The Terrible Abstractions

A poem by Vernon Scannell

The naked hunter's fist, bunched round his spear,
Was tight and wet inside with sweat of fear;
He heard behind him what the hunted hear.

The silence in the undergrowth crept near;
Its mischief tickled in his nervous ear
And he became the prey, the quivering deer.

The naked hunter feared the threat he knew:
Being hunted, caught, then slaughtered like a ewe
By beasts who padded on four legs or two.

The naked hunter in the bus or queue
Under his decent wool is frightened too
But not of what his hairy forebear knew.

The terrible abstractions prowl about
The compound of his fear and chronic doubt;
He keeps fires burning boldly all night through,
But cannot keep the murderous shadows out.

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