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ryn Jan 2015
The Stars will collide and the ashes will cover our grounds
- Tiffanie Noel Doro

burn my body,
flesh and bone just the same•
let loose my soul so it might be free•but
save my remains before the wind comes to
claim•so you'd remember me as the dream-
er infinitely•pluck the stars from the night
skyline•don't forget the moon for I adore
it so•grind them to dust and scatter the-
irs with mine•i'd have them as comp-
any to the place I will go•handle me
with care, no you must not spill•
ashes and dust...funnel me in
turn•place me near, on the
mantel or the sill•my for-
ever will then be sealed
in your cold...shelved...

Inspired by Tiffanie's "It was never that simple", for Frank's "Let's Do A Line!" challenge.

Tiffanie's last stanza really got me and the line I drew from her poem simply sang to me.
Thank you Tiff, for being such a wonderful writer and for being such an inspiration!
Jayantee Khare Aug 2018

A fine play
of the
and sift
turns malleable
gathered and made
to spin on a slow wheel
formed with shaping hands
baked at a high temperature
comes out a beautiful craft
and both of 'em are ready
an urn from the pottery
and  the  poetry!!

Another shape poem......trying the analogy between poems and vases
Moments Before Aug 2018
All of it a chard
meaningless mass
life reduced
Paul Mar 22
A weight bearing down
on the yellowed bed, in the used room

the way memory indelibly shapes
judgement and its content.
And by the bed, a yellow daisy

capturing sunlight, mourns
its brief and trembling time
as if its vase were an urn
and now, despite the brilliance, were ashes.
Mark Grover Mar 2013
he had knowing dreams of where he was going
all along upward he was growing
the always certain hand of fate was ever sowing
fields of poppies concealing secrets of the knowing

so soon he forgot to remember that which he once knew
he traded certainty for a comforting clue
now he is on his back staring at the blue
with eyes forever closed to that which is true

will his muddled gaze ever be wrested
from the flickering box on which it has nested
given comfort as he is artificially breastfed
hate people and love things is where he is led

so the cycle continues to turn
until we coach the match to burn
birthing a new world from the urn
ashes to ashes and so much to learn

drop a stitch and skip a beat
out of line, missing steps of society's feet
no more fear of leaving others plans' incomplete
finally rendering acceptance obsolete

he stands alone
Robby May 2014
They released her urn unto the voices of the wind so she could dance and feel like forever again.
mabel remington Oct 2016
dear elise,

in three months rosa's cheeks won't be so rosy anymore and you’ll be standing over an urn watering the ashes in the hopes that your sister will grow back without the thorns.
she’ll leave them buried behind in parts of your heart that you never even thought existed and it’ll sting so much you’ll be screaming at family or rather
the people you’re supposed to call family
to not bring flowers to a flower’s funeral

(i’m digging my fingernails into the dirt and wondering if
god wilted too.)

your sister thought she could hide it behind her petals but she couldn’t and that means you should have watered the roses more, that’s what mum will tell you for years to come, and she’s right because it was her ******* garden you walked right into and tainted with god knows what. because of you, she’s going to cut off her green thumb and bury it somewhere in the corner of the flower beds so it wilts with the rest of her. it still smells like rot these days, why?

why does it feel so different? the kids still drive down to brixton to set their own bodies on fire (**** the witch! **** the witch!) and she still tells you to chew your words twice, maybe three times but be careful not to let the thorns slit your throat on the way down, rosa is too fragile to be wasted on your mouth. you can still change; you’re only fourteen. i’m hoping you will start finding beauty in the spray painted graffiti, the red streaks burrowing roots in your daydreams and cultivating a new garden in the comfort of your head
it’s just much easier that way having a keepsake all to yourself--

please keep her safe in the urn under your bed
this reeks of uncontained emotion bLEH yall r in for a sappy read
Please tell me someone loves you well, so that I can take my small offering and burn it at the foot of a mountain,
instead of hiking it’s trail to deliver it into your palms.

