In the darkness before the dawn
Still I wandered through the vacant streets
Of a city I had known.
And I came, Isabella, to your door
And asked that I might soothe
My heart and limbs in cushions on your floor,
Damp and sore as were my feet.
I did not ask for more.
And you, Isabella, whom I had known,
Would not hear my voice alone,
Would not answer to my rap,
Would not care about the drizzle,
Freezing on my hair.
Shut out by you and by myself
I squeezed me into a dusty doorway
Meagrely sheltering the chill night.
In all the cells about me, all men sleep.
Only I lurk and start about the gutters
And pavements, awry, unshaved, amiss.
Like Edgar in my storm
A stranger to these walls
And to myself.
Of aircraft in their usual preoccupied trajectory
Not one flutters through the icy clouds.
Pegasus and Polaris, on whom I wont to stare,
Hid from me now are, Bellatrix and Capella,
In the cold mist that has extinguished all the city
But a dull red sign that inflames the fog
in a pustule of glare.
In this long night, Isabella, my feet walk
On stairs we climbed together once;
Stride carefully on the dark wet slopes
Of a park where we held hands once
And kissed in the sunshine;
Rest on a flagged courtyard
Where we gazed together on a splendid city
Bright with clear lights,
Now dark and strewn with October’s red leaves
And rain trickling in the chinks of stone
In the darkness before the dawn.
A sour dawn will break, Isabella,
And grudge these rocks a smear of light.
Though an ageing star stare fixedly
On the ruins and broken structures
Of all the faery buildings I would have shaped:
And the fragile cloudshine tiptoe on
The fallen struts and pillars of my dreams:
And the final morning gaze in silence
On the half-completed scene:
I will survey my view in the diluted light
And absorb ironies with evident indifference.
Like one forgotten on a distant star
I will traverse these barren plains
And eke my comfort on its neutral sands.