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Collected Poems

Street Scene

Street Scene

By soot-stained brick and slick new glass,
on foot, in trams and buses crammed,
where grass once grew they glumly pass,
the white-faced rabble of the damned.

See, Jack and Jill, fond lovers still,
share hopes with eunuchs, priests and popes:
safe now, they fall from no tall hill,
immured in mire with midwife Stopes.

page 94

Their world is neither brave nor new,
but brummagem, and ripe for rot,
and men and maidens rummage through
the middens of their fathers' lot.

There go John Doe and Richard Roe:
wrist-watch, Time's elegant technocrat,
wears them with ease, as these, to show
man's godhead, bear the bowler hat.

Whatever hells in sleep they haunt
from cheap flats daily they deploy,
chins up, with jaunty grins, to flaunt
assurance like a shop-soiled toy.

The workless loll; they too are serfs
who only stand and wait till walls
of brick shall break and fall, and turf
and clumps of weed re-cover all.

Through dirt of gutters, furtive, sly,
their clouds of glory still they trail;
the world is too much with them—ay!
a tin can at a mongrel's tail.

Fishers of men, well-wishers all
of all who drift and swiftly drown—
pull in your lines: not wily Paul
could haul these souls and salt them down.

Beachcombers all, who tend Hell's fires,
and hunt for driftwood, flotsam, faggots—
your quest is vain, vain your desires
as theirs who bait their hooks with maggots.

No Flood, nor flow of molten mud,
shall honour with expensive doom
this flesh and blood, all nipped in bud
or smothered in its mother's womb.

For these are dead—beyond all well
or ill, as far past heal or hurt,
or hope of Heaven, or dread of Hell,
as lice upon a cast-off shirt.