Shadwell Stair

October 23, 2017

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
Along the wharves by the water-house,
And through the cavernous slaughter-house,
I am the shadow that walks there.

Yet I have flesh both firm and cool,
And eyes tumultuous as the gems
Of moons and lamps in the full Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.

Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
Where I watch always; from the banks
Dolorously the shipping clanks
And after me a strange tide turns.

I walk till the stars of London wane
And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
But when the crowing syrens blare
I with another ghost am lain.

Wilfred Owen

This poem first drafted at Scarborough between January and February 1918, was revised in July or August prior to Owen’s death. Its message is cryptic, bound up with Owen’s sexuality and his association with gay literary figures such as Robert Ross, Osbert Sitwell and Charles Scott Moncrieff (translator of Marcel Proust) who, along with Siegfried Sassoon, were doing much to further Owen’s career as a poet.

eerie and fantastic

October 23, 2017

Moonlight made a ghostly path for me, and shadows, eerie and fantastic, lurked behind the trees.

Daphné du Maurier
My Cousin Rachel

a strange new street

October 23, 2017


BUT JUST before sleep, there must be ,an unguarded moment when the mind is cut off from the will power and seeks its own paths. My mind went to THE BOOK OF AMBROSE. Out of memory marched certain words I’d read therein. And with them came , a strange warmth.

“…The possibilities of pleasure in the human form can be realized only, according to the worshippers, by cultivated adoration of the All-Dark. Complete’ submission to the Prince is signified by acknowledging his sovereignty automatically in the potent and rewarding fields. The King of Lust. The Emperor of Desire. The prayers. “Madarng phalanatus ladion. Mishabwa! Mishabiua! Mishabwa!”

There was a strange, terrifying rhythm to the prayer. I’d read it but once; yet I knew it perfectly. I wondered what Mishabwa meant. It rang through my mind to the accompaniment of little silver bells and –

I was walking up a strange new street – not of dreams but tangible; as real and solid as awakening in the morning and going to sleep at night. So real as to make me cringe with embarrassment at the things around me. This was a narrow street lined with old houses of red brick. There were tiny gardens in front of each house and the gardens had been watered because it was the morning of a summer day. The air was perfumed with the smell of new water and thirsty plants. But there was a sweeter, more feverish thirst in the air, a warming aura which plucked each nerve in my body with a tingling anticipation – of what? I knew what. By all the Black Arts I knew what!

Ivar Jorgensen
Rest in Agony