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Sunday, 25 July 2010

image for Perdition; or, The Lure of the Poppy - by Thomas Frailing The House In Luttercombe, Dorset, Where Thomas Frailing Was Born In 1789

'O infinite in the depth of darkness, an infinite craving, an infinite capacity of pain and weakness...O God save me - save me from myself...driven up and down for seven dreadful Days by restless Pain, like a Leopard in a Den, yet the anguish and remorse of Mind was worse than the pain of the whole body - O I have a new world opened to me, in the infinity of my own Spirit!'

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in a letter of December 1813-

Perdition; or, The Lure of the Poppy
by Thomas Frailing (1789-1834)

From Book The Third

.......There was none else, no other self than mine
did walk the earth; and yet I did perceive,
within a shadowed copse, beneath the steel
blue skin of silent lakes whose surface, stilled
by frozen time (my breath was stopped; my heart,
convulsed with fear, about to burst my breast),
seemed aspic-like to show dread contents clear,
or in the wind's unworded song, the lay
of enchanted mountain breezes, I did sense
the movement of inchoate threatening forms,
whose incorporeal loomings were more real
to me than all the clamour of the streets'
gay whoredom.

Day and night I did repine
(whether bathed in moonlight's lustral milk, or seared
by purgatorial Phoebus' probing rays),
and all the world stretched far beyond me, vast,
unfeeling, alien, weird, hostile, charged
with energies impersonal. My friends
were husks of men and women; how they moved
was mystery to me; their faces masked
dark dreadful machinations; and their limbs
perforce performed a mechanism's mime:
automata alive they were; alone
I languished in a dream of hell; their smiles
were cold as totems or the cruel grins
on giant heathen statues who stand guard
by glittering pagodas.

Every bird
whose music filled my childhood days with joy
now strident mocked my fear. The very flowers'
stalks swarmed and swayed with sinister intent,
their perfumes stained pure air. The hills and vales
were hideous rearing upheaves, yawning chasms
abysmal, festering gashes in the earth's
benighted carcass.

Black imaginings
did blight my waking hours and mar each day,
and when at last I sought sweet slumber's balm
no rest was vouchsafed me. Nay, in the night,
the world drew back: my mind had slipped the bonds
of multifarious phenomena,
and so raved free, and fashioned prodigies
from midnight's plenum void: phantasm sired
phantasm: hippogriff and manticore
did roam the nightmare forests of my dreams.
Thus did I spawn a mockery of the world
of God-created things: my horrors crept
the forests of my mind as dinosaurs
did haunt the swamps and deserts of the earth's
primeval chaos.

Bodily fatigue
and mental weakness: my soul's fair abode
was threatened, like a great and noble house
abandoned. The very heart and centre
of my life imperilled, I craved egress,
succour did I seek, and, fruitless searching
amid those friends who now were dead to me,
in desperate need I made good my escape
to such a place - sequestered and serene -
as seemed a paradisiacal bourne,
enfolded in the mountains of the North,
and open to no easy journeying
or traffic of drear commerce, trade or war.
This was to be my solace and my cure,
and so it proved to be, for many weeks,
until the summer passed. Then, with the fall
of leaves, came darkling shadows, and the calm
of mountain beauty, driven off before
the hurling equinoctial winds, was lost,
and storm-cloaks blackened all the crowding hills
whose precipices reared, whose gulleys bled
white torrents whose foam gushed like milk-white blood,
and dark despair and fear once again
did feast upon my heart like spiders sit
and suck the life from helpless writhing things
whose wings and legs can only palpitate
in death.

And thus it was, one filthy night
of rain and stinging hail, I fled my cot,
unable to endure that loneliness
that bred imagined creatures in the dark
and din of weather foul. To that old inn
that hunkered by the churchyard I repaired
and there I sought to dull my pain with draughts
of sour ale and rich tobacco-smoke.
My evening habit this became, and I
an item of their furniture. Mein host,
a rubicund and shiny-headed churl,
did welcome me with hearty shout; my cup
stood ready-filled; my pipe fresh-charged; new friends
I found, though only friends in drink; but these
sufficed, or so I thought.

Until I met
the tall apothecary from the South.
A hawk-like man to whom I paid no heed,
of no account to me, or so it seemed,
but when the storm did claim the window-glass
of his high attic room, we, forced upon
each other, intimates became, and thus,
that fateful eve, I learned of how he lived,
and how he kept at bay those phantasms
that lately racked me so.

Alas! Thus was
it that the Poppy's hex did clutch and claw
and catch at me! Thus did I fall! Willing
I stooped, and hungrily betrayed my soul,
and never can forget that icy thrill
when first I sipped tincture of opium.......

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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