Dear Readers, I am, as we used to say at Madison Square Garden, “down for the count,” — insensate, fluish, knee-wrecked. SO, here, now that WWII is waiting in the wings for September 3, 1939, is the premonitory voice of Louis Macniece looking at what’s to come. SO what if he sounds a bit too Audenesque..”Good-bye the Platonic sieve of the Carnal Man”.. that’s the voice of 1937-1939, and it works.
Spider, spider, twisting tight —
But the watch is wary beneath the pillow —
I am afraid in the web of night
When the window is fingered by the shadows of
When the lions roar beneath the hill
And the meter clicks and the cistern bubbles
And the gods are absent and the men are still—
Noli me tangere, my soul is forfeit.
Some now are happy in the hive of home,
Thigh over thigh and a light in the night nursery,
And some are hungry under the starry dome
And some sit turning handles.
Glory to God in the Lowest, peace beneath the earth,
Dumb and deaf at the nadir;
I wonder now whether anything is worth
The eyelid opening and the mind recalling.
And I think of Persephone gone down to dark,
No more a virgin, gone the garish meadow,
But why must she come back, why must the snowdrop
That life goes on for ever?
There are nights when I am lonely and long for love
But to-night is quintessential dark forbidding
Anyone beside or below me; only above
Pile high the tumulus, good-bye to starlight.
Good-bye the Platonic sieve of the Carnal Man
But good-bye also Plato’s philosophising;
I have a better plan
To hit the target straight without circumlocution.
If you can equate Being in its purest form
With denial of all appearance,
Then let me disappear — the scent grows warm
For pure Not-Being, Nirvana.
Only the spider spinning out his reams
Of colourless thread says Only there are always
Who let no dead dog lie nor death be final;
Suggesting, while he spins, that to-morrow will out-
To-night, that Becoming is a match for Being,
That to-morrow is also a day,
That I must leave my bed and face the music.
As all the others do who with a grin
Shake off sleep like a dog and hurry to desk or engine
And the fear of life goes out as they clock in
And history is reasserted.
Spider, spider, your irony is true;
Who am I — or I — to demand oblivion?
I must go out to-morrow as the others do
And build the falling castle;
Which has never fallen, thanks
Not to any formula, red tape or institution,
Not to any creeds or banks,
But to the human animal’s endless courage.
Spider, spider, spin
Your register and let me sleep a little,
Not now in order to end but to begin
The task begun so often.