(Poem #1186) This is the Horror that, Night After Night
This is the horror that, night after night, Sits grinning on my pillow -- that I meant To mix the peace of being innocent With the warm thrill of seeking out delight: This is the final blasphemy, the blight On all pure purpose and divine intent -- To dress the selfish thought, the indolent, In the priest's sable or the angel's white. For God's sake, if you sin, take pleasure in it, And do it for the pleasure. Do not say: 'Behold the spirit's liberty! -- a minute Will see the earthly vesture break away And God shine through.' Say: 'Here's a sin -- I'll sin it; And there's the price of sinning -- and I'll pay.'
(from 'Monogamy') Superficially, today's poem seems to express the same sentiment that Millay's "Penitent" [Poem #108] does: And, "One thing there's no getting by -- I've been a wicked girl," said I: "But if I can't be sorry, why, I might as well be glad!" but on closer reading, it's diametrically opposed - Millay's narrator feels glad, though she 'knows' she shouldn't; Gould's makes the same "do it for the pleasure" argument, but the underlying tone is one of a rather forced and desperate gaiety, as though the speaker is trying to convince himself as much as his listener. There is a particular irony in the use of "For God's sake" that underscores the poem's basic uncertainty. I was actually reminded far more strongly of Hemingway's "Chapter Heading" [Poem #976]: And we have danced to devil's tunes Shivering home to pray - there is the same sense of pleasures enjoyed only until the price of sinning intrudes itself on your consciousness. Gould is a suprisingly unknown poet - I'd never heard of him until I came across today's piece, and websearching only turned up a couple of other poems (both excellent - watch this space), and no biography, apart from a rather sad "Gerald Gould (1885-1936)". If anyone has more information, or some poems they like, I'd love to hear about them. martin Links: I found today's poem on Martin Hardcastle's poetry page: http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~martinh/poems/