Sweeney Among the Nightingales

By T.S. Eliot



Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees
  Letting his arms hang down to laugh,
The zebra stripes along his jaw
  Swelling to maculate giraffe.

The circles of the stormy moon                                    5
  Slide westward toward the River Plate,
Death and the Raven drift above
  And Sweeney guards the hornèd gate.

Gloomy Orion and the Dog
  Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;               10
The person in the Spanish cape
  Tries to sit on Sweeney’s knees

Slips and pulls the table cloth
  Overturns a coffee-cup,
Reorganised upon the floor                                       15
  She yawns and draws a stocking up;

The silent man in mocha brown
  Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;
The waiter brings in oranges
  Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;                          20

The silent vertebrate in brown
  Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;
Rachel née Rabinovitch
  Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;

She and the lady in the cape                                     25
  Are suspect, thought to be in league;
Therefore the man with heavy eyes
  Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,

Leaves the room and reappears
  Outside the window, leaning in,                              30
Branches of wistaria
  Circumscribe a golden grin;

The host with someone indistinct
  Converses at the door apart,
The nightingales are singing near                               35
  The Convent of the Sacred Heart,

And sang within the bloody wood
  When Agamemnon cried aloud,
And let their liquid siftings fall
  To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.                     40

                                                              [1918]
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