Poetry Monster

The School of Night

A poem by Alec Derwent-Hope (1907–2000)

by Alec Derwent Hope

What did I study in your School of Night?

When your mouth’s first unfathomable yes

Opened your body to be my book, I read

My answers there and learned the spell aright,

Yet, though I searched and searched, could never guess

What spirits it raised nor where their questions led.

Those others, familiar tenants of your sleep,

The whisperers, the grave somnambulists

Whose eyes turn in to scrutinize their woe,

The giant who broods above the nightmare steep,

That sleeping girl, shuddering, with clenched fists,

A vampire baby suckling at her toe,

They taught me most. The scholar held his pen

And watched his blood drip thickly on the page

To form a text in unknown characters

Which, as I scanned them, changed and changed again:

The lines grew bars, the bars a Delphic cage

And I the captive of his magic verse.


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