Madam Life’s a piece in bloom
Death goes dogging everywhere:
She’s the tenant of the room,
He’s the ruffian on the stair.
You shall see her as a friend,
You shall bilk him once or twice;
But he’ll trap you in the end,
And he’ll stick you for her price.
With his kneebones at your chest,
And his knuckles in your throat,
You would reason — plead — protest!
Clutching at her petticoat;
But she’s heard it all before,
Well she knows you’ve had your fun,
Gingerly she gains the door,
And your little job is done.
For its inclusion in the Oxford Book of Death you need not go far to look for reasons because the imagery for Life and Death used by Henley is simply brilliant.
“She is the tenant of the room
He is the ruffian on the stair”
She is soft and good-natured and peace loving. She is a flower in bloom. He is a ruffian ,who has not yet gained entry into the apartment .He is still waiting on the stair for the door to be opened by Madam Life.
He is a ruffian given to violence, Once he gains entry he will be at your throat, with his knuckles and his knee-bones hard on your chest, squeezing the life out of you.
The violence associated with death is evoked by a visual scene created of a ruffian with murderous intent-his knee-bones on your chest and his knuckles at your throat,squeezing the life out of you.You are pitifully pleading with him for your life, desperately clutching at Madam Life’s petticoat.
I have yet to see such a graphic description of death.
“And your little job is done” -A chilling last line,isn’t it?