The Next Fear

THIS is the noonday fear and the night fear,
Best in the conscious mind but not there only,
Blacker than black of print across our books,
And brooding over every word we say,
Incumbent echoing the voices of playmates,
Now keen misgiving, and now dull misgiving,
For better for worse old faithful, hidden silent
Secret in heart, or breaking silence fearful.
One fear it is, and many are its forms,
Not in itself appalling, but as black clouds
Moving and rising where the lightning will come
As often as it ever came before,
What once we thought was over, buried away
Like so much rubble under a building hope;
Many men died for that, we then began,
But lightning bodes a brittle repetition.
This is no building lasting against lightning,
Nothing of our design can meet this fear;
The builders mixing concrete under the clouds
Look and are stricken and chilled, the sky is night;
This is more than quick recoverable terror,
And we, watching the hanging waiting darkness,
Counting the moments of the coming storm,
Find it not easy now to stand erect.
Why should we ever plan another inch
Or swing another girder, if all girders
Get blasted in the ruinous unkind shock?
Though still the builders are in love with building.
Let us be dulled and blunted, once acuter;
Let us be dead as doornails, if need be;
But here is a wanton terror overhead
That overshadows all our work in hand.
GEORGE ALLEN