Friday, May 18, 2007

The Death Bed

My favourite poets include (but are not limited to) Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Siegfried Sassoon, Ranier Maria Rilke and Syliva Plath. So far, I've written guides about Yevtushenko and Rilke. Now I'm thinking it's time to do one for Sassoon. What sparked this thought? Believe it or not, it was the TV show Numb3rs. They quoted part of Sassoon's "The Death Bed" tonight. So I decided to post it here in its entirety.

The Death Bed

He drowsed and was aware of silence heaped
Round him, unshaken as the steadfast walls;
Aqueous like floating rays of amber light,
Soaring and quivering in the wings of sleep.
Silence and safety; and his mortal shore
Lipped by the inward, moonless waves of death.

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Someone was holding water to his mouth.
He swallowed, unresisting; moaned and dropped
Through crimson gloom to darkness; and forgot
The opiate throb and ache that was his wound.
Water--calm, sliding green above the weir.
Water--a sky-lit alley for his boat,
Bird-voiced, and bordered with reflected flowers
And shaken hues of summer; drifting down,
He dipped contented oars, and sighed, and slept.

Night, with a gust of wind, was in the ward,
Blowing the curtain to a glimmering curve.
Night. He was blind; he could not see the stars
Glinting among the wraiths of wandering cloud;
Queer blots of colour, purple, scarlet, green,
Flickered and faded in his drowning eyes.

Rain--he could hear it rustling through the dark;
Fragrance and passionless music woven as one;
Warm rain on drooping roses; pattering showers
That soak the woods; not the harsh rain that sweeps
Behind the thunder, but a trickling peace,
Gently and slowly washing life away.
. . . .

He stirred, shifting his body; then the pain
Leapt like a prowling beast, and gripped and tore
His groping dreams with grinding claws and fangs.
But someone was beside him; soon he lay
Shuddering because that evil thing had passed.
And death, who'd stepped toward him, paused and stared.

Light many lamps and gather round his bed.
Lend him your eyes, warm blood, and will to live.
Speak to him; rouse him; you may save him yet.
He's young; he hated War; how should he die
When cruel old campaigners win safe through?

But death replied: 'I choose him.' So he went,
And there was silence in the summer night;
Silence and safety; and the veils of sleep.
Then, far away, the thudding of the guns.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oddly, I heard that quote in Numbers tonight ( posting from Australia, so we see the show months after USA . It made me sit bolt upright and spring from the sofa to the 'net to find its source.

Serendipity or kismet that Google pointed straight towards your blog comment about hearing the quote in that same episode?

Cheers,
Aussie Random

October 2, 2007 6:34 AM  

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1 part shy intellectual, 1 part edgy chick, 1 part sophisticated woman, 1 part mental patient (after all, sanity is a type of conformity)... what's your mix?