Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE COAT OF FIRE, by EDITH SITWELL

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE COAT OF FIRE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Amid the thunders of the falling dark
Last Line: The heedless world upon a heaving shoulder.
Subject(s): Humanity

Amid the thunders of the falling Dark
In Tartarean darkness of the fog
I walk, a Pillar of Fire
On pavements of black marble, hard
And wide as the long boulevard
Of Hell ... I, in whose veins the Furies wave
Their long fires, move where purgatories, heavens,
hells and worlds
Wrought by illusion, hide in the human breast
And tear the enclosing heart . . . And the snow fell
(Thin flakes of ash from Gomorrah) on blind faces
Turned to the heedless sky . . . A dress has the sound
Of Reality, reverberates like thunder.
And ghosts of aeons and of equinoxes
(Of moments that seemed aeons, and long partings)
Take on the forms of fashionable women
With veils that hide a new Catastrophe, and under
Is the fall of a world that was a heart. Some doomed
to descend
Through all the hells and change into the Dog
Without its faithfulness, the Crocodile
Without its watchfulness, and then to Pampean mud.
In the circles of the city's hells beneath the fog
These bear, to light them, in the human breast,
The yellow dull light from the raging human dust,
The dull blue light from the brutes, light red as rust
Of blood from eyeless weeping ghosts, light black as
From hell. And those breasts bear
No other light . . . They circle in the snow
Where in the dust the apterous
Fates turned insects whisper 'Now abandon
Man the annelida. Let all be wingless
That hangs between the abyss and Abaddon.'
The Catastrophes with veils and trains drift by,
And I to my heart, disastrous Comet, cry
'Red heart, my Lucifer, how fallen art thou,
And lightless, I!'
The dresses sweep the dust of mortality
And roll the burden of Atlas' woe, changed to a stone
Up to the benches where the beggars sway --
Their souls alone as on the Judgement Day --
In their Valley of the myriad Dry Bones under
world-tall houses.
Then, with a noise as if in the thunders of the Dark
All sins, griefs, aberrations of the world rolled to
Those myriad Dry Bones rose to testify:
'See her, the Pillar of Fire!
The aeons of Cold
And all the deaths that Adam has endured
Since the first death, can not outfreeze our night.
And where is the fire of love that will warm our
There is only this conflagration
Of all the sins of the world! To the dust's busyness
She speaks of annihilation
Of every form of dust, burned down to Nothingness!
To the small lovers, of a kiss that seems the red
Lightning of Comets firing worlds -- and of a Night
That shall outburn all nights that lovers know --
The last red Night before the Judgement Day!
O Pillar of Flame, that drifts across the world to
The eyes are seas of fire! All forms, all sights,
And all sensations are on fire! All smells, a ravening
Raging cyclone of wild fire! The nose, burned quite
The tongue is on fire, all tastes on fire, the mind
Is red as noon upon the Judgement Day!
The tears are rolling, falling worlds of fire!
With what are these on fire? With passion, hate,
Infatuation, and old age, and death,
With sorrow, longing, and with labouring breath,
And with despair and life are these on fire!
With the illusions of the world, the flames of lust,
And raging red desire!
A Pillar of Fire is she in the emptying dust,
And will not change those fires into warmth for our
Said the beggars, lolling and rocking
The heedless world upon a heaving shoulder.

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