Stone lips to the unspoken cave;
Fingering the nervous strings, alone,
I crossed that grey sill, raised my head
To lift my song into the grave
Meanders of unfolding stone‚
Following where the echo led
Down blind alleys of our dead.
Down the forbidden, backward street
To the lower town, condemned, asleep
In blank remembering mazes where
Smoke rose, the ashes hid my feet
And slow walls crumpled, settling deep
In rubble of the central square.
All ruin I could sound was there.
At the charred rail and windowsill.
Widows hunched in fusty shawls,
This only once the Furies wept;
The watchdog turned to hear me till
Head by head forgot its howls‚
Loosed the torn images it kept‚
Let sag its sore jaws and slept.
Then to my singing’s radius
Seethed faces like a pauper’s crowd
Or flies of an old injury.
The piteous dead who lived on us
Whined in my air, anarchic, loud
Till my soft voice that set them free‚
Lost in this grievous enemy‚
Rose up and laid them in low slumbers;
I meant to see in them what dark
Powers be, what eminent plotters.
Midmost their hushed, downcast numbers
Starved Tantalus stood upright, stark,
Waistdeep where the declining waters
Swelled their tides, where Danaus’ daughters
Dropped in full surf their unfilled tub;
Now leaned against his rolling stone
Slept Sisyphus beneath the hill;
That screaming half-beast, strapped to the hub‚
Whom Juno’s animal mist had known,
Ixion’s wheel creaked and was still.
I held all hell to hear my will: