Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MUD, by SHERARD VINES



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MUD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I had missed my mates at drinking by the little inn o' the ship
Last Line: From deadly things and hungry things that loiter about the sea.
Subject(s): Oxford University


I HAD missed my mates at drinking by the little inn o' the 'Ship,'
And staggered into the cool still air; the stars seemed all askip;
And a great joy roared in my strong heart, and a great fire in my head, --
I would well have danced a measure there, with the silly gaping dead;
I lurched along the paved quayside, bawling a bawdy song.
I tumbled over a cable, till the teeth met in my tongue;
Cried on Hell with a bleeding mouth, and knees all dust and blood,
But I stopped when someone called my name out of the river-mud:
It was ebbing, the tide, you know, that night, and the moon stood out at sea
And you might hear the thick water go chuckling eerily,
Eddying round the black old piles with their wrack and barnacle
And there was an ugly lilt to it, and there was a weedy smell: --
I stopped to listen to my name, and went green sick for fear
That a girl's voice out of the deep grey mud should cry so loud and clear;
Still stood my heart, as it cried again, with a laugh a-ringing true,
And the sweet young voice and the laughing voice were rare to listen to.
Then the fear scurried out of me, and a splendid man I seemed
With mightier drunken throes of love than even I had dreamed,
Making me gasp for the very pain, and flickered fiery red
Between my staring eyes, and the stretch of the moon-struck river-bed;
And little then did I care to go bellowing with my mates,
But I longed to clamber down and down by the greasy tidal gates,
I longed to be diving down and down and find my heart's desire
Through the little waves that licked with tongues of yellow fire.
Something, yes, in the moonlight moved like a head back-flung
And there was a glisten of lithe wet limbs; and sore my heart it stung,
For never another man there walked in the haven-town but I
Those white slim things were beckoning under the open sky;
Never another man but I had spunk enough to go
Scrambling along the trestles to those haunting shapes below;
He would think it a trick of his fuddled brain, or drowned ghosts mocking him,
He would pray to his god, and sweat, and shake; but I was quick of limb,
And was out before I knew it and breasting the fair-way race,
And the ripples slithered to meet me and broke up over my face;
I tasted a little of the brine, most bitter and sharp it was;
It dripped from my hair to my two wild eyes; so I saw, as through a glass,
Faces, and faces, yearning out, and gleaming curved wrists;
And the sweep of weed-brown hair, and eyes as grey as the quiet mists;
I stretched them out my arms, and made an answer to their cry:
Struggled on to a footing, and laughed that now they were very nigh,
But never came to footing, see you, out on the yonder bank,
For wicked mud bears no man's feet; the breath of it, salt and rank,
Crept right into my bosom, and the madness out of me
Purged, but I stuck there waking, and whimpering childishly,
While the sure clutch of this wicked mud gripped coldly to my waist,
And I thought of it pressing down my throat, and how strangely it would taste: --
Was this the long and lovely arm, that dragged me down to death?
For I only saw the moon-white mud, as I laboured for my breath --
Nay, arms, and fingers, and hands, ah God! I rent them from my side,
They closed and flowed in the grasping; a gull far up over me cried.
Nay, it was mocking speech of them; I peered up heaven-ward,
But the stars burnt into my brain, for cruel as knives they were, and hard;
Yet three clear minutes or so I might see them living on;
Three short minutes or so, what odds? For I was all but gone
Down to the sucking kiss of it that closed against my nape
And wooed me at the hair, a terrible wooing; never shape
Nor fashion was there to it; Ah! A last poor screech, and now
Now I was chewing the mud; my nostrils . . . .
.......................... it is a wonder how
They came and plucked me out, or heard my strangled voice at all;
They saw how queerly I babbled concerning my burial,
Of loving spirits, it was, that wailed, and would not have me go,
Ah, well, be it thus, but it otherway, I speak this truth as I know;
The hand of the Lord is a mighty hand, to save poor men like me
From deadly things and hungry things that loiter about the sea.





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