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The Well Read Poem

Sep 20, 2021

Welcome to Season 5 of The Well Read Poem with poet and classicist Thomas Banks. Throughout this season, we will be exploring the poetry of Walter de la Mare. De la Mare was a great Gothic writer and was very interested in the atmosphere of the uncanny. Poem begins at timestamp 7:04. Check out our sister podcast, The Literary Life Podcast, for more great discussions of literature!


By Walter de la Mare

There haunts in Time's bare house an active ghost,
Enamoured of his name, Polonius.
He moves small fingers much, and all his speech
Is like a sampler of precisest words,
Set in the pattern of a simpleton.
His mirth floats eerily down chill corridors;
His sigh — it is a sound that loves a keyhole;
His tenderness a faint court-tarnished thing;
His wisdom prates as from a wicker cage;
His very belly is a pompous nought;
His eye a page that hath forgot his errand.
Yet in his bran — his spiritual bran —
Lies hid a child's demure, small, silver whistle
Which, to his horror, God blows, unawares,
And sets men staring. It is sad to think,
Might he but don indeed thin flesh and blood,
And pace important to Law's inmost room,
He would see, much marvelling, one immensely wise,
Named Bacon, who, at sound of his youth's step,
Would turn and call him Cousin — for the likeness.