Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Nightmare of the Witch Babies

The Nightmare of the Witch-Babies

Two witch-babies,
Ha! Ha!
Two witch-babies,
Ho! Ho!
A bedemon-ridden hag,
With the devil pigged alone,
Begat them, laid at night
On the bloody-rusted stone;
And they dwell within the Land
Of the Bare Shank-Bone,
Where the Evil goes to and fro.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

A lusty knight
Ha! Ha!
On a swart steed
Ho! Ho!
Rode upon the land
Where the silence feels alone,
Rode upon the land
Of the Bare Shank-Bone,
Rode upon the strand,
Of the Dead Men's groan,
Where evil goes to and fro.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

A rotten mist,
Ha! Ha!
Like a dead man's flesh,
Was abhorrent in the air,
Clung a tether to the wood
Of the wicked-looking trees,
Was a scurf upon the flood;
And the reeds they were pulpy
With blood, blood, blood!
And the clouds were a-looming low.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

No one life there,
Ha! Ha!
No sweet life there,
Ho! Ho!
But the long loud laugh,
And the short shrill howl,
And the quick, brisk flip
Of the hornéd owl,
As he flits right past
With his gloomy cowl
Through the murkiness long and low.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

What is it sees he?
Ha! Ha!
There in the frightfulness?
Ho! Ho!
There he saw a maiden
Fairest fair:
Sad were her dusk eyes,
Long was her hair;
Sad were her dreaming eyes,
Misty her hair,
And strange was her garments' flow,
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

Swiftly he followed her,
Ha! Ha!
Eagerly followed her,
Ho! Ho!
From the rank, the greasy soil,
Red bubbles oozed and stood;
Till it grew a putrid slime,
And where'er his horse has trod,
The ground plash, plashes,
With a wet too like to blood;
And chill terrors like a fungus grow.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

There stayed the maiden,
Ha! Ha!
Shed all her beauty;
Ho! Ho!
She shed her flower of beauty,
Grew laidly, old, and dire,
Was the demon-ridden witch,
And the consort of hell-fire:
'Am I lovely noble knight?
See thy hearts own desire!
Now they come, come upon thee, lo.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!'

Into the fogginess,
Ha! Ha!
Lo, she corrupted!
Ho! Ho!
Comes there a Death
With the looks of a witch,
And joints that creak
Like a night-bird's scritch,
And a breath that smokes
Like a smoking pitch,
And eyeless sockets a-glow!
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

Close behind it,
Ha! Ha!
Ah, close behind it,
Ho! Ho!
Comes there a babe
Of bloated youth,
With a curdled eye
And a snaggy tooth,
And a life - no mortal
Dare speak its sooth;
And its tongue like a worm doth show.
Two witch-babies. ho! ho! ho!

Its paunch a-swollen,
Ha! Ha!
Its life a-swollen
Ho! Ho!
Like the [hiatus] days drowned.
Harsh was its hum;
And its paunch was rent
Like a brasten drum;
And the blubbered fat
From its belly doth come
With a sickening ooze - Hell made it so!
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

It leaps on his charger,
Ha! Ha!
It clasps him right fondly,
Ho! Ho!
Its joints are about him,
Its breath in his bones;
Its eyes glare in his,
And it sucks up his groans;
He [hiatus] from his horse,
He burns on the stones,
And his mail cracks off in a glow.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

Its tooth in his shoulder,
Ha! Ha!
His skin dully champing.
Ho! Ho!
Slimed like a snail,
With that loathly thing,
His own self writhed him
With shuddering;
His gaze grew dark,
And his soul took wing
While his breath still kept its flow.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

Hist! Hist! A gloominess!
Ha! Ha!
Hist! Hist! a something!
Ho! Ho!
Away with a scream
The swart steed flew -
The evil shadows
Those ghostly two
And a [hiatus] slime kneaded
With sanguine dew
Into that dread slime below.
Two witch-babies, ho! ho! ho!

Two witch-babies,
Ha! Ha!
Two witch-babies,
Ho! Ho!
The elder hath a name,
And the name of it is Lust;
And the name of that its brother
Ah, Its name is Lust's Disgust!
They are ever in a land
Where the sun is dead with rust,
So the scummy [?] mist thickens below:
Woe, for the witch-babies, woe! woe! woe!

There, where corruption
Alone doth grow,
There still the Evil
Goes to and fro:
It is formless, nameless, vague,
It is dread made palpable:
None can paint it's face, for none
Who behold it live to tell:
'Tis a shadow on the earth
Of the awful nether-hell;
It is nightmare - God made it so!
Shun the land, and shun the woman,
Shun the wicked spell;
Two witch-babies, woe! woe! woe!

- Francis Thompson