After the Fever,
or Natural Theology in a Doolie









JONES, B.C.S. soliloquises:

'Let us begin and carry up this corpse,
Singing together.' So their song to me
Sounds all the day long, racking, restless climb
Past cactus hedge and scrub-oak of the down,
And here at noon the wind-swept mountain path;
And rock and pine a thousand feet below.
Out of the jaws of Death they tell me. Lost
So nearly that they thought me dead indeed
Only two days ago. Now Lazarus,
Uncertain 'mid his fellow-ghosts, who hears
The 'Rise! come forth!' And wonders: —' Am I called?'
Aye. Am I called? The call is faint at least.
The wind across the snows comes to my cheek
And murmurs some half fragment of it —"Rise!"
"Stand up! be healed!" Who knows I hear aright?
Another fancy of the fever left
To mock me. It may be so. After all
What if I found my answer otherwise
Six miles ahead? Crawled to the naked ridge,
And so met God there, just in front the snows?
Met God there —That's another word for Death.
Three weeks ago, with all my life alight
And blazing into work, thought, deed and fact,
I should have shuddered at it. Edith's hand
Behind my pillow; my report half done;
The bay mare's whinny in the stable; Smith
Who hates me as I hate him (so we love
In some inverted fashion) would have held
Me back to life, half mad with fear at Death.
And now! Why Death's upon me, so they said—
My one-half chance hill breezes. Not one hope
Or fear to play with. Edith; Smith, the rest, —
Reports, Love, horseflesh, work, position, pay —
All shadows. I'm the only flesh and blood
This side the grave —and I'm more ghost than flesh.
No credit then for coolness. Life or Death!
A hair may turn the balance. Just one shower,
(That cloud may bring it) ten short minutes' rain
(They said a chill would kill me). Then Smith's step
And something longer than a step for me ....
Whether the black cloud bursts or quits the pine
To drench the bajra northward I'm content.
I cannot care. The flesh must back the brain
To make it cling to life so. Up or down
The beam goes and I watch it 'neath my wraps —
Life, Death, the Judgment, and the rest of it
All swaddled in the cloud there.
God is good.
I couldn't face Death living, Flesh and blood
Would back the brain, and I should tremble. Death
Is good. He takes me gently, by degrees
Not the full cess at once. Remission, rest,
The half crop ere the whole one. Power first
To act, to write, to think, to hope, to pray;
And then the aftermath. But that's unfair.
Men aren't let off forever. Brain and heart
Come back again, or where's the world to be?
And after Judgement? What's my creed again?
I'm a Materialist, and after Death
I judge myself in Space, alone unchecked—
And yet the record past my own control;
And self-condemned pass on to my new life
Higher or lower as the record runs.
That isn't Darwins's notion. Buddhism
Mixed up with half-a-dozen old beliefs,
And love for Edith ... Here's my thought returned
And Terror with it. Face to face with Death!
Those six black swine to help me through the gate,
"I judge myself alone, unchecked." No help!—
"And yet the record past my own control"—
"Higher or lower as the record runs".
My God! I knew men couldn't die like beasts!
Thought, Memory and Reason all at once;
And no-one near me. Edith's firm white hand
Might ease me some few inches down the pit,
As Hers will push me deeper, and Her eyes
Shrivel me quicker than the flames below.
Hers—No, not Edith's. Edith would have helped—
Saved maybe ... Six black swine! ... Men don't die drugged!

* * * * *

Siste viator Here's the doolie still
And no-one spoke; at least in Latin. Death
Gone from me when he had me by the throat—
The black cloud northward. It was Life, then, back
More terrible than Death ... Thought ... Memory
And Reason ... and the pains of Hell ... but Life—
Life after all. No God in front the snows.
My case postponed! God's law is much like ours.