Robert Kirkland Kernighan
A Night Of Horrors - Poem by Robert Kirkland Kernighan
Burning blush eternal !
It was in my youthful days,
That I drunk of the cup infernal
Till my brain was in a craze !
Till my brain it burned, with drinking,
With a mixed and mad amaze
With a wild and weird thinking,
In those terrible drunken days.
It was in the days so solemn,
In a sweet and sunlit year,
When Nature's glorious volume
Was writ in pages dear
Dear with the dearest story :
Sweet with the sweetest song :
Bright with the brightest glory,
In the old year loved, and long ;
That reeling rabid raving !
Singing a soulless song,
With a crawling, creeping, craving
For something strange and strong !
I staggered home all drunken,
And there in my glass I saw
A man with red eyes sunken,
And hot lips parched and raw.
He'd a wild and weird appearance
A solemn sight to see
And he swayed and swung with a silly leer,
And I clasped my hands and cried with fear,
' My God ! can this be me?'
Oh ! I thought my heart would smother,
As I fell with a gasping groan ;
And I thought of my poor old mother,
In the little holy home ;
And then with terror turning,
I turned from myself away,
With tongue all black and burning,
I tried but I could n't pray.
And there on my cheek all glowing,
I felt a demon's breath :
I saw his eyes and knew the size
Of the thing from the land of Death !
And he caught me up in his horny hands,
That seared my form like burning brands
This thing from the land of Death !
He placed me in a drear canoe,
Half filled with reptiles fell,
That fed on the dark and deadly dew
In some still and stagnant well ;
And then like lightning we did float
Upon the deep and loathsome moat
That winds itself, like some vast throat,
Round the windowless walls of Hell.
I woke with a wild and winged scream !
But soon came another fearful dream,
And I saw a thing to be
All sloppy with slime ! In a southern sea,
A sickening saurian swam,
And my soul was filled with a sudden qualm,
As his dead eyes fell on me.
He raised his long and glittering tail,
That lashed the waters like a flail,
Till all that southern sea
Was thick with creatures full of fright,
That cried in fear with all their might,
But none so loud as me !
He took me up I know not how
And bore me, ah ! I feel it now
Swift through the southern sea.
The water from his warty sides
Rolled huge and high like tropic tides,
And his vast claws, with ponderous stroke,
The fainting waters easy broke,
Of that solemn summer sea ;
And I his high-hinged jaw bestrode,
And o'er the slippery water rode !
At last it seemed long years the shore
Before my heated eyes upbore,
Greenless 'twas a land of mud
The saurian dropped me with a thud :
I sank into the mass a cry
Rushed from my parched-up lungs on high !
And lo ! I found within my bed
A stealthy crawling thing of dread !
T knew that I was wide awake,
But saw in this vile thing a snake,
Long and strong, red-bellied he
This offspring of the southern sea.
From his dank sides oozed out a sweat
That all my form and features wet ;
154 THE KHAN'S CANTICLES.
With his firm coils he wound and wound,
Till my weak limbs were firmly bound ;
Upon my cheek I felt the float
Of his black blood within his throat ;
His gummy tongue my white lips sealed,
I could not cry my senses reeled !
I knew no more but just to be
A floating something in the sea!
Next morn I woke my sense returned ;
But still my heart and temples turned :
But on my knees, 'mid thirst and pain,
I swore I 'd never drink again.
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