Prelude To An Unwritten Masterpiece

by Siegfried Sassoon

You like my bird-sung gardens: wings and flowers;
Calm landscapes for emotion; star-lit lawns;
And Youth against the sun-rise… ‘Not profound;
‘But such a haunting music in the sound:
‘Do it once more; it helps us to forget’.

Last night I dreamt an old recurring scene—
Some complex out of childhood; (sex, of course!)
I can’t remember how the trouble starts;
And then I’m running blindly in the sun
Down the old orchard, and there’s something cruel
Chasing me; someone roused to a grim pursuit
Of clumsy anger… Crash! I’m through the fence
And thrusting wildly down the wood that’s dense
With woven green of safety; paths that wind
Moss-grown from glade to glade; and far behind,
One thwarted yell; then silence. I’ve escaped.

That’s where it used to stop. Last night I went
Onward until the trees were dark and huge,
And I was lost, cut off from all return
By swamps and birdless jungles. I’d no chance
Of getting home for tea. I woke with shivers,
And thought of crocodiles in crawling rivers.

Some day I’ll build (more ruggedly than Doughty)
A dark tremendous song you’ll never hear.
My beard will be a snow-storm, drifting whiter
On bowed, prophetic shoulders, year by year.
And some will say, ‘His work has grown so dreary.’
Others, ‘He used to be a charming writer’.
And you, my friend, will query—
‘Why can’t you cut it short, you pompous blighter?’