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An August Night, 1914 Post by :back2basics Category :Poems Author :John Presland Date :November 2011 Read :3456

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An August Night, 1914

The light has gone from the West; the wind has gone
From the quiet trees in the Park;
From the houses the open windows yellowly shine,
The streets are softly dark;

Row upon row the twisted chimneys stand,
Each angle sharply lined,
And the mass of the Institute rises, tower and dome,
Black on the sky behind;

Green is the sky, like some strange precious stone,
Dark, it yet holds the light
In its depths, like a bright thing shrouded over or veiled
By the creeping shadow of night;

And whiter than any whiteness there is upon earth
A faint star throbs and beats--
And the hurrying voices cry the news of the war,
Below, in the quiet street.


The small white space roped off; the hard blue light
Burning intensely on the narrow ring,
And every muscle's movement sculpturing
Harshly, of those two naked men who fight;
Beyond, the yellow lights that seem to swing
Across abysmal darkness; and below,
Tier upon tier, all silent, row on row
The dense black-coated throng, and all a-strain
White faces, turned towards the narrow stage,
Watching intently; watching, nerves and brain,
As those two men, cut off in that blue glare
From all reality of place and age
Wherein our common being has a share,
Together isolated, watch and creep
--Sunk head, hunched shoulders, light of foot and swift,
Deadly of purpose--in that ancient game,
Which was not otherwise in forests deep
Of earth primeval: that light tread the same,
The same those watchful eyes, and those quick springs
Of a snake uncoiling; underneath the skin,
Glistening with sweat in that unearthly blaze,
The muscles run and check, like living things.
And then, the hot air tremulous with the din,
And all the great crowd surging to its feet,
Yet like a wave arrested, while the hands
Of the referee allot the moments' beat;
The seconds, strung like greyhounds on a leash
Await the signal; and there's one who stands
Still guarding, watchful, tense, while all around
Lamp-light and darkness seem to rock and spin
In one wild clamour; and upon the ground,
Beneath the stark blue light, the beaten man!

(The end)
John Presland's poem: August Night, 1914

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