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Robert Graves

(1895 - 1985 / London / England)

A Child's Nightmare


Through long nursery nights he stood
By my bed unwearying,
Loomed gigantic, formless, queer,
Purring in my haunted ear
That same hideous nightmare thing,
Talking, as he lapped my blood,
In a voice cruel and flat,
Saying for ever, "Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat!..."

That one word was all he said,
That one word through all my sleep,
In monotonous mock despair.
Nonsense may be light as air,
But there's Nonsense that can keep
Horror bristling round the head,
When a voice cruel and flat
Says for ever, "Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat!..."

He had faded, he was gone
Years ago with Nursery Land,
When he leapt on me again
From the clank of a night train,
Overpowered me foot and head,
Lapped my blood, while on and on
The old voice cruel and flat
Says for ever, "Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat!..."

Morphia drowsed, again I lay
In a crater by High Wood:
He was there with straddling legs,
Staring eyes as big as eggs,
Purring as he lapped my blood,
His black bulk darkening the day,
With a voice cruel and flat,
"Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat!..." he said, "Cat! ... Cat!..."

When I'm shot through heart and head,
And there's no choice but to die,
The last word I'll hear, no doubt,
Won't be "Charge!" or "Bomb them out!"
Nor the stretcher-bearer's cry,
"Let that body be, he's dead!"
But a voice cruel and flat
Saying for ever, "Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat!"

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Kat Renamy (1/12/2012 1:42:00 PM)

    i hate you -.- when i was a baby i loved cats and my name IS Kat and i am not a little kids night mare (Report) Reply

  • Martin Vann (10/14/2007 9:36:00 PM)

    My initial reaction was of a small child, haunted by this cat-like-demon that prayed upon its victim at will, from a very young age into the mature years. The cat, cat, cat, became lap, lap, lap. The image of a black cat, of course, not at its bowl, but hunched down and cautiously, lapping blood from a pool & never getting it's fill.

    Upon further investigation for meaning; This creature has no other goal other than to continuously assure itself that the victim is 'aware, ' of it's presence and there is nothing that can be done about it as if it were a, cancer of the mind and sole.

    The creature is born of the chil's imagination and the child has/had the power at some time to destroy the demon, however, the creature has become the power, leaving the victim without the will.

    In time, common sense did prevail, but its presence was not without departure, for by some incident or through retrospect, the lapping cat returns as before. I can see the 'night train.' as being the state of sleep with but one passenger aboard.

    I'm not sure if High Wood is a place or a sacrificial alter, but the coming of sleep/dream, has reopened the door for the demon to continue to feed/drink. I see the image of a cat as its enjoying its demonic foreplay while towering over the victim as if to allow time for contemplation of its fate.

    The victim through the corse of all this hell, in proclamation of self-defeat, renders up his spirit and sole in acceptance of the obvious outcome, a demise by uncommon cause.
    I enjoyed this work very much. I could in-vision Robert Graves and Edgar Allen Poe sitting beside each other at the edge of an unused grave and discussing the good old days.

    I don't knw the date this poem was written, but the term Morphia, morphine, was the most common pain-killer durin WWW I. So, I wonder if this poem is not a battle ground tribut of some kind? (Report) Reply

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