David Lewis Paget
Metzengerstein - Poem by David Lewis Paget
I think that I was only nine
When first I met Metzengerstein,
Too young to know his foul intent,
Too young, too pure, too innocent.
He lived in some old ruined church
With gothic columns, vaulted arch,
That sheltered him from thundered skies,
And hid, in gloom, his enterprise.
For from that church were mutterings
On windy nights, such utterings
As screams, while weird unholy moans
Disturbed the graveyard's scattered bones.
He wore a cape that wrapped him in
A hat, broad-brimmed, and black as sin,
His gaiters to the knee were brown
The boots he wore, they made no sound.
At night I'd see his shadow pass
Dark stained, upon my window glass
As stealthily he roamed abroad
While mist and fog obscured the road.
He came from some small German town,
My kindly father asked him round:
'We must be kind, and make no fuss,
But treat him just as one of us.'
Metzengerstein then came to call
And sat and stared - stared at us all,
My mother brought us cake and tea
And laughed, and smiled most happily.
She was so sweet, so fair of face
My father said: 'She lends us grace.'
She was much younger, then, than he,
He'd brought her from the old country.
But while she played the welcome host
Metzengerstein watched her the most,
His eyes burned fierce beneath thick brows
As once he'd spied on German fraus.
He came again, again and he
Ignored my father, ignored me,
But watched my mother's every move;
She danced, to see if he'd approve.
My father sat bemused and still,
And worried too, for I could tell;
His wife would seem to be bewitched,
Metzengerstein had scratched her itch.
So soon that sweet and dainty dame
Had added rumour to her name,
She raised her skirts above the knee,
Wore tops as low as low could be.
While in our parlour, came the sounds
Of dancing music, all year round,
Metzengerstein sat in his chair
While she would dance, and taunt, and stare…
Right back at him, full in the eyes
As if he had her hypnotized;
'I wish I'd never asked him here, '
My father muttered, in despair.
Then one day when I was but ten
My mother, with Metzengerstein
Went out, and said: 'We're going to search,
The bowels of that ruined church.'
He'd told her there was music there
Would charm the roots of her fair hair,
Would spin her giddy in the dark
Would faery-like, ignite her spark.
I waited 'til my father came
And told him I was not to blame:
'But mother's gone, some stairs to climb,
She's gone with that Metzengerstein! '
We waited, and we waited on,
But of the two there was no sign,
At length we sought the church in pain
But all was echoes in the rain.
For days and weeks, and then for years
I watched my father burst in tears
Whenever tunes, they did remind him
Of his wife… Metzengerstein!
And lonely then became his life,
He mourned his only love, his wife,
But she had disappeared, as if
Her dainty frame did not exist.
This year, as autumn winds were due
I found that I was fifty-two,
When down the road I saw a sign -
My mother, and Metzengerstein! .
She danced on in, and said: 'We're back!
We found no music in the rack.'
I looked and stared like one deranged -
For neither of the two had aged!
My father, crippled in his chair
Cried out: 'Oh God! Is that my dear? '
And she shrank back to see him now,
This pale old man, his feeble brow.
'I have been but an hour or so;
What's wrong? Where did my husband go? '
I looked at her through childhood tears:
'You have been gone for forty years! '
She swooned, fell swiftly to the floor
As I peered out the open door,
But of that cape there was no sign,
He'd gone for good - Metzengerstein!
19 April 2008
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