A Child's Nightmare

Robert von Ranke Graves 1895 (Wimbledon, Surrey) – 1985 (Deià, Majorca)




Through long nursery nights he stood
By my bed unwearying,
Loomed gigantic, formless, queer,
Purring in my haunted ear
That same hideous nightmare thing,
Talking, as he lapped my blood,
In a voice cruel and flat,
Saying for ever, "Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat!..."
  
That one word was all he said,
That one word through all my sleep,
In monotonous mock despair.
Nonsense may be light as air,
But there's Nonsense that can keep
Horror bristling round the head,
When a voice cruel and flat
Says for ever, "Cat! ... Cat! ... Cat!..."
  
He had faded, he was gone
Years ago with Nursery Land
When he leapt on me again
From the clank of a night train,
Overpowered me foot and head,
Lapped my blood, while on and on
The old voice cruel and flat
Says for ever, "Cat!... Cat!... Cat!..."
  
Morphia drowsed, again I lay
In a crater by High Wood:
He was there with straddling legs,
Staring eyes as big as eggs,
Purring as he lapped my blood,
His black bulk darkening the day,
With a voice cruel and flat,
"Cat!... Cat!... Cat!..." he said,
"Cat!... Cat!..."
  
When I'm shot through heart and head,
And there's no choice but to die,
The last word I'll hear, no doubt,
Won't be "Charge!" or "Bomb them out!"
Nor the stretcher-bearer's cry,
"Let that body be, he's dead!"
But a voice cruel and flat
Saying for ever, "Cat!... Cat!... Cat!"
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

Modified on March 05, 2023

1:14 min read
16

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABCCBDEE FGHHGFEE IXJJFIEE KALLDKEFE FMNNMFEE
Closest metre Iambic trimeter
Characters 1,282
Words 249
Stanzas 5
Stanza Lengths 8, 8, 8, 9, 8

Robert von Ranke Graves

Robert von Ranke Graves (24 July 1895 – 7 December 1985) was a British poet, historical novelist, critic, and classicist. His father was Alfred Perceval Graves, a celebrated Irish poet and figure in the Gaelic revival; they were both Celticists and students of Irish mythology. Graves produced more than 140 works in his lifetime. His poems, his translations and innovative analysis of the Greek myths, his memoir of his early life—including his role in World War I—Good-Bye to All That, and his speculative study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess, have never been out of print. He earned his living from writing, particularly popular historical novels such as I, Claudius; King Jesus; The Golden Fleece; and Count Belisarius. He also was a prominent translator of Classical Latin and Ancient Greek texts; his versions of The Twelve Caesars and The Golden Ass remain popular for their clarity and entertaining style. Graves was awarded the 1934 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for both I, Claudius and Claudius the God.  more…

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