From the Undercroft

(originally posted 9 Oct 2011 in Kingdom of Horror vol. 7: Poetry)
(in anapestic tetrameter: ––+––+––+––+)

Late a breath stirs from deep in the chill undercroft
But say who, after dusk, could make breath so to waft?
Eft a scratch sounds, a rasp, then a shamble-ing tread
Which each scatters to echoes ‘mid rows of the dead.

Not a light gleams by which might the starv’d eye infer
Any lin-e-ament of the deep sepulchre
Cold as winter lie flags under numb, scraping toe
Too the stone overhead, which doth ceil graves below.

‘Tween the masts on which low-vaulted ceilings impress,
‘Neath the floor, ‘gainst the wall, and in ev’ry recess,
Untold caskets of stone closed with lids thick and stout
Stand shut fast as the grave, lest the bodies get out.

Heavy lids notwithstanding, some one or some thing
Surely creeps, making sibilant echoes to ring.
Even if ne’er it wander’d by night heretofore
A mere matter of time leads all things to the door.

And the door, slow with age, holds but scant pow’r to stay
Any revenant bold that might dare to away.
And its guardship the door from its schedule might strike
Since the world on both sides seems to it so alike:

Just as hushed as should lie ev’ry corse in his case
The eld bishop doth slumber ‘mid satins and lace,
And as still as should be ev’ry mort in his box
Every monk dreams, wrapped tight under layers of frocks.

On they sleep, walled in stone, with a fence roundabout
Quite secure ‘gainst the night and the creatures without,
With each lock bolted fast, since the monks were inspired
To secure every entrance before they retired,

And each window to shutter, in mind of the snow,
But alas that neglect shrouds the doorway below
On this night deep and strange, when the mover downstairs
Fin’lly breaches the church, all the monks unawares.

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