January 12, 2019

They Run Again

Beyond the black and naked wood
In frosty gold has set the sun,
And dusk glides forth in cobweb hood...
Sister, tonight the werewolves run!

With white teeth gleaming and eyes aflame
The werewolves gather upon the howe!
Country churl and village dame,
They have forgotten the wheel and plow.

They have forgotten the speech of men;
Their throats are dry with a dreadful thirst;
And woe to the traveler in the glen
Who meets tonight with that band accurst!

Now from the hollows creeps the dark;
The moon like a yellow owl takes flight;
Good people on their house-doors mark
A cross, and hug their hearths in fright.

Sister, listen! . . . The King-Wolf howls!
The pack is running! . . . Drink down the brew,
Don the unearthly, shaggy cowls, —
We must be running too!

        This poem, from 1939, is by Leah Bodine Drake (USA, 1904-1964), who made a name for herself specializing in macabre poetry, winning awards and lots of publication in the mid twentieth century.  I don’t normally get very excited about werewolves, but Drake does some interesting things here.  For one thing, the last verse implies that turning to a wolf is a choice, not an involuntary transformation.  For another, I like the way she simultaneously depicts the werewolves as the horrible, terrifying monsters they are, yet also gives a view of what they feel like from the inside.  As for the specifics of her language, she’s a little freer with exclamation marks than I would be, but I very much like some of her phrases, especially “their throats are dry with a dreadful thirst” and “the moon like a yellow owl takes flight.”

[Picture: Detail from W is for Wolf, wood block print with multiple blocks by C.B. Falls, from ABC Book, 1923.]


Kristin said...

I like this. Maybe it's not a choice though, for the sisters. Maybe they have to run too.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

It's an interesting question. It certainly sounds like a compulsion, but at the same time, you do have to drink the brew and don the cowl, so could you resist if you tried?