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Thursday, October 03, 2013

National Poetry Day - Ballad of the Mari Lwyd by Vernon Watkins

On National Poetry Day here is an extract from a poem by Swansea poet, Vernon Watkins, a contemporary of Dylan Thomas:

Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Midnight.
Hark at the hands of the clock.
Now dead men rise in the frost of the stars
And fists on the coffins knock.
They dropped in their graves without one sound;
Then they were steady and stiff.
But now they tear through the frost of the ground
As heretic, drunkard and thief.

Why should you fear though they might pass
Ripping the stitch of grief,
The white sheet under the frosted glass,
Crisp and still as a leaf?
Or look through sockets that once were eyes
At the table and white cloth spread?
The terrible, picklock Charities
Raised the erected dead.

Under your walls they gnaw like mice;
Virtue is unmasked.
The hands of the clock betray your vice.
They give what none has asked.
For they have burrowed beneath the graves
And found what the good gave most:
Refuse cast by the righteous waves
In fossil, wraith and ghost.

Chalice and Wafer. Wine and Bread.
And the picklock, picklock, picklock tread.

Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Midnight.
Hark at the hands of the clock.

Good men gone are evil become
And the men that you nailed down
Clamped in darkness, clamour for rum,
And ravish on beds of down
The vision your light denied them, laid
Above the neglected door;
And the chattering speech of skull and spade
Beckons the banished Poor.

Locked-out lepers with haloes come.
Put out the clock: the clock is dumb.
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