From "Lenin"

by Dorothy Wellesley

Dorothy Wellesley

So I came down the steps to Lenin.
With a herd of peasants before
And behind me, I saw
A room stained scarlet, and there
A small wax man in a small glass case.
Two sentinels at his feet, and one at his head,
Two little hands on his breast:
Pious spinster asleep; and I said
‘Many warrants these delicate hands have signed.’
A lamp shone, red,
An aureole over him, on his red hair;
His uniform clothed him still.

Greedy of detail I saw,
In those two minutes allowed,
The man was not wax, as they said,
But a corpse, for a thumb nail was black,
The thing was Lenin.

Then a woman beside me cried
With a strange voice, foreign, loud.
And I, who fear not life nor death, and those who have died
Only a little, was inwardly shaken with fear,
For I stood in the presence of God;
The voice I heard was the voice of all generations
Acclaiming new faiths, horrible, beautiful faiths;
I knew that the woman wailed as women wailed long ago
For Christ in the sepulchre laid.
Christ was a wax man too,
When they carried Him down to the grave.

1941, The Oxford Book of Modern Verse

Last updated September 13, 2017