Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CANAL, by EDMUND CHARLES BLUNDEN

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THE CANAL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Where so dark and still
Last Line: Swift and seeing?
Alternate Author Name(s): Blunden, Edmund
Subject(s): Canals

WHERE so dark and still
Slept the water, never changing,
From the glad sport in the meadows
Oft I turned me.

Fear would strike me chill
On the clearest day in summer,
Yet I loved to stand and ponder
Hours together

By the tarred bridge rail --
There the lockman's vine-clad window,
Mirrored in the tomb-like water,
Stared in silence

Till, deformed and pale
In the sunken cavern shadows,
One by one imagined demons
Scowled upon me.

Barges passed me by,
With their unknown surly masters
And small cabins, whereon some rude
Hand had painted

Trees and castles high.
Cheerly stepped the towing horses,
And the women sung their children
Into slumber.

Barges, too, I saw
Drowned in mud, drowned, drowned long ages,
Their grey ribs but seen in summer,
Their names never:

In whose silted maw
Swarmed great eels, the priests of darkness,
Old as they, who came at midnight
To destroy me.

Like one blind and lame
Who by some new sense has vision
And strikes deadlier than the strongest
Went this water.

Many an angler came,
Went his ways; and I would know them,
Some would smile and give me greeting,
Some kept silence --

Most, one old dragoon
Who had never a morning hallo,
But with stony eye strode onward
Till the water,

On a silent noon,
That had watched him long, commanded:
Whom he answered, leaping headlong
To self-murder.

"Fear and fly the spell,"
Thus my spirit sang beside me;
Then once more I ranged the meadows,
Yet still brooded,

When the threefold knell
Sounded through the haze of harvest --
Who had found the lame blind water
Swift and seeing?

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