by Edith Sitwell (1887 - 1964)

Small talk
Language: English 

Upon the noon Cassandra died
The Harpy preened itself outside.
Bank holiday put forth its glamour,
And in the wayside station's clamour
We found the cafe at the rear,
And sat and drank our Pilsener beer.
Words smeared upon our wooden faces
Now paint them into queer grimaces;
The crackling greeneries that spirt
Like firworks, mock our souls inert,
And we seem feathered like a bird
Among the shadows scarcely heard.
Beneath her shade-ribbed
switchback mane
The harpy, breasted like a train,
Was haggling with a farmer's wife;
"Fresh harpy's eggs, no trace of life."
Miss Sitwell, cross and white as chalk,
Was indisposed for the small talk;
Since, peering through a shadowed door,
She saw Cassandra on the floor.


Upon the noon
Cassandra died,
Harpy soon
Screeched outside.
Gardener Jupp,
In his shed.
Counted wooden
Carrots red.
Black shades pass,
Dead-stiff there,
On green baize grass -
Drink his beer.
Bumpkin turnip,
Mask limp-locked,
White sun frights
The gardener shocked.
Harpy creaked
Her limbs again:
I think, she squeaked,
It's going to rain!"

First published in Arts and Letters, Spring 1920


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Researcher for this text: Dan Eggleston

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 43
Word count: 176