Basil Bunting


Let his days be few and let 
his bishoprick pass to another, 
for he fed me on carrion and on a dry crust, 
mouldy bread that his dogs had vomited, 
I lying on my back in the dark place, in the grave, 
fettered to a post in the damp cellarage. 
         Whereinall we differ not. But they have swept the floor, 
there are no dancers, no somersaulters now, 
only bricks and bleak black cement and bricks, 
only the military tread and the snap of the locks. 
         Mine was a threeplank bed whereon 
I lay and cursed the weary sun. 
They took away the prison clothes 
and on the frosty nights I froze. 
I had a Bible where I read 
that Jesus came to raise the dead— 
I kept myself from going mad 
by singing an old bawdy ballad 
and birds sang on my windowsill 
and tortured me till I was ill, 
but Archipiada came to me 
and comforted my cold body 
and Circe excellent utterer of her mind 
lay with me in that dungeon for a year 
making a silk purse from an old sow’s ear 
till Ronsard put a thimble on her tongue. 
Whereinall we differ not. But they have named all the stars, 
trodden down the scrub of the desert, run the white moon to a schedule, 
Joshua’s serf whose beauty drove men mad. 
They have melted the snows from Erebus, weighed the clouds, 
hunted down the white bear, hunted the whale the seal the kangaroo, 
they have set private enquiry agents onto Archipiada: 
What is your name? Your maiden name? 
Go in there to be searched. I suspect it is not your true name. 
Distinguishing marks if any? (O anthropometrics!) 
Now the thumbprints for filing. 
Colour of hair? of eyes? of hands? O Bertillon! 
How many golden prints on the smudgy page? 
Homer? Adest. Dante? Adest. 
Adsunt omnes, omnes et 
Blacked by the sun, washed by the rain, 
hither and thither scurrying as the wind varies.