cujus potu signa virginitatis eripiuntur I Advis m'est que j'oy regretter Slinking by the jug-and-bottle swingdoor I fell in with Mother Venus, ageing, bedraggled, a half-quartern of gin under her shawl, wishing she was a young girl again: 'It's cruel hard to be getting old so soon. I wonder I dont kill myself and have done with it. I had them all on a string at one time, lawyers, doctors, business-men: there wasnt a man alive but would have given all he possessed for what they wont take now free for nothing. I turned them down, I must have had no sense, for the sake of a shifty young fellow: whatever I may have done at other times on the sly I was in love then and no mistake; and him always knocking me about and only cared for my money. However much he shook me or kicked me I loved him just the same. If he'd made me take in washing he'd only have had to say: 'Give us a kiss' and I'd have forgotten my troubles. The selfish pig, never up to any good! He used to cuddle me. Fat lot of good it's done me! What did I get out of it besides a bad conscience? But he's been dead longer than thirty years and I'm still here, old and skinny. When I think about the old days, what I was like and what I'm like now, it fair drives me crazy to look at myself with nothing on. What a change! Miserable dried up skin and bone. But none of their Bacchic impertinence, medicinal stout nor portwine-cum-beef. A dram of anaesthetic, brother. I'm a British subject if I am a colonial, distilled liquor's clean. It's the times have changed. I remember during the War kids carrying the clap to school under their pinnies, studying Belgian atrocities in the Sunday papers or the men pissing in the backstreets; and grown women sweating their shifts sticky at the smell of khaki every little while. Love's an encumberance to them who rinse carefully before using, better keep yourself to yourself. What it is to be in the movement! 'Follow the instructions on page fortyone' unlovely labour of love, 'or work it off in a day's walk, a cold douche and brisk rub down, there's nothing like it.' Aye, tether me among the maniacs, it's nicer to rave than reason.' Took her round to Polymnia's, Polymnia glowering stedfastly at the lukewarm undusted grate grim with cinders never properly kindled, the brass head of the tongs creaking as she twitched them: 'Time is, was, has been.' A gassy fizzling spun from among the cinders. The air, an emulsion of some unnameable oil, greased our napes. We rhymed our breath to the mumble of coke distilling. 'What have you come for? Why have you brought the Goddess? You who finger the goods you cannot purchase, snuffle the skirt you dare not clutch. There was never love between us, never less than when you reckoned much. A tool not worth the negligible price. A fool not to be esteemed for barren honesty. Leave me alone. A long time ago there were men in the world, dances, guitars, ah! Tell me, Love's mother, have I wrinkles? grey hair? teats, or dugs? calves, or shanks? Do I wear unbecoming garments?' 'Blotched belly, slack buttock and breast, there's little to strip for now. A few years makes a lot of difference. Would you have known me? Poor old fools, gabbing about our young days, squatted round a bit of fire just lit and flickering out already: and we used to be so pretty!’ II May my libation of flat beer stood overnight sour on your stomach, my devoutly worshipped ladies, may you retch cold bile. Windy water slurred the glint of Canopus, am I answerable? Left, the vane screwing perpetually ungainlywards. What reply will a June hailstorm countenance? 'Let's be cosy, sit it out hand in hand. Dreaming of you, that's all I do.' Eiderdown air, any girl or none, it's the same thing, coats the tongue the morning after. Answer? If words were stone, if the sun's lilt could be fixed in the stone's convexity. Open your eyes, Polymnia, at the sleek, slick lads treading gingerly between the bedpots, stripped buff-naked all but their hats to raise, and nothing rises but the hats; smooth, with soft steps, ambiguoque voltu. Daphnis investigated bubless Chloe behind a boulder. Still, they say, in another climate virgin with virgin coupled taste wine without headache and the songs are simple. We have laid on Lycopolis water. The nights are not fresh between High Holborn and the Euston Road, nor the days bright even in summer nor the grass of the squares green. Neither (aequora pontis) on the sea's bulge would the 'proud, full sail' avail us, stubborn against the trades, closehauled, stiff, flat canvas; our fingers bleed under the nail when we reef. III Infamous poetry, abject love, Aeolus' hand under her frock this morning. This afternoon Ocean licking her privities. Every thrust of the autumn sun cuckolding in the green grin of late-flowering trees. I shall never have anything to myself but stare in the tank, see Hell's constellations, a dogstar for the Dogstar: women's faces blank or trivial, still or rippled water, a fool's image. At my time of life it is easier not to see, much easier to tra-la-la a widowed tune in poor circumstances-- tweet, tweet, twaddle, tweet, tweet, twat. Squalid acquiescence in the cast-offs of reputed poetry. Here, Bellerophon, is a livery hack, a gelding, easy pace, easy to hire, all mansuetude and indifference. Abject poetry, infamous love, howling like a damp dog in November. Scamped spring, squandered summer, grain, husk, stem and stubble mildewed; mawkish dough and sour bread. Tweet, tweet, twaddle. Endure detail by detail the cunnilingual law. 'Clap a clout on your jowl for Jesus sake! Fy for shame! After hours, is it? or under age? Hack off his pendants! Can a moment of madness make up for an age of consent?' --with their snouts in the trough, kecking at gummy guts, slobbering offal, gobbling potato parings, yellow cabbage leaves, choking on onion skin, herring bones, slops of porridge. Way-O! Bully boys blow! The Gadarene swihine have got us in tow. IV Ed anche vo' che tu per certo credi che sotto l'acqua ha gente che sospira. Stuck in the mud they are saying: 'We were sad in the air, the sweet air the sun makes merry, we were glum of ourselves, without a reason; now we are stuck in the mud and therefore sad.' That's what they mean, but the words die in their throat; they cannot speak out because they are stuck in the mud. Stuck, stick, Styx. Styx, eternal, a dwelling. But the rivers of Paradise, the sweep of the mountains they rise in? Drunk or daft hear a chuckle of spring water: drowsy suddenly wake, but the bright peaks have faded. Who had love for love whose love was strong or fastidious? Shadow and shadow noon shrinks, night shelters, the college of Muses reconstructs in flimsy drizzle of starlight: bandy, hunchback, dot-and-carry-one, praised-for-a-guinea. Join the Royal Air Force and See the World. The Navy will Make a Man of You. Tour India with the Flag. One of the ragtime army, involuntary volunteer, queued up for the pox in Rouen. What a blighty! Surrendered in March. Or maybe ulcers of mustard gas, a rivet in the lung from scrappy shrapnel, frostbite, trench-fever, shell-shock, self-inflicted wound, tetanus, malaria, influenza. Swapped your spare boots for a packet of gaspers. Overstayed leave. Debauched the neighbor's little girl to save two shillings ... muttering inaudibly beneath the quagmire, irresolute, barren, dependent, this page ripped from Love's ledger and Poetry's: and besides I want you to know for certain there are people under the water. They are sighing. The surface bubbles and boils with their sighs. Look where you will you see it. The surface sparkles and dances with their sighs as though Styx were silvered by a wind from Heaven.