Produced by Keren Vergon, Clytie Siddall and PG Distributed Proofreaders
Sir Edward Howard Marsh
The Poetry Bookshop
To Thomas Hardy
This is the fourth volume of the present series. I hope it may be thought to show that what for want of a better word is called Peace has not interfered with the writing of good poetry.
Thanks and acknowledgements are due to Messrs. Beaumont, Blackwell, Collins, Constable, Fifield, Heinemann, Seeker, Selwyn & Blount, and Sidgwick & Jackson; and to the Editors of The Anglo-French Review, The Athenæum, The Chapbook, Land and Water, The Nation, The New Statesman, The New Witness, The New World, The Owl, The Spectator, To-day, Voices, and The Westminster Gazette.
Witchcraft: New Style
The sun drew off at last his piercing fires.
Over the stale warm air, dull as a pond
And moveless in the grey quieted street,
Blue magic of a summer evening glowed.
The sky, that had been dazzling stone all day,
Hollowed in smooth hard brightness, now dissolved
To infinite soft depth, and smoulder’d down
Low as the roofs, dark burning blue, and soared
Clear to that winking drop of liquid silver,
The first exquisite star. Now the half-light
Tidied away the dusty litter parching
Among the cobbles, veiled in the colour of distance
Shabby slates and brickwork mouldering, turn’d
The hunchback houses into patient things
Resting; and golden windows now began.
A little brisk grey slattern of a woman,
Pattering along in her loose-heel’d clogs,
Pushed the brass-barr’d door of a public-house;
The spring went hard against her; hand and knee
Shoved their weak best. As the door poised ajar,
Hullabaloo of talking men burst out,
A pouring babble of inflamed palaver,
And overriding it and shouted down
High words, jeering or downright, broken like
Crests that leap and stumble in rushing water.
Just as the door went wide and she stepped in,
‘She cannot do it!’ one was bawling out:
A glaring hulk of flesh with a bull’s voice.
He finger’d with his neckerchief, and stretched
His throat to ease the anger of dispute,
Then spat to put a full stop to the matter.
The little woman waited, with one hand
Propping the door, and smiled at the loud man.
They saw her then; and the sight was enough
To gag the speech of every drinker there:
The din fell down like something chopt off short.
Blank they all wheel’d towards her, with their mouths
Still gaping as though full of voiceless words.
She let the door slam to; and all at ease,
Amused, her smile wrinkling about her eyes,
Went forward: they made room for her quick enough.
Her chin just topt the counter; she gave in
Her bottle to the potboy, tuckt it back,
Full of bright tawny ale, under her arm,
Rapt down the coppers on the planisht zinc,
And turned: and no word spoken all the while.
The first voice, in that silent crowd, was hers,
Her light snickering laugh, as she stood there
Pausing, scanning the sawdust at her feet.
Then she switcht round and faced the positive man
Whose strong ‘She cannot do it!’ all still felt
Huskily shouting in their guilty ears.
‘She can’t, eh? She can’t do it? ‘ — Then she’d heard!
The man, inside his ruddy insolent flesh,
Had hoped she did not hear. His barrel chest
Gave a slight cringe, as though the glint of her eyes
Prickt him. But he stood up to her awkwardly bold,
One elbow on the counter, gripping his mug
Like a man holding on to a post for safety.