Death Walker: A Plague Hymnal
O Rose thou art sick.
Schönes Leben! du liegst krank, und das Herz ist mir
Müd vom Weinen und schon dämmert die Furcht in mir,
Doch, doch kann ich icht glauben,
Daß du sterbest, so lang du liebst.
I: A Prelude to Decline
Tyrant flycatcher — why don’t you sing?
Are you, like myself, caught in silence—
Unadorn’d with the traditions of your kith,
A voice never missed?
Tyrant of my heart, if only you would sing—
Yet do I wait amongst the blacken’d piles,
Adorn’d in masque stuff’d with herb and spice,
Riddl’d underneath with blackened lice.
He got into bed
And bumped his head
And couldn’t get up in the morning
Thenceforth broke across the city a new age:
Weeks of joyous snow now crept to grey slush
As LEVIATHAN strode the streets,
The notched sword named Plagia in hand,
Timed strikes to turn man to shadow:
Lord LEVIATHAN, from distant land,
A county not of earth; from whence
The furies once rode high on sad wings,
From whence the elder gods of England
Turned and hid when Jehova bore His light
Upon the city of Londra, wherefore they
Might escape the Endless Death.
Lord LEVIATHAN, from distant land,
Engaged in slow walk of decay:
Neither man nor child escaped his blows.
We all fall down
It was in this age of bubonic horror
That I chanced down an alleyway
To escape the black-armoured knight:
At once I was confronted
By a visionary sight:
Beauty holds a human face
Purity a human heart
Innocence a young girl’s grace
And love a human’s art
For coming down that alleyway
A beauteous nymphish angel
Enwrapped in divine light
As carved of Eden’s clay,
As carved of Jerusalem marble,
As carved of whitest birch
In aspect how overwhelming,
In kind as none other;
At peace, aloof, denied the blackened, pox’d cast
Swallowing the streets:
As shaped by Daedalus,
Labyrinthine in complexity of mind;
As shaped by da Vinci,
Before her time and set to glide the stars with ease;
As she came afore my presence, I fell to my knees.
The human face, a craftsman’s pride
The human heart, an artist’s mould
A young girl’s grace is pure and bold
And human art, a muse’s bride
Such I knew this sylph was my Jenny wren,
A gift from Mother Goose and Great Yaweh,
And I fell at once — and was this not fantasy?—
Into a flared trance, entwined.
Sing a song of sixpence for the king
Tyrant of my heart — why won’t you sing?
II: The Lord’s Choice
Ev’ry street is piled high now. A wasted
Generation, ushered to quietude unanswering
And aestus to pitch bright the purple stacks.
Such is the city: and rats around our feet again,
An easy exit from living chaos subdued by
Medicine untaught in modern colleges:
It’s all about who you know. I can help.
Just don’t ask me about the prophecy:
The cards are not in your favour.
Moonlight visits to darken’d households
The candle burning, casting shadows
Damp coughs, two in one, a second and a sliver
Soon the river will be clogged with bloated forms
And folks crossing the bridge will be wont to say:
‘I hope Mr Fox gets it next: he never was very nice.’
‘It’s their own fault. Good poise keeps it away.’
‘It’s the Lord’s choice whether we live or die.’
Who can blame them? Not I, partial to what I know.
I’ve read deep, and can say: one of them is right.
Mr Fox was always a brigand. But he didn’t deserve
This fate: nor his wife. She was a pretty one.
But I told them to seek me out. What’s a man to do.
This is only the start: and we’ll call it End Times,
As we are known to over any step we can’t discern
Or divine. Such is the sign: a common threat.
So I say, you must have faith. Trust in God
To deliver you, to shield your family, to spare
Over your daughter until another year.
The young countess is sick: a poet is writing
Love songs for her, to keep up her spirit.
But doctor, words aren’t helping:
What good is verse if all who can read are dead?
There is naught to say: so I steal out into the black night,
Crossing paths with the deceased and the diseased,
Walking down the alley where I first saw the light,
That alley where we first met, where we fell into each
Other, where I caught her eye and she caught mine:
And, walking amongst the discarded corpses,
Nameless, toothless, black-ring’d, blue-faced and silent,
I say a prayer: o, God, won’t you spare her over
Until another year?
III: When You Still Can Love
And, if I were to wake in the morning and find you gone.
Therein is the greatest fear of the father and the mother:
And, that being said, any who may love another;
To find you there, and find you lost, all in the same dawn.
The dead are doomed:
For those embraced by plague
Cannot even confess without
Fear of passing the curse onto
The good father in the booth.
I am ever hidden behind my masque;
I am of the few that the parson
Will speak to now. He speaks
Of a century of suffering,
But there is more I cannot ask:
What of my Jennifer, pure and true?
Tell me her fate: I beg of you.
Many have taken my tinctures, and some
All the better for it: yet neither my verse
Nor my alms have brought her back from
This looming brink. A turn for the worse:
I save the choicest ingredients for her,
Allowing my conscience to become heavy
With the thought of those I have allowed
To expire in order for her to survive. Yet:
Her fever will not budge, and she awakens
E’re night with frozen sweat. I have taken
To staying beside her when darkness falls,
My true identity yet unknown.
Dear countess: your form is falling
To atrophy: I know not what I can do.
The decrepit swarms clamber pathetically
Over the mounds, reaching for my hand.
More names to record in dour annals.
That familiar clang of the bell: gloss-eyed
Ravens observe from gambrel’d roofs.
When the sun came out, the stench was all the worse,
Clinging to the herbs in my beak’d masque
Like a blood-fatten’d flea. Parasites:
Yet bitten, I am not sore. Would that I might
Trade my grateful health for hers.
I am tired from the tears,
Aching from the hours awake,
Hoping that my love for you
Might be enough to save your life.
IV: Eulogy of Fire
There are no bards willing to tell the tale,
How Londra was swept up by Lord LEVIATHAN;
We are too busy dying to contemplate.
So it ends, a final song I have penned myself,
Betraying my wrath against the Lord of Light:
Great God! a hymn for your own child,
Whose body you did not protect.
Her grave is fostered by rosemary,
Placed there myself for remembrance,
For I shall not betray her memory.
Where was your unending kindness
When the reaper knelt beside her bed?
Where was your infinite wisdom
Whilst her flesh paled, and turned blue?
Gone! what once was white and appl’d,
Rosy like Dawn’s early fingers,
Fresh in bloom now a wilted rose,
Stolen from life’s arms and delivered
To your kingdom. For I am the rotten
Fool who desired her damned to stay
In such black years as these;
You are the one who gave her quarter
Beyond the temperamental humours
Of our country’s strife, and your angels
Were the ones who so gently lifted
Her up on kind wings to a kingdom
Of eternal renewal. O, God, fault
My wrath: my envy of her death:
My greed to keep her in my arms
When she was always better suited
To Heaven’s right embrace.
Such is my song of sixpence.
Still the lord in black takes beloveds in the night,
Doling out the wasting itch without an end in sight;
Now I walk without my masque, and let my echo ring:
Tyrant of my deepest heart, if you could only sing.