I want to know you are so loved,
that it would be a poor gift
to give you my affection,
in comparison to what you’ve got.  

Let me head away from the shadow of the mount
having burnt it, with an urn in hand,
knowing it's her warmth that walks you
through the foliage
and the wilderness of your heart

a bond so deep that it strengthens you
with a better tenderness than that
which would rest
on the possibility of mine

Tell me you are well loved.
v V v Sep 2015
We bury them in flat graves
or convert them to ash
and wear them around our necks,
or place them in urns.

And what’s this about burial pods?
Your rotting corpse providing nutrients
to a tree that will one day be
cut down to make a casket
for the person that hung themselves
with their necklace of ash.

I recently read about
mechanically pressed ash
pressed so hard and
with so much pressure
that your loved one becomes
a diamond.
Albeit grey and dull,
and quite expensive.

Effectively if you die first
you can still be buried
with the one you love,
its almost like dying twice…

why do we no longer honor the dead?

Please don’t say an urn or a pod
or a flat marked grave honor the dead.
Google Highgate Cemetery.
Google The Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno
and you will understand the difference.

It is good to honor the dead.  

A death so honored that
a hundred years later
They’re as beautiful as ever.

look and see how beautiful it is
to honor the dead.
I'm sure it comes down to expense, but oh how I wish we still honored our dead in this way. Google images of Highgate Cemetery and the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno for specific examples of such beauty.
Terry O'Leary Aug 2014
The darkness, now descending, floods the city as it dies
while shadows lurk in legions 'neath the looming Evil Eye.
Its frozen stare envelops all, it penetrates and pries,
denouncing loathed dissenters to the keepers in the sky.

One’s inner thoughts are well descried before they’ve passed one’s lips
and cruelly crushed with grim contempt twixt despots’ fingertips;
but if no taboo-idea’s found, with which to come to grips,
the stymied Eye dispenses pus as fabrication drips.

The Eye peers down upon us now, to conquer and control,
and mark our every movement, whether hiding in a hole
or preening like a purple parrot perched upon a pole.
Our welfare and our happiness? No, certainly not the goal.

While phantoms fade, then reappear within the urban sprawl,
the gloom (adorned with Evil Eyes which pierce the livid pall)
pervades the ache and agony that poets sometimes scrawl
of plenitude to penury, how life endures the fall.

And should the herd dare whisper words of freedom's fragrant bloom
or murmur sighs of worriment at earth's impending doom,
the Evil Eye will squint a bit at those who so presume,
condemning nascent unchained thoughts to wither in the womb.

The Evil Eye bores everywhere, a tattletale to Kings,
who scrutinize their puppet people, strumming on their strings,
extracting secrets of their souls like spiders plucking wings
that flutter with the hangman’s knot as the corpse of freedom swings.

Yes, Princes rule with tungsten fists wherever they may roam
and sip from golden goblets, nectar, sweet as honeycomb
while peons (stripped of mind and soul) stray never far from home,
with faces 'neath the iron boot, ****** deep below the loam.

And peasants pass, parading by to fill the golden urn
with pennies for the afterlife wherefore the faithful yearn,
though screams of babes with empty eyes are never of concern
to those who covet silver coins, eyes cold and taciturn.

To hide the pains of purgatory, far-flung distant shores
(on islands of containment) cache the dingy dungeon doors
and inquisition water-boards that buoy their holy wars,
while sandmen drape our eyes with dust, with rainbow metaphors.

We’ll know the party's over when there's little left to eat
and all the learned scholars, lean, stay silent when they meet -
the Eye, withal, will spawn distrust on matters indiscreet.
The signs are all around us - even sheep no longer bleat.

One sightless seer scans the skies and mourns the heretofore.
Nine limbless men descend the stairs to find there is no floor.
Eight tongueless women babble, telling tales of nevermore.
Four earless children drown within the ocean's muted roar.

