He is not sleeping, though you might think so.
His eyes are half shut against the light.
‘An old man’s nap.’ They smile, walk softly on.
He is smiling too, but mentally.
Without a twitch, he is on dragonback
above Edgarallanwood – what’s in a name –
getting ready to rein in on the low moon.
It was a certain very dark exhilaration
played invisibly along his lips,
or a dark pride in riding such a beast
perched among its spikes and rolling folds
as it swished through cypresses, topped them,
kicked them, flicked them with a thundery tail
out below back down into men and
all that, last dog-walk of the day, hurrying,
whistle and whoop through Edgarallanwood.
He is full of questions, this man who is not sleeping.
Ever since the Fall of the House of Answer –
what’s in a name – he has kept a brace
of dragons, dangling like markers in a diary,
whiffling at him as if they had the speech
of old times; he listens, hard, hard,
asks them in all the languages he knows
if there was a day, if there could have been a day,
if there was ever a night or a day
when they conversed with human kind, guarded
on terms of equality with ungreedy heroes
the well-locked unimaginable treasuries
laid up from times still older, and what,
oh what would those times have been like, he asks.
The dragon’s ear is dumb; it blinks; it hits
the moon, its wings are white with dust, the ages
dissolve in airless silence. Go on, bark,
last dog of evening, open the man’s eyes.
‘Had a good nap?’ He smiles. ‘Better than that:
I sprang a tale of mystery and imagination.’
Send Letters To:
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN
Please include name, address, and a telephone number.