Gno Yh Noo: Prologue


Moaning, rising, shrieking, falling, spun
Around the gables of the Church of Runn
(An ancient saint of Manx descendancy)
The wind in fitful gusts unceasingly
Shrill whistled through the windows’ sightless eyes
And tossed the leaves of autumn to the skies,
Then sobbing to a murmur died away,
The screamed anew to haste the waning day;
Kept up its warfare with the sacred stones
And seemed at times as if the buried bones
Would dig with scooping hands out of the grave
Or whip the covering roof from off the nave.
The sun fell down, the sky turned grey from red,
Then black, like some great pall to cloak the dead.
The traveller, buffeted and weary, stood
To get his breath, and gazed in abstract mood
At the dark church, lit fleetingly by rays
Of wild moonlight that struggled through the maze
Of tearing clouds. He sat to rest awhile
Upon the topmost step of the old stile
Ere walking further through the stormy spite
To find his lonely lodging for the night.
There came a lull, the moon swam large and clear
And lights sprang in the windows. He could hear
The organ playing and the sounds of song
And from the doorway streamed a merry throng,
A bride and bridegroom, relatives and friends,
And all of them were dancing, holding hands,
And all of them were fleshless skeletons:
He gazed upon a festival of bones.
The headstones rocked and from the ground appeared
Men, women, and children, all with gestures weird
To join the wedding party. One young boy
With outsize skull seemed frantic with his joy
And danced with maddened screaming on the grass,
While all his strange companions round did pass.
The climbing moon, agape through tattered cloud,
Saw many a spectre in its winding shroud
Wave in the air above the drunken stones
To fill the night with shuddering soundless moans.
And saw the fair green earth ayawn with holes
Narrow and deep, and things that had no souls
Gathered in gibbering conclave all around
The spectre boy who stood upon the mound.
He seemed the leader of them all; a lad
Who in his mortal frame had been so bad
That Satan called him from the temporal earth
To lead the damnèd in unholy mirth.
With soundless words he issued criers forth,
Some to the east, some south, some west, some north,
He gave them their commissions, each to creep
Upon the pillows of mortals aspleep,
And where unguarded portals they could find
Drop their slow poison in the sleeper’s mind.
And sightless sockets glared, and torn shrouds streamed
Like shreds of poisoned vapour, and there gleamed
The shining whiteness of their fleshless bones,
And rows of chattering teeth; on the rude stones
They sat to listen to this foul fiend’s speech
Though silent, heard by them above the screech
Of furious wind. When finished, then they fled
To the four corners of the earth, the dead;
The traveller, horrified, with terror shook,
But still his gaze was fixed, absorbed his look;
Till burst from him a cry to mighty God!
At once, all still. The church fell dark. The sod
Lay undisturbed. The wind rose loud and free;
His prayers the traveller uttered rev’rently
As he continued on his journey’s way;
And thinking to himself, as he did pray,
Naught ever could or ever will compare
With just one night in solitude spent there.