The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Saturday


From 'The White Witch'
By James Weldon Johnson


The great white witch you have not seen?
Then, younger brothers mine, forsooth,
Like nursery children you have looked
For ancient hag and snaggle-tooth;
But no, not so; the witch appears
In all the glowing charms of youth.

Her lips are like carnations, red,
Her face like new-born lilies, fair,
Her eyes like ocean waters, blue,
She moves with subtle grace and air,
And all about her head there floats
The golden glory of her hair.

But though she always thus appears
In form of youth and mood of mirth,
Unnumbered centuries are hers,
The infant planets saw her birth;
The child of throbbing Life is she,
Twin sister to the greedy earth.

And back behind those smiling lips,
And down within those laughing eyes,
And underneath the soft caress
Of hand and voice and purring sighs,
The shadow of the panther lurks,
The spirit of the vampire lies.

--------

I wanted a poem with a vampire in it to go with today's photo from England, but after searching for the perfect one, I realized that what I really needed to do was to print an excerpt from the book that made the steps and gravestone in this photo famous. And so, I give you a section of Chapter 8 from Bram Stoker's Dracula:

11 August.--Diary again. No sleep now, so I may as well write. I am too agitated to sleep. We have had such an adventure, such an agonizing experience. I fell asleep as soon as I had closed my diary...Suddenly I became broad awake, and sat up, with a horrible sense of fear upon me, and of some feeling of emptiness around me. The room was dark, so I could not see Lucy's bed. I stole across and felt for her. The bed was empty. I lit a match and found that she was not in the room. The door was shut, but not locked, as I had left it. I feared to wake her mother, who has been more than usually ill lately, so threw on some clothes and got ready to look for her. As I was leaving the room it struck me that the clothes she wore might give me some clue to her dreaming intention. Dressing-gown would mean house, dress outside. Dressing-gown and dress were both in their places. "Thank God," I said to myself, "she cannot be far, as she is only in her nightdress."

I ran downstairs and looked in the sitting room. Not there! Then I looked in all the other rooms of the house, with an ever-growing fear chilling my heart. Finally, I came to the hall door and found it open. It was not wide open, but the catch of the lock had not caught. The people of the house are careful to lock the door every night, so I feared that Lucy must have gone out as she was. There was no time to think of what might happen. A vague over-mastering fear obscured all details.

I took a big, heavy shawl and ran out. The clock was striking one as I was in the Crescent, and there was not a soul in sight. I ran along the North Terrace, but could see no sign of the white figure which I expected. At the edge of the West Cliff above the pier I looked across the harbour to the East Cliff, in the hope or fear, I don't know which, of seeing Lucy in our favorite seat.

There was a bright full moon, with heavy black, driving clouds, which threw the whole scene into a fleeting diorama of light and shade as they sailed across. For a moment or two I could see nothing, as the shadow of a cloud obscured St. Mary's Church and all around it. Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the abbey coming into view, and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and churchyard became gradually visible. Whatever my expectation was, it was not disappointed, for there, on our favorite seat, the silver light of the moon struck a half-reclining figure, snowy white. The coming of the cloud was too quick for me to see much, for shadow shut down on light almost immediately, but it seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it. What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell.

I did not wait to catch another glance, but flew down the steep steps to the pier and along by the fish-market to the bridge, which was the only way to reach the East Cliff. The town seemed as dead, for not a soul did I see. I rejoiced that it was so, for I wanted no witness of poor Lucy's condition. The time and distance seemed endless, and my knees trembled and my breath came laboured as I toiled up the endless steps to the abbey. I must have gone fast, and yet it seemed to me as if my feet were weighted with lead, and as though every joint in my body were rusty.

When I got almost to the top I could see the seat and the white figure, for I was now close enough to distinguish it even through the spells of shadow. There was undoubtedly something, long and black, bending over the half-reclining white figure. I called in fright, "Lucy! Lucy!" and something raised a head, and from where I was I could see a white face and red, gleaming eyes.

Lucy did not answer, and I ran on to the entrance of the churchyard. As I entered, the church was between me and the seat, and for a minute or so I lost sight of her. When I came in view again the cloud had passed, and the moonlight struck so brilliantly that I could see Lucy half reclining with her head lying over the back of the seat. She was quite alone, and there was not a sign of any living thing about.

When I bent over her I could see that she was still asleep. Her lips were parted, and she was breathing, not softly as usual with her, but in long, heavy gasps, as though striving to get her lungs full at every breath. As I came close, she put up her hand in her sleep and pulled the collar of her nightdress close around her, as though she felt the cold. I flung the warm shawl over her, and drew the edges tight around her neck, for I dreaded lest she should get some deadly chill from the night air, unclad as she was. I feared to wake her all at once, so, in order to have my hands free to help her, I fastened the shawl at her throat with a big safety pin. But I must have been clumsy in my anxiety and pinched or pricked her with it, for by-and-by, when her breathing became quieter, she put her hand to her throat again and moaned. When I had her carefully wrapped up I put my shoes on her feet, and then began very gently to wake her.

At first she did not respond, but gradually she became more and more uneasy in her sleep, moaning and sighing occasionally. At last, as time was passing fast, and for many other reasons, I wished to get her home at once, I shook her forcibly, till finally she opened her eyes and awoke. She did not seem surprised to see me, as, of course, she did not realize all at once where she was.

