Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SHEET LIGHTNING, by EDMUND CHARLES BLUNDEN



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SHEET LIGHTNING, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When on the green the rag-tag game had stopt
Last Line: With fear. Joe beat its brain out on the wheel.
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund
Subject(s): England; Landscape; Lightning; English; Lightning Rods


WHEN on the green the rag-tag game had stopt
And red the lights through alehouse curtains glowed,
The clambering brake drove out and took the road.
Then on the stern moors all the babble dropt
Among our merry men, who felt the dew
Sweet to the soul and saw the southern blue
Thronged with heat lightning miles and miles abroad,
Working and whickering, snakish, winged and clawed,
Or like old carp lazily rising and shouldering.
Long the slate cloud flank shook with the death-white smouldering:
Yet not a voice.
The night drooped oven-hot;
Then where the turnpike pierced the black wood plot,
Tongues wagged again and each man felt the grim
Destiny of the hour speaking through him,
And then tales came of dwarfs on Starling Hill
And those young swimmers drowned at the roller mill,
Where on the drowsiest noon an undertow
Famishing for life boiled like a pot below:
And how two higglers at the Walnut Tree
Had curst the Lord in thunderstorm and He
Had struck them dead as soot with lightning then --
Which left the tankards whole, to take the men.

Many a lad and many a lass was named
Who once stept bold and proud; but death had tamed
The revel on the eve of May; cut short
The primrosing and promise of good sport,
Shut up the score book, laid the bright scarf by.

Such bodings mustered from the fevered sky;
But now the spring well through the honeycomb
Of scored stone rumbling tokened them near home:
The whip-lash clacked, the jog-trot sharpened, all
Sang Farmer's Boy as loud as they could bawl,
And at the Walnut Tree the homeward brake
Stopt for hoarse ribaldry to brag and slake.

The weary wildfire faded from the dark;
While this one damned the parson, that the clerk;
And anger's balefire forked from the unbared blade
At word of things gone wrong or stakes not paid:
The waiting driver stooped with oath to find
A young jack rabbit in the roadway, blind
Or dazzled by the lamps, as stiff as steel
With fear. Joe beat its brain out on the wheel.





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