Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A RUIN, by JANE BARLOW



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A RUIN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Mirk on clear skies, swept afar
Last Line: Tastes wonder on wonder.
Subject(s): Prisons & Prisoners; Convicts


MIRK on clear skies, swept afar,
Swart sail of thunder
Drift with the hid fraughting fire,
Fierce as from heart of a star,
That smiting hath shattered in sunder
A dungeon bale-haunted and dire,
A keep long accursed by the seathe
Of a captive held hope-reft thereunder,
Who here at light's birth, in heaven's breath,
Tastes wonder on wonder.
This prisoner wist not how his harm befell,
Nor recked of fairer lot than ever to dwell
Girt by those walls. Yet was their ampler room
His earliest memory, with its midday gloom
Grey near a casement's blink, high noon for him;
And Paradise he saw if green and dim
Some shadowy bough swung in and out of sight
Athwart the crevice, his one dull jewel of light,
Soon lost. For doomed he was in that fell tower
To obey the ban of its compelling power,
That led him, loth, to where, more dark and strait,
His chamber with no chink prepared a fate
Full piteous. Yet his griefs but halted there;
Needs must he follow anon down narrower stair
That nightmare guide, till his groping deaf and blind
Touched fresh despair: the stair begin to wind
He felt: he knew that solid dark and cold
Furled coiling, closing round him fold on fold,
Still, step by step. And ever as down he went
A weight of horror pressed sore on him, and pent
The frenzy, risen up else to end in wrack,
All sense dashed out against those barriers black.
And ever as down he went, foul crawling things
He brushed with hand and foot, of slime or stings
Inevitable aware with shuddering heed.
Then through an age-long pause seemed he a seed
Of anguish, whelmed alone in some vast orb,
That list not loose, nor list his life absorb,
To make the world-great atom of misery naught.
Thus, poised o'er stifling pangs stood Time, and circling brought
The same woe's hour.
Whereon a crash, a glare,
A ruin uprooted, glory of limpid air
In eyes joy-wildered. Nay, beyond, around,
What regions marvellous wrought with sight and sound,
Of greeting voice and face what master-bliss,
May ne'er be told, and but surmised amiss
By hearts that seek in dreams such haps as this: --

Mirk on clear skies, swept afar,
Swart sail of thunder
Drift with the hid fraughting fire,
Fierce as from heart of a star,
That smiting hath shattered in sunder
A dungeon bale-haunted and dire,
A keep long accursed by the scathe
Of a captive held hope-reft thereunder,
Who here at light's birth, in heaven's breath,
Tastes wonder on wonder.





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