Lucy always wakes prettily, and even at such a time, when her body must have been chilled with cold, and her mind somewhat appalled at waking unclad in a churchyard at night, she did not lose her grace. She trembled a little, and clung to me. When I told her to come at once with me home, she rose without a word, with the obedience of a child. As we passed along, the gravel hurt my feet, and Lucy noticed me wince. She stopped and wanted to insist upon my taking my shoes, but I would not. However, when we got to the pathway outside the chruchyard, where there was a puddle of water, remaining from the storm, I daubed my feet with mud, using each foot in turn on the other, so that as we went home, no one, in case we should meet any one, should notice my bare feet.

Fortune favoured us, and we got home without meeting a soul. Once we saw a man, who seemed not quite sober, passing along a street in front of us. But we hid in a door till he had disappeared up an opening such as there are here, steep little closes, or 'wynds', as they call them in Scotland. My heart beat so loud all the time sometimes I thought I should faint. I was filled with anxiety about Lucy, not only for her health, lest she should suffer from the exposure, but for her reputation in case the story should get wind. When we got in, and had washed our feet, and had said a prayer of thankfulness together, I tucked her into bed. Before falling asleep she asked, even implored, me not to say a word to any one, even her mother, about her sleepwalking adventure.

I hesitated at first, to promise, but on thinking of the state of her mother's health, and how the knowledge of such a thing would fret her, and think too, of how such a story might become distorted, nay, infallibly would, in case it should leak out, I thought it wiser to do so. I hope I did right. I have locked the door, and the key is tied to my wrist, so perhaps I shall not be again disturbed. Lucy is sleeping soundly. The reflex of the dawn is high and far over the sea...



The steep steps to the pier below St. Mary's Church and Whitby Abbey.


Today I worked on my trip report and photos, did some work, did some chores, was thwarted in plans to see first perkypaduan, then gblvr, learned that my children had discovered Runescape at a friend's house and spent half the afternoon trying to wrest first one and then the other away from the computer, took a walk in the glorious weather, tried to see the partial solar eclipse that was largely obscured by clouds, had dinner with my parents and attempted to work up some enthusiasm for the Washington Nationals whom I now fear will preempt the final episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, as our UPN station is carrying their games. In other words, nothing of great import occurred!

fridayfiver: One ringy-dingy...two ringy-dingy...and a gracious...
1. Describe your telephone:
Upstairs: Cheap white touch-tone. Main floor: Cordless black unit with built in answering machine. Basement: Cheap white touch-tone.
2. Do you have a cell phone? Yes.
3. Why do you / do you not have a cell phone? I have children, which means that sometimes carpooling emergencies come up and it's a very big deal if I break down somewhere. I rarely have it on unless I'm driving someone somewhere specific.
4. Who is your favorite person to call? mamadracula.
5. What is the longest time you've spent on the phone? With my former college roommate, who lives four states away from me, I used to spend hours -- more than two, at least, I'm not sure exactly how many.

thefridayfive: Bookworms!
1. What is the one book that you reread over and over again?
There's more than one, but the one I've read the most times in my life is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time.
2. What is your favourite genre? I don't really have one. I've read quite a bit of science fiction and fantasy, but I've also read a lot of biographies and books about art.
3. Do you usually buy your books or visit the library? These days I buy them, because I very rarely know what my schedule will be like in terms of when I'll finish a book and since I'm not doing academic research I rarely need twenty books at once.
4. Who is your favourite author? Shakespeare, if I only get to pick one. Janette Turner Hospital, if you want someone who's living.
5. What book have you read that you absolutely hated? Since I've had children I never finish books that I'm not enjoying after 50 pages so it's been a long time since I read all the way through a book I hated. I will confess that in high school I got so bored with Huckleberry Finn that I completed it via Cliffs Notes, though.

fannish5: The Spoiler Fannish Five:
Name five reasons you hate spoilers or name five reasons you love spoilers.
1. The Crying Game
2. The Sixth Sense
3. Diabolique
4. A Beautiful Mind
5. Planet of the Apes (the original)

These are all movies with famous twists that actually get much better, not worse, when one knows what is coming; in every case knowing the twist adds a layer of depth that a viewer can't get the first time through unless the viewer is in on the secret or manages to guess. I have never seen a movie whose enjoyment depended upon being unspoiled that I liked upon repeated viewings; mediocre shock-gimmicks like Seven end up undercutting what would seem to be social and psychological messages in most cases. I maintain that The Village would have been appreciated so much more if it was treated as a sociological study, not a mystery...and what's the point of hiding the real plot of Million Dollar Baby from a prospective audience? The only movies for which I don't want to be spoiled are thrillers where my whole reason for seeing the movie is to be surprised -- works great for The Others, wrecks the theme in Fight Club.


I think we may try to see the cherry blossoms late tomorrow afternoon, as we have a very small window on Sunday between Hebrew school and soccer. Our neighborhood was gloriously in bloom today, with lots of yellow on the bushes and pink and white on the trees; I need to get downtown and see the city in its spring glory.
Tags: britain 05
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