Amy Lowell: J—K. Huysmans

J—K. Huysmans

A flickering glimmer through a window-pane, A dim red glare through mud bespattered glass, Cleaving a path between blown walls of sleet Across uneven pavements sunk in slime To scatter and then quench itself in mist. And struggling, slipping, often rudely hurled Against the jutting angle of a wall, And cursed, and reeled against, and flung aside By drunken brawlers as they shuffled past, A man was groping to what seemed a light. His eyelids burnt and quivered with the strain Of looking, and against his temples beat The all enshrouding, suffocating dark. He stumbled, lurched, and struck against a door That opened, and a howl of obscene mirth Grated his senses, wallowing on the floor Lay men, and dogs and women in the dirt. He sickened, loathing it, and as he gazed The candle guttered, flared, and then went out.
Through travail of ignoble midnight streets He came at last to shelter in a porch Where gothic saints and warriors made a shield To cover him, and tortured gargoyles spat One long continuous stream of silver rain That clattered down from myriad roofs and spires Into a darkness, loud with rushing sound Of water falling, gurgling as it fell, But always thickly dark.  Then as he leaned Unconscious where, the great oak door blew back And cast him, bruised and dripping, in the church. His eyes from long sojourning in the night Were blinded now as by some glorious sun; He slowly crawled toward the altar steps. He could not think, for heavy in his ears An organ boomed majestic harmonies; He only knew that what he saw was light! He bowed himself before a cross of flame And shut his eyes in fear lest it should fade.