Robert Graves


Owls — they whinny down the night;
       Bats go zigzag by. 
Ambushed in shadow beyond sight
       The outlaws lie. 

Old gods, tamed to silence, there
       In the wet woods they lurk,
 Greedy of human stuff to snare
       In nets of murk. 

Look up, else your eye will drown
       In a moving sea of black;
Between the tree-tops, upside down,
       Goes the sky-track. 

Look up, else your feet will stray
       into that ambuscade
Where spider-like they trap their prey
       With webs of shade. 

For though creeds whirl away in dust,
       Faith dies and men forget, 
These agèd gods of power and lust
       Cling to life yet —

Old gods almost dead, malign, 
      Starving for unpaid dues: 
Incense and fire, salt, blood and wine
       And a drumming muse, 

Banished to woods and a sickly moon,
       Shrunk to mere bogey things, 
Who spoke with thunder once at noon
       To prostrate kings: 

With thunder from an open sky
       To warrior, virgin, priest, 
Bowing in fear with a dazzled eye
       Towards the dread East —

Proud gods, humbled, sunk so low,
       Living with ghosts and ghouls,
 And ghosts of ghosts and last year's snow
       And dead toadstools.