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The Lady of Shalott: Ode

The child in the snow has found her mouth,
And estate-agents must beware;
For if what we are seeking is not the truth
And we’ve only a lie to share,
The modern conveniences won’t last out,
Bear tear flair dare,
And the old ones just don’t care.

Back and forth she moves her arms;
Forth and back, her legs.
No one would care to say:
Her lips are red, her looks are free,
Her locks are yellow as gold,
Whether she’s very young or old,
The nightmare life-in-death is she,
Who thicks men’s blood with cold.

What of the future is in the past
Channels towards us now.
Present and future perfect past
Makes no tracks in the snow.
Turn the tap and water will come
For five seconds
And then the sand
Flows into our ever-open mouth.
What was it we understand?

She does not stand in the snow; she kneels:
A parody of prayer.
Lucretius said it long ago:
Why think the gods care?
When the telephone goes dead,
The fridge is broken, the light . . .

Why should we think of knowledge as light;
There is enough to see her.
And, having seen, the message is plain
To those who wish to know
(They are not many):
Run quickly back to the darkness again;
We have seen the child in the snow.

Veronica Forrest-Thomson
Veronica Forrest-Thomson was the author of three poetry collections and the influential critical work Poetic Artifice: A Theory of Twentieth-Century Poetry.