Dame Edith Sitwell

Here you will find the Poem Clowns' Houses of poet Dame Edith Sitwell

Clowns' Houses

BENEATH the flat and paper sky 
The sun, a demon's eye, 
Glowed through the air, that mask of glass; 
All wand'ring sounds that pass

Seemed out of tune, as if the light 
Were fiddle-strings pulled tight. 
The market-square with spire and bell 
Clanged out the hour in Hell;

The busy chatter of the heat 
Shrilled like a parakeet; 
And shuddering at the noonday light 
The dust lay dead and white

As powder on a mummy's face, 
Or fawned with simian grace 
Round booths with many a hard bright toy 
And wooden brittle joy:

The cap and bells of Time the Clown 
That, jangling, whistled down 
Young cherubs hidden in the guise 
Of every bird that flies;

And star-bright masks for youth to wear, 
Lest any dream that fare 
--Bright pilgrim--past our ken, should see 
Hints of Reality.

Upon the sharp-set grass, shrill-green, 
Tall trees like rattles lean, 
And jangle sharp and dissily; 
But when night falls they sign

Till Pierrot moon steals slyly in, 
His face more white than sin, 
Black-masked, and with cool touch lays bare 
Each cherry, plum, and pear.

Then underneath the veiled eyes 
Of houses, darkness lies-- 
Tall houses; like a hopeless prayer 
They cleave the sly dumb air.

Blind are those houses, paper-thin 
Old shadows hid therein, 
With sly and crazy movements creep 
Like marionettes, and weep.

Tall windows show Infinity; 
And, hard reality, 
The candles weep and pry and dance 
Like lives mocked at by Chance.

The rooms are vast as Sleep within; 
When once I ventured in, 
Chill Silence, like a surging sea, 
Slowly enveloped me.