Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE GORSE, by WILFRID WILSON GIBSON

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THE GORSE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In dream, again within the clean, cold hell
Last Line: Beneath a blinding sky, one blaze of sun.
Subject(s): Prisons & Prisoners; Convicts

IN dream, again within the clean, cold hell
Of glazed and aching silence he was trapped;
And, closing in, the blank walls of his cell
Crushed stifling on him . . . when the bracken snapped,
Caught in his clutching fingers; and he lay
Awake upon his back among the fern,
With free eyes travelling the wide blue day,
Unhindered, unremembering; while a burn
Tinkled and gurgled somewhere out of sight,
Unheard of him; till suddenly aware
Of its cold music, shivering in the light,
He raised himself, and with far-ranging stare
Looked all about him: and with dazed eyes wide

Saw, still as in a numb, unreal dream,
Black figures scouring a far hill-side,
With now and then a sunlit rifle's gleam;
And knew the hunt was hot upon his track:
Yet hardly seemed to mind, somehow, just then . . .
But kept on wondering why they looked so black
On that hot hill-side, all those little men
Who scurried round like beetles -- twelve, all told . . .
He counted them twice over; and began
A third time reckoning them, but could not hold
His starved wits to the business, while they ran
So brokenly, and always stuck at "five ". . .

And "One, two, three, four, five," a dozen times
He muttered . . . "Can you catch a fish alive?"
Sang mocking echoes of old nursery rhymes
Through the strained, tingling hollow of his head.
And now, almost remembering, he was stirred
To pity them; and wondered if they'd fed
Since he had, or if, ever since they'd heard
Two nights ago the sudden signal-gun
That raised alarm of his escape, they too
Had fasted in the wilderness, and run
With nothing but the thirsty wind to chew,
And nothing in their bellies but a fill
Of cold peat-water, till their heads were light . . .

The crackling of a rifle on the hill
Rang in his ears: and stung to headlong flight,
He started to his feet; and through the brake
He plunged in panic, heedless of the sun
That burned his cropped head to a red-hot ache
Still racked with crackling echoes of the gun.

Then suddenly the sun-enkindled fire
Of gorse upon the moor-top caught his eye:
And that gold glow held all his heart's desire,
As, like a witless, flame-bewildered fly,
He blundered towards the league-wide yellow glaze,
And tumbled headlong on the spikes of bloom;
And rising, bruised and bleeding and adaze,
Struggled through clutching spines; the dense, sweet
Of nutty, acrid scent like poison stealing
Through his hot blood; the bristling yellow glare
Spiking his eyes with fire, till he went reeling,
Stifled and blinded, on -- and did not care
Though he were taken -- wandering round and round,
"Jerusalem the Golden" quavering shrill,
Changing his tune to "Tommy Tiddler's Ground ":
Till, just a lost child on that dazzling hill,
Bewildered in a glittering golden maze
Of stinging scented fire, he dropped, quite done,
A shriveling wisp within a world ablaze
Beneath a blinding sky, one blaze of sun.

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