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Poem for a London Screever
Lament for the unknown PAVEMENT ARTIST of World War I (1914-1918)
[This artist, who was distinguished by the scope and freedom of his work, enlisted in the Army in 1914, and has not since returned to his usual place.]
BEFORE half-seeing eyes and hurrying feet
Five years ago in daily sacrifice
He laid the willows and the meadow-sweet:
Now he is gone, and all his sunlit skies
Are with the dust that floats along the street.
All vanished are the low-hushed tropic vales;
The glinting kingfisher; the lions’ den;
And Nelson with his powder-blackened men
Gliding to action under tattered sails:
And near to these the wide Pacific calm,
And mirrored islands, where the tilted moon
Had left her trellis on the dark lagoon,
And sheathed in silver mail the tufted palm:
And divers groping on black ocean floors,
Whose loaded feet slowly as feathers fall
Through the stern pressing water, and the tall
Deep-sunken ribs of wreck, where rusted doors
Are clamped on hidden gold: and sightless things
That flicker through the deep, where bubbles race
Up to the green light of the sun’s embrace
And burst beneath the seagull’s dipping wings.
And here were rainbows dancing in the spray
And coral pillars from the deep-sea bed
Gashing the crested surf in gleams of red;
And elephants with lordly gait a-sway
Rocking their loads along dark forest ways;
The moth poised on the lily, and the pale
Diffused starlight on the nightingale
Half-shadowed by the leaf from heaven’s gaze.
And here the flying squirrel left the trees
To take his arrowy high road through the sky;
Here armadillos walked, and peccaries,
And other creatures, stranger far than these,
But not more strange than you, who travelled by I
Great things and little from the undying Mind,
Toys fashioned in the morning of the earth,
Imagined by the gods, and brought to birth
For childhood in themselves or in mankind.
Artist, to some far garden are you gone
To find the great originals of these,
Under the streamers of the western sun,
Immortal butterflies, unfading trees?
by HERBERT ASCHRTH.
Published in the Spectator Magazine 21st August 1920
Researched and transcribed by Philip Battle
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