Verse > D.H. Lawrence > New Poems
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D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930).  New Poems.  1916.

26. Embankment at Night, before the War

Outcasts.


THE NIGHT rain, dripping unseen, 
Comes endlessly kissing my face and my hands. 
  
The river, slipping between 
Lamps, is rayed with golden bands 
Half way down its heaving sides;         5
Revealed where it hides. 
  
Under the bridge 
Great electric cars 
Sing through, and each with a floor-light racing along at its side. 
Far off, oh, midge after midge  10
Drifts over the gulf that bars 
The night with silence, crossing the lamp-touched tide. 
  
At Charing Cross, here, beneath the bridge 
Sleep in a row the outcasts, 
Packed in a line with their heads against the wall.  15
Their feet, in a broken ridge 
Stretch out on the way, and a lout casts 
A look as he stands on the edge of this naked stall. 
  
Beasts that sleep will cover 
Their faces in their flank; so these  20
Have huddled rags or limbs on the naked sleep. 
Save, as the tram-cars hover 
Past with the noise of a breeze 
And gleam as of sunshine crossing the low black heap, 
  
Two naked faces are seen  25
Bare and asleep, 
Two pale clots swept and swept by the light of the cars. 
Foam-clots showing between 
The long, low tidal-heap, 
The mud-weed opening two pale, shadowless stars.  30
  
Over the pallor of only two faces 
Passes the gallivant beam of the trams; 
Shows in only two sad places 
The white bare bone of our shams. 
  
A little, bearded man, pale, peaked in sleeping,  35
With a face like a chickweed flower. 
And a heavy woman, sleeping still keeping 
Callous and dour. 
  
Over the pallor of only two places 
Tossed on the low, black, ruffled heap  40
Passes the light of the tram as it races 
Out of the deep. 
  
Eloquent limbs 
In disarray 
Sleep-suave limbs of a youth with long, smooth thighs  45
Hutched up for warmth; the muddy rims 
Of trousers fray 
On the thin bare shins of a man who uneasily lies. 
  
The balls of five red toes 
As red and dirty, bare  50
Young birds forsaken and left in a nest of mud— 
Newspaper sheets enclose 
Some limbs like parcels, and tear 
When the sleeper stirs or turns on the ebb of the flood— 
  
One heaped mound  55
Of a woman’s knees 
As she thrusts them upward under the ruffled skirt— 
And a curious dearth of sound 
In the presence of these 
Wastrels that sleep on the flagstones without any hurt.  60
  
Over two shadowless, shameless faces 
Stark on the heap 
Travels the light as it tilts in its paces 
Gone in one leap. 
  
At the feet of the sleepers, watching,  65
Stand those that wait 
For a place to lie down; and still as they stand, they sleep, 
Wearily catching 
The flood’s slow gait 
Like men who are drowned, but float erect in the deep.  70
  
Oh, the singing mansions, 
Golden-lighted tall 
Trams that pass, blown ruddily down the night! 
The bridge on its stanchions 
Stoops like a pall  75
To this human blight. 
  
On the outer pavement, slowly, 
Theatre people pass, 
Holding aloft their umbrellas that flash and are bright 
Like flowers of infernal moly  80
Over nocturnal grass 
Wetly bobbing and drifting away on our sight. 
  
And still by the rotten 
Row of shattered feet, 
Outcasts keep guard.  85
Forgotten, 
Forgetting, till fate shall delete 
One from the ward. 
  
The factories on the Surrey side 
Are beautifully laid in black on a gold-grey sky.  90
The river’s invisible tide 
Threads and thrills like ore that is wealth to the eye. 
  
And great gold midges 
Cross the chasm 
At the bridges  95
Above intertwined plasm. 


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