laughter . . .
I am called.
Hesitant, . . .

Still the void turns. .


In the bus. Hum of the town . . .

Splashes of faces
In garish places
Drive ever down. . .

In the Park. The gaunt trees grope to the night

The distant magic of the night . . .
And touch the sky . . .
The faces linger to the light
And endlessly drift by ...
With shuffle of far feet like leaves that


And flicker on the way . . .
With little ripples of dry sound. . . .

The band. Noise of the band . . . and the wind

asleep . . .

Over the wind I mount on wings
And swing and gleam and sheer and

float . . .

How chill it is grown . . . and how remote

the faces
And thin and very faint . . . And the

wind sings. . . .

Interlude. Shop girl, poor clerk

Ephemerons . . . wing your swift way
A little love it will not mark


The soul unused to day . . .
So cold, so far away you seem
Shop girl . . . poor clerk. . . .

I am the dreamer. . . . Are you the dream ?

How the noise mocks me. . . . And the

And they laugh about me. . . . While the

trees unheard . . .
Though not to one or three the water calls

in vain.

But only as an inner word . . .
For she is much more amorous then
And will, not prize her sweets too dear . . .
(For after all we are poor men
And may not know love . . . though

here . . .)

Hyde Park Stress of the crowd . . . And the whole of

Corner. it mute . . .

Tunics that thrill in the light ... till you

look at his face
With a rush of hate . . . and hate for the

Of the " slavey " wooing the brute.

Stress of the crowd. .

Picture Palace. Breathless . . . The giggles cease . . .

The ruddled alcove wafts me peace . . .
And the clicking of the reel . . .
Flicker of light . . .
We thrill to the rush and the clatter . . .

and spatter

The night with our souls and . . . steal
The soul of night ...
The girl at the box was very sweet . . .

Manicured nails, and massaged smile, and

Resplendent . . . Flicker of light . . .

The rush and the clatter . . . With dust
of fatuity

Spattered . . . out of the void. . . .

Always the streets and the giggle of girls
Women from where ? God ! but the night
must be full of them. . . .

Anarchist Club. Quiet at last ... she there . . .

The babble of hot voices strangely

soothes . . .
The coffee is black . . . Anveraus' waters


The souls disquiets flare . . .
And she . . . Her face like halfold ivory
A something past its whiteness . . .
And cheeks ahollow. . . . Smoking ever

talks she


And disdains me quite. Not this the place.
Later perhaps she will not say me nay . . .
And ever and anon someone will say
" A has " and " saboter."

How came we here?

Cafe. The sybaritic waiter brings us drink. . . .

Thick lips and mottled face . . .
... I think
His eyes go back to ancient arcadies . . .

in the black
Secret eyes of her . . .
She is the beauty at the feast . . .
My friends and their friend flock
With words well greased . . .
Very fluent when the ideas flow . . .
Oh! but the babble wearies me
And the lights . . .
And rococo. . . .

Liqueur. One lotus bud swings to the harbour of

my soul
And bursts . . .
And all its mystic whole
And each glad petal . . . thirsts
Unto all heaven . . . far roots
Insinuating . . .

Wondrous fruits


Becoming of all things . . .

And God is singing . . .

Such a little song. . . .

My moon, my almond-eyed delight goes

from me

And I am old . . .
I am far older than she is ...
And now she laughs at my grey hairs . . .
Yet may I not put forth to chasten her . , .
Lest she rebel . . .
I will use songs and fair words
To call her to my couch. . . .

Then she shall languish forever

In the prison of my " infinite mercy."

Night. . . .

I am afraid.



The Descent into Hell.

[This poem should be read many times in order that the time-sense
may become so essential a part of the poem as not to interfere
with the sequence of the lines.]

A million years has passed. Woven from many glooms

Out of many glooms
Into many glooms
I was.

I and yet

Not I.

From the light
Woven into the dark.
Part . . . and not part.

Woven into the dark.
Part and not part
I am.

I was.

A million years pass.

Out of depths
Darkness draws me
down stairs I do not see.
Each ; white perfection of form.
And two steps wide.


Two steps wide. . . .

I shall stumble if there are more

Two steps wide

Each their white perfection of

A million years pass.

With naked feet I will walk

these stairs . . .
Caress their perfection . . , t: ,
The way will be shorter

Each their white perfection of

form . . .
Horrible. .

A million years pass.

I will walk naked
For any coolness that may
be .

Many years pass.
A million years pass.

There is no coolness.

I will cast off this mind

That whatever tremor there

may be
Must stir me. .


A million years pass.

A million years pass.
Many, many years pass.

A million years pass.
A million years pass.

Many years pass . . .
Many years pass . . .
Many years pass . . .

Many years pass.
Many, many years pass.

Nothing . . .
White perfection
Black and immobile
Fills me. . . .

I will think on life.

Each stair

In white perfection of form

Black and dead

Draws me.

I am not tired.

Down . . .

Woven into the dark
I ... and yet
Not I,
Am . . .
Was . . .


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Online LibraryJohn RodkerPoems → online text (page 1 of 1)