Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sydney Dobell—Balder: Scene XLI

The study. BALDER, solus, by the window. <…>

A shut and funeral city hung with black
Is not more different from the daily streets
Than this day from another…
Down the moist walls
The long snail slimes; cold things of fen and pool
Come within doors and as a native stone
Do crawl the gristly hearth; and in my soul
This palpable obscurity repeats
The outer darkness, and within, without,
Cosmic and microcosmic, as yon twain
Round answering hemispheres, world answers world.
I cannot see the hills or the mild sky,
Or aught of gentler aspect that beheld
Might yet dissuade me. To mine inward eyes
That might have met unmanned such sweet array
Of sacred opposition, there is now
Nought but the inner mist and through the mist
A path stark clear. Therefore it must be done.
As one who having stared upon the sun,
Turning his eyeballs downward doth bedaub
The blotted world with black, to my hot sight
A moving pall is in the air and when
I think of her it falls upon the face
I could not slay. Therefore it must be done.
Nature herself consenting to the deed
Lets her veil round it and to me shut in
Of all her universe doth leave alone
The victim and the knife. Therefore, oh God,
It must be done. [He attempts to rise.
I will arise. Rare moment!
The slow will hath not reached the idle thews
Yet, being dispatched, the irrevocable deed
Is now in act, and I that have not moved
Already am felonious. What! is this
A dream, that the strong cause o'ershoots the effect
And passes with its message the untouched
Dull functions it should stir? At length I stand.
What! am I chained? Have I trunk-hose of lead?
The door—the door—my limbs do help the ground
Sucking me in. The threshold is not yet.
I labour against the stedfastness o' the air,
Which bars my breast, and, as two walls of ice
Falling together with mine head between,
Enlocks me. Hands, hands, nothing but hands—Ah!
Is it so horrible that very nothing
Conceives to stay it? Off! I will be free.
Darkness at noon! Aye, aye, the flood swells fast.
This lightning— [Sinks in a swoon.
[After lying long he recovers and sits up.
A swoon? So best. Zero once past is past,
And the uncounted scale beneath hath not
A credible extreme. I am a man…


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