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Edith Sitwell: Dirge for the New Sunrise


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

Women writers on peace and war


Edith Sitwell
Dirge for the New Sunrise

(Fifteen minutes past eight o’clock, on the morning of Monday the 6th of August, 1945)

Bound to my heart as Ixion to the wheel,
Nailed to my heart as the Thief upon the Cross
I hang between our Christ and the gap where the world was lost

And watch the phantom Sun in Famine Street
– The ghost of the heart of Man…red Cain,
And the more murderous brain
Of Man, still redder Nero that conceived the death
Of his mother Earth, and tore
Her womb, to know the place where he was conceived.

But no eyes grieved —
For none were left for tears:
They were blinded as the years

Since Christ was born. Mother or Murderer, you have given
or taken life —
Now all is one!

There was a morning when the holy Light
Was young…The beautiful First Creature came
To our water-springs, and thought us without blame.

Our hearts seemed safe in our breasts and sang to the Light –
The marrow in the bone
We dreamed was safe…the blood in the veins, the sap in the
Were springs of the Deity.

But I saw the little Ant-men as they ran
Carrying the world’s weight of the world’s filth
And the filth in the heart of Man –
Compressed till those lusts and greeds had a greater heat than
that of the Sun.

And the ray from that heat came soundless, shook the sky
As if in search for food, and squeezed the stems
Of all that grows on the earth till they were dry.
The eyes that saw, the lips that kissed, are gone
– Or black as thunder lie and grin at the murdered Sun.

The living blind and seeing dead together lie
As if in love…There was no more hating then —
And no more love: Gone is the heart of Man.

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