Edith Sitwell

Three Poor Witches

(For W.T. Walton)

Whirring, walking,
On the tree-top,
Three poor witches
Mow and mop.
Three poor witches
Fly on switches
Of a broom,
From their cottage room.
Like goat´s-beard rivers,
Black and lean,
Are Moll and Meg,
And Myrrhaline.
'Of those whirring witches, Meg'
(Bird-voiced fire screams)
'Has one leg;
Moll has two, on tree-tops see,
Goat-foot Myrrhaline has three!'
When she walks
Turned to a wreath
Is every hedge;
She walks beneath
Flowered trees like water
Splashing down;
Her rich and dark silk
Plumcake gown
Has folds so stiff
It stands alone
Within the fields
When she is gone.
And when she walks
Upon the ground
You´d never know
How she can bound
Upon the tree-tops, for she creeps
With a snail´s slow silver pace;
Her milky silky wrinkled face
Shows no sign of her disgrace.
But walking on each
Leafy tree-top, –
Those old witches,
See them hop!
Across the blue-leaved
Of the rustling
Bunchèd sea,
To China, thick trees whence there floats
From wrens´and finches´feathered throats
Songs. The North Pole is a tree
With thickest chestnut flowers … We see
Them whizz and turn
Through Lisbon, churn
The butter-pats to coins gold,
Sheep´s milk to muslin, thin and cold.
Then one on one leg,
One on two,
One on three legs
Home they flew
To their cottage; there one sees
And hears no sound but wind in trees;
One candle spills out thick gold coins
Where quilted dark with tree shade joins.