Fumes of Charcoal

by Eugene Lee-Hamilton

Eugene Lee-Hamilton

Eugene Lee-Hamilton


Death has no shape more stealthy. — There you sit,

With all unchanged around you, in your chair,

Watching the wavy tremor of the air

Above the little brazier you have lit.

While Death begins to amorously flit

In silent circles round you, till he dare

Touch with his lips, and, crouching o'er you there

Kiss you all black, and freeze you bit by bit

Yet she could walk upon the bracing heath,

When steams the dew beneath the morning sun,

And draw the freshness of the mountain's breath:

Were charcoal fumes more sweet as one by one,

Life's lights went out, beneath that kiss of Death,

And, turning black, the life-blood ceased to run?


If some new Dante in the shades below,

While crossing that wan wood where the self-slain,

Changed into conscious trees, soothe their dull pain

By sighs and plaints, as tears can never flow,

Should hear an English voice, like west wind low,

Come from the latest tree, and letting strain

His ear against its trunk should hear quite plain

The soul's heart tick within, though faint and slow:

Then let him ask: O Amy, in the land

Of the sweet light and of the sweet live air,

Did you ne'er sit beside a friend's wheeled bed,

That you could thus destroy, at Hell's command,

All that he envied you, and choke the fair

Young flame of life, to dwell with the wan dead? "

Last updated October 28, 2017