When hope becomes defiance, ask: Will bedlam soon arrive?
Will doves appear above us all? Or drones to guard the hive
while fed with milk and honey by the Queen and kept alive
to gut the gale below them? Will we let the Eye survive?
Every day you fight to get out of a world you never made
Maybe there are no great victories so you celebrate the
Little ones.  Soon enough you realize This is your life; it is
A process and you are in it; and so you say with a laugh
You call this living well maybe the worst is over. This may
Be less than  repentance; this resignation but there is a charity
In having lost what you would not lose there is still a way
So what your dead you say there is still a way forward
Fever felled you rise again and again  in the in between-
Still in the process making a gesture on the Grecian urn
The lover ever chasing the green child that is and is not.
There is peace in doing what you do; anticipation in the
Constant;  in the moment before you will hold your love.
Is there a greater Joy than this then I do not know it...
Philomena Dec 2018
Wedding bells
As fortune tells
Two souls as one

Happy times
And stupid rhymes
A future about to begin

White lace
And a sunny place
The things of dreams

Yet you won't see me
I will stay under this tree
Like an Ode on a Grecian Urn

No lace for this girl
And not a single dance to whirl
Because I am not bride nor groom

So leave me be
And go and see
Two souls as one
Going to a wedding tomorrow, going to be fun, or at least I hope so.
Yanamari Aug 5
And there's a
A smile
After you
Always evaporating, cheeks


A yell,

No turn
Words churned
In the instability
I am floating in
Unable to earn
The desires that I
Locked in my frozen

Floating in
Uncontrollable colour changing tar
The one thing I expected
To remain constant
Was the lack of equilibrium
And I .... Why is it you're looking...
Looking at me?
Pers Ref: WA 2Aug (Butter). Is it really the beginning of equilibration?
Strung Jun 14
I’m thinking all my charcoal thoughts—
Scorching on my mind—
I’m thinking all my crumbly words
Are worth the dark’s dull time
I sit here in the dark
And watch the embers burn
The feelings of the faces here
Mean nothing in the urn.
I sit against cold tiles,
Hiding in the dark
The fire burns me inside out
I’m alone, I’m hurt.
I sit deep in the fire
I have no more bones to give
All my blood is boiling
And my eyes have all but caved
I sit here in the fire
And think my charcoal thoughts
I want nothing else to do
With anything but dust.
Burn the legs and up the arms
I’m done with walking free
Burn the brain, the heart, the soul
I retire to the dream.
jul Feb 13
i am dazed
with demons that prance around my head.
endlessly weeping for love and a soul
that they cannot find.
                                          my soul sits in an urn
                               on top of a rusted shelf in an abandoned castle that
                                                            ­                 once made the sun elated.

but now my soul's whispers reside within a glass vase
and i am tired of ridding my demons
                    so that ive stopped trying.

now they comfortably sit watching the world turn into a capsule.

they yearn for simplicity
but my mind has become too complex.
they yearn for belonging
but even I cannot obtain that.
Troy Jun 2017
Times were perfect
they were kind and loving
You had a sparkle in your eye
That made the world bright with love

The distance was great
Yet it wasn't an issue till one day
You told me its hard
You want us closer
But to be friend is enough for now

The pain worsened the more we were friends
The ***** ups I did just made things worse
My love has grown stronger and stronger
Yet it is not enough

In order to get you back I must be by your side
Times are tough and greater still
I love you so much that time stands still
I see you there alone

No one by your side and I crave
That someone will be me again
This pain and misery is far to great
Yet I long your your touch
your kissing embrace

These nights without you have made me miserable
I just wish once you see my tears
These tears of love and pure of heart
They urn for you to wipe them away

