Lyrics: Shadow And The Widower |
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Shadow And The Widower

by Clive James and Pete Atkin

As we left each other on our final night
And I walked away with all the love remaining
A classic whisper near the station wall
I could just hear without straining
Asked if I was scared to realise this was all
Disappointed there was only this much in it
The perfume and suppliance of a minute?
It was him - the Shadow and the Widower

There's that all right, I said, and so much more
An hour of life inside a world of dying
A wider limit set to one's regard
The kinder forms of lying
And beyond all that the privilege of a memory scarred
In prettier ways than most, perhaps than any
Such a fate must seem desirable to many
Even you, the Shadow and the Widower

The classic laughter echoed near the wall
A strip torn from a three-sheet stirred and fluttered
The whisper said, Well don't that just beat all
What this oracle hath uttered?
A straight-up scalp-collector I could understand
All those lineaments of gratified desire
But he's handing me that old refining fire
This to me, the Shadow and the Widower

The whisper moved with me into the light
Where the access tunnel ran beneath the tracks
The wind searched for a way back to the night
But no romance, no lonely alto sax
Just litter and the notes left for the blacks
The graffiti stopped your pulse like heart attacks

To perdition with that rarefied regret
Those half-remembered ladies swathed in yearning
Said the whisper just an inch behind my head
The world is burning
And the tales of love fit for the guiltless dead
Will have little in them of the airs and graces
With which your tender soul goes through its paces
Commit that to your fragrant memory
And while you're doing that, remember me
The Shadow and the Widower

Note (from Collected Poems)

As in my later poem ‘The Shadow Knows’, the shadowy widower came from Nerval’s El Desdichado: ‘Je suis le Ténébreuxle Veuf...’ The source of ‘The perfume and suppliance of a minute’ was Hamlet: Laertes warns his sister Ophelia that the wooing of the Prince can’t be relied on. In my earlier lyrics I often took pleasure in piecing lines and phrases from Renaissance plays and poems into the scheme, counting it as a form of theft legitimized by the way it declared itself. A three-sheet was a publicity poster that was pasted up in three sections, like a cheap triptych. The ‘lineaments of gratified desire’ were from Blake.