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T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). Poems. 1920.

12. Sweeney among the Nightingales

  • APENECK SWEENEY spreads his knees

    Letting his arms hang down to laugh,

    The zebra stripes along his jaw

    Swelling to maculate giraffe.

    The circles of the stormy moon

    Slide westward toward the River Plate,

    Death and the Raven drift above

    And Sweeney guards the horned gate.

    Gloomy Orion and the Dog

    Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;

    The person in the Spanish cape

    Tries to sit on Sweeney’s knees

    Slips and pulls the table cloth

    Overturns a coffee-cup,

    Reorganized upon the floor

    She yawns and draws a stocking up;

    The silent man in mocha brown

    Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;

    The waiter brings in oranges

    Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;

    The silent vertebrate in brown

    Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;

    Rachel née Rabinovitch

    Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;

    She and the lady in the cape

    Are suspect, thought to be in league;

    Therefore the man with heavy eyes

    Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,

    Leaves the room and reappears

    Outside the window, leaning in,

    Branches of wistaria

    Circumscribe a golden grin;

    The host with someone indistinct

    Converses at the door apart,

    The nightingales are singing near

    The Convent of the Sacred Heart,

    And sang within the bloody wood

    When Agamemnon cried aloud,

    And let their liquid droppings fall

    To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.