They look to you with a tortured soul
Leaking through the glistening light
They wish you would come back to wipe them away
Even if it is just one more time
Zachery Oct 2018
Alike but different
Each is permanent
**** someone in rage
Or **** yourself and leave behind a page
Your level of madness is measured,gauged
But why do I banter
Im as mad as a hatter
Nothing even matters
My life in tatters
A knife to me throat
Toss me in the moat
A bullet in the brain
Nothing to gain
Sometimes relief other times pain
The blood will be taint
Burn and Burn
Ashes in the urn
The worlds will turn
The stomachs will churn
For all you see is fake
And they will continue to take
An illusion
To launch you into confusion
A ruse
To light your fuse
Our lifespan
Throughout man
Short and bitter
So many of us quitters
The rest of us let out titters
While they gnaw on us, the critters
Bite and Bite
Fight for the light
To die in the moonlit night
To cause each other so much fright
Our 'Gods' tell us to **** each other
Our own brothers
Let the blackbird fly
High into the sky
To cause the gloom
To signal our doom
Our demise
Of the human enterprise
A poem that I was working on since Sunday
Katgreir Erisdil Jun 2018
June 21, 2018

without you my poems dont rhyme
my adjectives are never profound
you're the only one i know so sublime
my rhythms fathom without sound

i am Avunchnzel and you are my lexicon
waiting for you to return home
like meridia's lost beacon
but stolen thou art from me
and you have no power to return
neither do i to seek thee
for fearful am i to search the urn
in the catacombs they lie, hiding the most precious gem
Ceyhun Mahi Aug 2018
I have read your words, O Poet of Pain,
Their musicality is bliss to ears,
A taste of sweets to mind when each one hears
About the lonely stars, about the rain.
The urn, the nightingale have stayed the same,
Since the moment they were written down, fears
Of loss and of decay (because of years)
Are not to be found – nothing gone to vain.

Your life and sacred love is stated clearly,
For beauty and the truth, who I can see
Although, like springs, it's repeated and old.
O Bard of Bright Letters! I thank you dearly,
That you have written lines of poetry
To us and yourself; their worth 's more than gold.
I have read many poets but I know only a few who have infleunced me a lot. John Keats is one of them. Beauty, Love and Truth described through romantic verses referring to nature. That is what motivates me as a poet, and I have found that in Keats.
Cyan Aug 16
I live inside a glass bottle
with crude facets
that refract
light at odd angles.
I must always be vigilant
for you want to open the bottle
so badly.
But when I can smell the air
I feel my skin ignite
And begin to boil away.
So I reach up and pull the stopper
of my volatile vial

I’m sure if I were released
the view would be fantastic.
I would rush into the world
existing only for a second,
a glittering torrent
running from the air,
leaving swallowtails of myself
as butterfly scales
behind me
as I fly,
before combusting into
an acidic mist
and scatter,
searching for a new container.

And I will not let that happen.

Because I can’t let you
breathe me in,
for your ruptured lungs
to become
my urn.
Lawrence Hall Sep 2018
The Poetry of John Keats is not Safe

You may find there “a cave of young earth dragons”
Or with a “sea-born goddess” fall in love
You might not escape “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”
Or finish reading all your “high-piled books”

Yet “tender is the night” when sings the nightingale
And you are shown that all “Beauty is truth”
Through your soul, “The wanderer by moonlight”
And there “like pious incense” the hours pass

Though in that “season of mists” one’s life must end
“Go not to Lethe,” but sail on with the wind

1 “Ben Nevis”
2 “Endymion”
3 “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”
4 “When I Have Fears that I may Cease to Be”
5 “Ode to a Nightingale”
6 “Ode on a Grecian Urn”
7 “I Stood Tip-Toe Upon a Little Hill”
8 “The Eve of Saint Agnes”
9 “To Autumn”
10 “Ode on Melancholy”
Mark Dec 2018
Depression is; a desert well of sand
no water drops are left to tear the pain
and buries hearts as granules hold remand
for there alone and in; despondent shame.

A grief within a world that none can hear
nor venture near enough to sense one's dry,
the inner voices scream but choke on fear
to speak; is churning neath the weighted sigh.

To walk with feet that sink, in winds that burn
and forms the tallest dunes that grows to tame
then render one like lifeless dust to urn
and better then to be in death than maim.

