Friday, 29 January 2016

Sidney Keyes: 'Remember Your Lovers'

John William Waterhouse, La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1893)

This January I've been caught up with getting back to work, then running off to ski in Italy, and all the life things. I hope to be a serious-ish blogger again soon.

In the meantime, here's a finely wrought, moving and ominous poem from Sidney Keyes. He was 18 when he wrote this - apparently in an exam room, having finished the paper early.


Young men walking the open streets
Of death's republic, remember your lovers.

When you foresaw with vision prescient
The planet pain rising across your sky
We fused your sight in our soft burning beauty:
We laid you down in meadows drunk with cowslips
And led you in the ways of our bright city.
Young men who wander death's vague meadows,
Remember your lovers who gave you more than flowers.

When truth came prying like a surgeon's knife
Among the delicate movements of your brain
We called your spirit from its narrow den
And kissed your courage back to meet the blade - 
Our anaesthetic beauty saved you then.
Young men whose sickness death has cured at last,
Remember your lovers and covet their disease.

When you woke grave-chilled at midnight
To pace the pavement of your bitter dream
We brought you back to bed and brought you home
From the dark antechamber of desire
Into our lust as warm as candle-flame.
Young men who lie in the carven beds of death,
Remember your lovers who gave you more than dreams.

From the sun sheltering your careless head
Or from the painted devil your quick eye,
We led you out of terror tenderly
And fooled you into peace with our soft words
And gave you all we had and let you die.
Young men drunk with death's unquenchable wisdom,
Remember your lovers who gave you more than love.

                                                                             October 1940.