ECLOGUE FOR A DYING HOUSE
1. This was the county; all was firm here; nothing
deciduous - not the trees, the weeping pines
and holms, the discreet mourning of the yews.
The spreading houses had a hundred roots
in narrow blood the very bricks blushed firm with
and did not tell the seasons: centuries nest there.
The lawns like an escutcheon, the suave gardens
quiet, yet burning with memorial flowers;
and the stone wyverns at the gate set fast
in gentlemanly consciousness of worth.
2. Beyond is the gnarled land, fertile and fierce
and scarred with pregnancies; the armpit land
of old unshaven things. And here all is
earthy and sweaty. Or ethereal England
hesitant in the hawthorn or the lake:
the melancholy sweetness and the bitter
3. labour and harvest and death,
2. the stones
impregnable as leaves; the growing earth
and all its guardians,
3. plougher and sower and parson,
2. born to be weary, not blind to beauty. Beyond,
the busy towns, queer friendly villages;
salt streets of ports, and the unbiddable sea.
here was the county, broadly built on squires,
the hunting owners bred in bone, the very
2. In what?
1. They were inheritors.
2. Of what?
3. Of all they were not and that lived
cruelly for them: peasant soil, pangs
of the soil, effortless earth in flower
upon the dead and broken, the great breast
pouring riches to their mouths.
2. They gave?
1. They gave like virgin land, accomplishment
of self; security in self; unlaboured plenty
growing and seeding as itself; and were not
virgin. Like a freed wilderness, but were pathed,
plotted, were bred or might not breed; like nature
and were man's mosaic. Time - but their own excuse.
2. No more?
1. A green December; immortal bone.
2. Bone does not live, bone does not bear.
3. Bone rots.
2. Perennials blow down; bricks crumble.
3. The bone rots.
The daddy-long-legs and the mole destroy.
2. Fertility feeds on stone.
3. And the bone rots.
2. All the dear delicacy and the power,
the artificial swan upon the river,
the winged imperial fish aloof in marble,
3. the gallant gardens and the herald's cold
2. all the unique
unfertile chosen things -
1. - their own excuse -
2. - things chosen by birth for birth
3. - birth brings them down.
2. The delver and the reaper stay.
3. Earth does
not blow away.
2. Mud mothers.
1. You are speaking
the old inconsequent sermon of mortality,
the parable of Adonis; or are pastoral
fools, gilding the sordid mattock: Mother
Earth; Dame Nature; honest, honest ploughman;
oh happy shepherd.
2. We do not speak of these,
the tired lessons of decay and growth,
or the romantic with white hands commending
an unreal pastoral envy. Not of these
individual things, of your own prizes, not
of a creed; but symbols.
3. And of things
that are; of double things. A different truth.
1. What of my faith, these living monuments?
3. That do not live.
1. The House; things as they are?
2. They are not. These are glamour upon spires;
the last reel running from the light, leaving
shadows; a canvas pillar in a masque:
fine within fiction, memorable, habitual.
But not to live by.
1. To preserve.
2. You cannot.
3. The bone rots.
2. These were never bone, but garments
of proud walkers.
3. These the moth or the horned
hand steals from glory, and the naked rise
clothes in the shaggy earth, limbs of the earth.
2. Daughters and sons, the country garden and
the heath; the rowan or elm; the wavering fenland
or the crag. The matron land that swells to
3. And the beauty that
is only beauty.
2. And the men that die
as generations, never as man.
1. But these,
the county, have not died.
3. And yet the House
is full of death; years and lives are its dust,
thick on the cornice, the great staircase, on
the supercilious heads and horns and masks,
the quarterings that died as generations:
it is past labour, beauty, ignorance,
2. cruelty and calm,
3. love and enforced love,
from whose anguish birth and death together
rose to a twilight and were death again;
3. the ghost of gowns, the odour of a thousand
dancing feasts: the House is full of death.
All the unseeing windows speak it; all
the fountains pouring blindly to the cold;
here is an attic of dead toys: dead time
powerful in the smallest mote or leaf,
but not alive.
2. Active, but not alive.
3. It is a cloud of spirits in the House:
2. death and the time that is death.
3. The dying House
waits like a beast for a new life to eat,
or like a shell, for a new inmate. Human
selfhood against time, its symbol.
by the garden tank, by the proud laurels, is
running water from a world not part
of its world. Here the life is thin and small
but stirring, while the untended gardens run
back to the outer soil and seed, and insect
war enlaces war of plants. The rooms
hollow and servantless, sink deep into
their own decay and brooding, madmen that glower
into themselves in darkness, animals'
leaping-inward fury; without thought,
but hating; without life, but dangerous.
3. Still the pool stirs with life, the common river
bleeds to it. Life is overthrowing you:
the water murmurs in your cellars.
is in your walls.
3. And the dry cistern threatens
1. Let nothing come. This is
my county: honour its dust the spider watches.
Leave the triumphant mouse his play. My flesh
dries on the bone -
3. Bone rots
1. - and will not rise.
Will not accept. Will thrust out the strange seed.
2. You may desire, or will may be accomplished
- will, but not your will always. For a time
the struggle and the individual pain,
victories over will.
3. And for a time
the will that is not willed; house-echoes, or
the rush of gravity;
2. power that cannot withhold
power; self-memory sleeping whipped by darkness
to spin, totter and fall, and the earth not shake.
And then the birth, fathered by strangers,
of the water and the laurel,
2. full of the cries
of birth, and the child riding blood; and full
of alteration out of agony.
Down by the garden tank, the laurel-bearing
lawn, he is standing, hearing the common river.
There, he is thoughtful as a conqueror;
the time of change.
1. Dust that has come to dust,
and will be dust. We are unconquerable.
2. Release the time of change, set free the action;
we cannot hold or help.
1. I can destroy.
2. None can destroy. We cannot help or hold.