Depression is; that plain that sorrow bore
and that is just an hour, the hell has more.
Jennifer Beetz Nov 2018
She enters a room
with a compact stare
a two inch by two inch
sort of thing that SNAPS
SHUT sooner rather than
later and if you get chewed
in her moments, get a leg
caught in the trap of her gaze?
count yourself lucky to have
not been devoured on the spot
or stomped by the CLICK
CLACK of her heels or
simply shoved sideways
between act I and act II
of one of her excruciating
She enters a room in large
strides, legs like a compass
with two sharp toes marking
the divide because NO ONE
shares her space, even as she
marches head first into a wall
or face down into your purse
GET IT? not your sort of thing
My mother hovers like a
florescent bulb, leaving spots
in her wake, purple, mostly
she leaves a room ******
of its color, she's a *******
layer cake
She exits always in great haste
she takes the wind with her
and leaves NOTHING behind
not even you, a second thought
a ticket for two- mother,
daughter, orchestra
seating (she leaves before
intermission, with a cough
and a cloud and a hubbub
even the actors notice her
**** absence, YOU)
Mother Darling, once
reaching the end, you
could say (and you do,
YOU DO) she was perfect
when vertical and even
when folded in half, a
pretty good sport
(Now, layered in ashes,
she will spend her days
in a horizontal haze and
just to be sure you give her
urn a good shake or two
as any old friend would
and well OF COURSE you
Alyssa Underwood Mar 2016

He did not wear his scarlet coat,
  For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
  When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
  And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
  In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and ***;
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
  With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
  Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
  A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,
  “That fellows got to swing.”

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
  Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
  Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
  My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
  Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
  With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved
  And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves
  By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!

Some **** their love when they are young,
  And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
  Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
  The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
  Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
  And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
  Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
  On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
  Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
  Into an empty place

He does not sit with silent men
  Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
  And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
  The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
  Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
  The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
  With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
  To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats, and notes
  Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
******* a watch whose little ticks
  Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
  That sands one’s throat, before
The hangman with his gardener’s gloves
  Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
  That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
  The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
  Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
  Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
  Through a little roof of glass;
He does not pray with lips of clay
  For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
  The kiss of Caiaphas.


Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
  In a suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
  And his step seemed light and ***,
But I never saw a man who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
  Its raveled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
  Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
  In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
  And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
  Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
  Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
  As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
  Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
  A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
  The man who had to swing.

And strange it was to see him pass
  With a step so light and ***,
And strange it was to see him look
  So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
  Had such a debt to pay.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
  That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
  With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
  Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
  For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
  Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer’s collar take
  His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
  When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
  Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
  To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
  We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
  Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
  His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
  Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
  In the black dock’s dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
  In God’s sweet world again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
  We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
  We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
  But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
  Two outcast men were we:
The world had ****** us from its heart,
  And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
  Had caught us in its snare.


In Debtors’ Yard the stones are hard,
  And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
  Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
  For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
  His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
  And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
  Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
  The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
  A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called
  And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
  And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
  No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
  The hangman’s hands were near.

But why he said so strange a thing
  No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher’s doom
  Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
  And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
  To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
  Pent up in Murderers’ Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
  Could help a brother’s soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
  We trod the Fool’s Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
  The Devil’s Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
  Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
  With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
  And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
  And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
  We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
  And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
  Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
  Crawled like a ****-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
  That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
  We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
  Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
  To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
  Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
  On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
  Went shuffling through the gloom
And each man trembled as he crept
  Into his numbered tomb.

That night the empty corridors
  Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
  Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
  White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
  In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watcher watched him as he slept,
  And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
  With a hangman close at hand?

But there is no sleep when men must weep
  Who never yet have wept:
So we—the fool, the fraud, the knave—
  That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
  Another’s terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
  To feel another’s guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
  Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
  For the blood we had not spilt.

The Warders with their shoes of felt
  Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
  Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
  Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
  Mad mourners of a corpse!
The troubled plumes of midnight were
  The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
  Was the savior of Remorse.

The **** crew, the red **** crew,
  But never came the day:
And crooked shape of Terror crouched,
  In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
  Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
  Like travelers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
  Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
  The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
  Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
  They trod a saraband:
And the ****** grotesques made arabesques,
  Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
  They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
  As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
  For they sang to wake the dead.

