Edith Sitwell




Mandoline

Down in Hell’s gilded street,
Snow dances fleet and sweet,
Bright as a parakeet,

Or Punchinello,
All glistening yellow,
As fruit-jewels mellow,

Glittering white and black
As the swan’s glassy back
On the Styx’ soundless track,

Sharp as bird’s painted bill,
Pecking fruit, sweet and shrill,
On a dark window-sill.

See the glass house as smooth
As a wide puppet-booth..
Snow strikes it like a sooth

Melon-shaped mandoline
With the sharp tang and sheen
Of flames that cry, ‘Unclean!’

Dinah with scarlet ruche.
Gay-plumaged Fanfreluche,
Watch shrill as Scaramouche

In the huge house of glass
Old shadows bent, alas!
On ebon sticks now pass —

Lean on a shadow boy,
Creep like a broken toy —
Wooden and painted joy.

Trains sweep the empty floors —
Pelongs and pallampores,
Bulchauls and sallampores

Soundless as any breeze
(Amber and orangeries)
From isles in Indian seas.

Black spangled veils falling
(The cold is appalling)
They wave fans, hear calling

The adder-flames shrieking slow,
Stinging bright fruitlike snow,
Down in the street below;

While an ape, with black spangled veil,
Plum’d headdress, face dust-pale,
Scratch’d with a fingernail

Sounds from a mandoline,
Tuneless and sharp as sin:
Shutters whose tang and sheen,

Shrieking all down the scale,
Seem like the flames that fail
Under that onyx nail,

Light as snow dancing fleet,
Bright as a parakeet,
Down in Hell’s empty street.