Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CONSUMPTIVE, by ROSALIND TRAVERS

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE CONSUMPTIVE, by                    
First Line: Oh! I'm glad to be at home
Last Line: Of life, upon her tireless breast.
Subject(s): Tuberculosis; Consumption (pathology)

OH! I'm glad to be at home,
Now my hour is nearly come!
Make fast the window, mend the fire,
Smoothe the bed and lift me higher.

Give me Baby, little warm,
Soft, living treasure, on my arm.
Look! we're cosy now: step free
About your work, my wife, for me.

Your strength is mine while thus you move
Around me, full of care and love;
Like mine I feel the living grace
Of health, that lights your quiet face.

And mine, my faithful girl, your heart
Beats beside me till we part;
Such pulse of life no skill could give
To ease and strengthen while I live.

I almost feel our children's speed
(From the dark school-buildings freed)
Stir in my limbs: I hear the strong
Quick falling feet, the play and song.

And drawing thus some heartening breath
Of love and hope, I fear not death.
Warm in other's life, I may
Just watch the creeping dusk away.

Four close, familiar walls, a room
Vague in the murmuring, yellow gloom:
Gas-beams on the old, thick air,
And life, and London everywhere!

Footfall, traffic, crowd, and cries!
Life enfolding one who dies:
—But ah! the deathly hush, the still
White hospital upon the hill!

How could I be cured there? yearning
For sound, and warmth, and home-fires burning!
Some throve and blest the place, I pined,
Sick at heart, with deadening mind.

For cold as charity it stands
Alone, on wide and friendless lands;
With empty grass, and bare, black trees,
That made a noise of rushing seas.

There winds like icy waters flow
Through screenless windows to and fro;
All drowned in clear, cold airs you lie
And gaze, and hate the vacant sky.

So white, so grey, so very far!
Or black, with many a shivering star;
Through endless deeps you search in vain
For smoke, or fog, or human stain.

Look round the ward: each patient seems
Small as a child, in frightened dreams
Of huge, bright halls, whose polished stones
Ring with smothered coughs and groans.

For men are turned to babes again,
Lying in helpless, sullen pain
Through long, long nights, till dreary morn
Breaks, with piping birds forlorn.

Then nurses, doctors, soon are there,
With cheerful, swift, untender care:
(Skilled, steady, faultless—how I've longed
To feel a heart! be loved, or wronged!)

The drowsy hours are shot with dread
Of burial midst the stranger dead,
On country hillside hidden deep,
Where you, my girl, might never sleep.

My silly ghost would cry and rave,
Fluttering, struggling from the grave,
To seek, through miles of starlit air,
London's warm and dusky flare.

But home at last, I'll lay me down
Among the dead of London town:
Hearing, through the thick earth beat,
Throb of the City's countless feet.

In that strong life-pulse I shall know
You are passing to and fro
Somewhere, bearing bravely still
An unforgetting heart and will.

Through London's low and thunderous hum
Sounds of our children's life will come,
From busy office, street, and park,
To cheer me in the heavy dark.

Till you creep down and touch my hand
In that blinded, deep, strange land,
Earth, whose silent bosom cold
All toiling London must uphold.

Earth, the quiet mother, seeing
Her City's vast tumultuous being,
Though dead herself, eternal life
Has found in London's speed and strife.

So we, in night and silence laid,
This endless living force shall aid;
For Death upholds the huge unrest
Of Life, upon her tireless breast.

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