“Oho!” they cried, “The world is wide,
  But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
  Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
  In the secret House of Shame.”

No things of air these antics were
  That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
  And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
  Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
  Some wheeled in smirking pairs:
With the mincing step of demirep
  Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
  Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
  But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
  Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
  Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
  The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning-steel
  We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
  To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars
  Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
  That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
  God’s dreadful dawn was red.

At six o’clock we cleaned our cells,
  At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
  The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
  Had entered in to ****.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
  Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
  Are all the gallows’ need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
  To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
  Of filthy darkness *****:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
  Or give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
  And what was dead was Hope.

For Man’s grim Justice goes its way,
  And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
  It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
  The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
  Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
  That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
  For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
  Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
  Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man’s heart beat thick and quick
  Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
  Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
  Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
  From a ***** in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
  In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
  Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman’s snare
  Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
  That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the ****** sweats,
  None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
  More deaths than one must die.


There is no chapel on the day
  On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain’s heart is far too sick,
  Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
  Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
  And then they rang the bell,
And the Warders with their jingling keys
  Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
  Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God’s sweet air we went,
  But not in wonted way,
For this man’s face was white with fear,
  And that man’s face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
  So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
  We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
  In happy freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
  Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
  They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived
  Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
  Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
  And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood
  And makes it bleed in vain!

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
  With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
  The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
  And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
  And through each hollow mind
The memory of dreadful things
  Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
  And terror crept behind.

The Warders strutted up and down,
  And kept their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were ***** and span,
  And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at
  By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
  There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
  By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
  That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
  Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
  Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
  Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
  Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
  And the soft flesh by the day,
It eats the flesh and bones by turns,
  But it eats the heart alway.

For three long years they will not sow
  Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
  Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
  With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer’s heart would taint
  Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God’s kindly earth
  Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
  The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
  Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
  Christ brings his will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
  Bloomed in the great Pope’s sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
  May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
  Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
  A common man’s despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
  Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
  By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who ***** the yard
  That God’s Son died for all.

Yet though the hideous prison-wall
  Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit man not walk by night
  That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may not weep that lies
  In such unholy ground,

He is at peace—this wretched man—
  At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
  Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
  Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
  They did not even toll
A reguiem that might have brought
  Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
  And hid him in a hole.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,
  And gave him to the flies;
They mocked the swollen purple throat
  And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
  In which their convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
  By his dishonored grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
  That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
  Whom Christ came down to save.

Yet all is well; he has but passed
  To Life’s appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
  Pity’s long-broken urn,
For his mourner will be outcast men,
  And outcasts always mourn.


I know not whether Laws be right,
  Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
  Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
  A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
  That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother’s life,
  And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
  With a most evil fan.

This too I know—and wise it were
  If each could know the same—
That every prison that men build
  Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
  How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
  And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
  For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
  Ever should look upon!

The vilest deeds like poison weeds
  Bloom well in prison-air:
It is only what is good in Man
  That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
  And the Warder is Despair

For they starve the little frightened child
  Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
  And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

Each narrow cell in which we dwell
  Is foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
  Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
  In Humanity’s machine.

The brackish water that we drink
  Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
  Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
  Wild-eyed and cries to Time.

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
  Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
  For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
  Becomes one’s heart by night.

With midnight always in one’s heart,
  And twilight in one’s cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
  Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
  Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
  To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
  Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
  With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life’s iron chain
  Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
  And some men make no moan:
But God’s eternal Laws are kind
  And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
  In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
  Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean *****’s house
  With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy day they whose hearts can break
  And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
  And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
  May Lord Christ enter in?

And he of the swollen purple throat.
  And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
  The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
  The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
  Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
  His soul of his soul’s strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
  The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
  The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
  And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
  Became Christ’s snow-white seal.


In Reading gaol by Reading town
  There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
  Eaten by teeth of flame,
In burning winding-sheet he lies,
  And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
  In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
  Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
  And so he had to die.

And all men **** the thing they love,
  By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
  Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
  The brave man with a sword!
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