Monday, 16 September 2013

When you wake in your crib by William Ernest Henley

Margaret Emma Henley
(1888 -1894)

When you wake in your crib,
You, an inch of experience -
Vaulted about
With the wonder of darkness;
Wailing and striving
To reach from your feebleness
Something you feel
Will be good to and cherish you,
Something you know
And can rest upon blindly:
O, then a hand
(Your mother's, your mother's!)
By the fall of its fingers
All knowledge, all power to you,
Out of the dreary,
Discouraging strangenesses
Comes to and masters you,
Takes you, and lovingly
Woos you and soothes you
Back, as you cling to it,
Back to some comforting
Corner of sleep.

So you wake in your bed,
Having lived, having loved;
But the shadows are there,
And the world and its kingdoms
Incredibly faded;
And you grope through the Terror
Above you and under
For the light, for the warmth,
The assurance of life;
But the blasts are ice-born,
And your heart is nigh burst
With the weight of the gloom
And the stress of your strangled
And desperate endeavour:
Sudden a hand -
Mother, O Mother! -
God at His best to you,
Out of the roaring,
Impossible silences,
Falls on and urges you,
Mightily, tenderly,
Forth, as you clutch at it,
Forth to the infinite
Peace of the Grave.

William Ernest Henley

Yeats was moved by this poem though in general not fond of vers libre.

When I spoke to him of his child’s death he said, “she was a person of genius; she had the genius of the mind, and the genius of the body.” And later I heard him talk of her as a man talks of something he cannot keep silence over because it is in all his thoughts. I can remember, too, his talking of some book of natural history he had read, that he might be able to answer her questions.
(from The Trembling of the Veil)

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