London Voluntaries IV: Out of the Poisonous East by William Ernest Henley
Out of the poisonous East, Over a continent of blight, Like a maleficent Influence released From the most squalid cellerage of hell, The Wind-Fiend, the abominable-- The Hangman Wind that tortures temper and light-- Comes slouching, sullen and obscene, Hard on the skirts of the embittered night; And in a cloud unclean Of excremental humours, roused to strife By the operation of some ruinous change, Wherever his evil mandate run and range, Into a dire intensity of life, A craftsman at his bench, he settles down To the grim job of throttling London Town. So, by a jealous lightlessness beset That might have oppressed the dragons of old time Crunching and groping in the abysmal slime, A cave of cut-throat thoughts and villainous dreams, Hag-rid and crying with cold and dirt and wet, The afflicted City. prone from mark to mark In shameful occultation, seems A nightmare labryrinthine, dim and drifting, With wavering gulfs and antic heights, and shifting, Rent in the stuff of a material dark, Wherein the lamplight, scattered and sick and pale, Shows like the leper's living blotch of bale: Uncoiling monstrous into street on street Paven with perils, teeming with mischance, Where man and beast go blindfold and in dread, Working with oaths and threats and faltering feet Somewhither in the hideousness ahead; Working through wicked airs and deadly dews That make the laden robber grin askance At the good places in his black romance, And the poor, loitering harlot rather choose Go pinched and pined to bed Than lurk and shiver and curse her wretched way From arch to arch, scouting some threepenny prey. Forgot his dawns and far-flushed afterglows, His green garlands and windy eyots forgot, The old Father-River flows, His watchfires cores of menace in the gloom, As he came oozing from the Pit, and bore, Sunk in his filthily transfigured sides, Shoals of dishonoured dead to tumble and rot In the squalor of the universal shore: His voices sounding through the gruesome air As from the Ferry where the Boat of Doom With her blaspheming cargo reels and rides: The while his children, the brave ships, No more adventurous and fair, Nor tripping it light of heel as home-bound brides, But infamously enchanted, Huddle together in the foul eclipse, Or feel their course by inches desperately, As through a tangle of alleys murder-haunted, From sinister reach to reach out -- out -- to sea. And Death the while -- Death with his well-worn, lean, professional smile, Death in his threadbare working trim-- Comes to your bedside, unannounced and bland, And with expert, inevitable hand Feels at your windpipe, fingers you in the lung, Or flicks the clot well into the labouring heart: Thus signifying unto old and young, However hard of mouth or wild of whim, 'Tis time -- 'tis time by his ancient watch -- to part From books and women and talk and drink and art. And you go humbly after him To a mean suburban lodging: on the way To what or where Not Death, who is old and very wise, can say: And you -- how should you care So long as, unreclaimed of hell, The Wind-Fiend, the insufferable, Thus vicious and thus patient, sits him down To the black job of burking London Town?