Bitter Sanctuary

Original Text: 
Strange Meetings: Poems By Harold Monro (Wiltshire: Laurel Books, 2003): 114-115.
2Clients have left their photos there to perish.
3She watches through green shutters those who press
4To reach unconsciousness.
5She licks her varnished thin magenta lips,
6She picks her foretooth with a finger nail,
7She pokes her head out to greet new clients, or
8To leave them (to what torture) waiting at the door.
9Heat has locked the heavy earth,
10Given strength to every sound,
11He, where his life still holds him to the ground,
12In anæsthesia, groaning for re-birth,
13Leans at the door.
14From out the house there comes the dullest flutter;
15A lackey; and thin giggling from behind that shutter.
16His lost eyes lean to find and read the number.
17Follows his knuckled rap, and hesitating curse.
18He cannot wake himself; he may not slumber;
19While on the long white wall across the road
20Drives the thin outline of a dwindling hearse.
21Now the door opens wide.
22He: ."Is there room inside?."
23She: ."Are you past the bounds of pain?."
24He: ."May my body lie in vain
25                        Among the dreams I cannot keep!."
26She: ."Let him drink the cup of sleep.."
27Thin arms and ghostly hands; faint sky-blue eyes;
28Long drooping lashes, lids like full-blown moons,
29Clinging to any brink of floating skies:
30What hope is there? What fear?.-Unless to wake and see
31Lingering flesh, or cold eternity.
32O yet some face, half living, brings
33Far gaze to him and croons:
34She: ."You're white. You are alone.
35                        Can you not approach my sphere?."
36He: ."I'm changing into stone.."
37She: ."Would I were! Would I were!."
38Then the white attendants fill the cup.
39In the morning through the world,
40Watch the flunkeys bring the coffee;
41Watch the shepherds on the downs,
42Lords and ladies at their toilet,
43Farmers, merchants, frothing towns.
44But look how he, unfortunate, now fumbles
45Through unknown chambers, unheedful stumbles.
46Can he evade the overshadowing night?
47Are there not somewhere chinks of braided light?
48How do they leave who once are in those rooms?
49Some may be found, they say, deeply asleep
50In ruined tombs.
51Some in white beds, with faces round them. Some
52Wander the world, and never find a home.


1] Originally entitled ."The Alcoholics." (Hibberd 124). ."Bitter Sanctuary [is] concerned with [Monro's] illness." (Collected Poems [1933]: v). Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
The Criterion (Oct.1931); Collected Poems, ed. Alida Monro, with prefaces by F. S. Flint and T. S. Eliot (London: Cobden-Sanderson, 1933): 1-4.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: