A Tragedy

Theophilus Marzials


Death!
Plop.
The barges down in the river flop.
Flop, plop.
Above, beneath.
From the slimy branches the grey drips drop,
As they scraggle black on the thin grey sky,
Where the black cloud rack-hackles drizzle and fly
To the oozy waters, that lounge and flop
On the black scrag piles, where the loose cords plop,
As the raw wind whines in the thin tree-top.

Plop, plop.
And scudding by
The boatmen call out hoy! and hey!
All is running water and sky,
And my head shrieks -- "Stop,"
And my heart shrieks -- "Die."
*          *          *          *          *
My thought is running out of my head;
My love is running out of my heart,
My soul runs after, and leaves me as dead,
For my life runs after to catch them -- and fled
They all are every one! -- and I stand, and start,
At the water that oozes up, plop and plop,
On the barges that flop
                              And dizzy me dead.
I might reel and drop.
                                                Plop.
                                                Dead.

And the shrill wind whines in the thin tree-top
                           Flop, plop.
*          *          *          *          *
A curse on him.
                            Ugh! yet I knew -- I knew --
If a woman is false can a friend be true?
It was only a lie from beginning to end --

My Devil -- My "Friend"
I had trusted the whole of my living to!
Ugh; and I knew!
Ugh!
So what do I care,
And my head is empty as air --
I can do,
I can dare,
(Plop, plop
The barges flop
Drip drop.)
I can dare! I can dare!
And let myself all run away with my head
And stop.
Drop.
Dead.
Plop, flop.
                                              Plop.


                                        [-- from The Gallery of Pigeons (1874) ]

Note: I've tried to reproduce the indentations of the original edition above, but at the cost of finding extra spaces between many of the lines. The only blank lines in the first printing come just before "And the shrill wind whines in the thin tree top" and before the last line.

Marzials is clearly a precursor of Sylvia Plath. "Where the black cloud rack-hackles drizzle and fly" could be a line from The Colossus, and can we not hear "Lady Lazarus" behind Marzials' lines "So what do I care, / And my head is as empty as air -- / I can do, / I can dare ..."? -- Seamus Cooney, 7/17/99


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