Clinton Scollard

The Inn of the Five Chimneys

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It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
(As every man has senses five,
The while upon earth he bides alive)
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

The clapboards, warped and gray, showed stains
Of more than an hundred autumn rains;
No birds sang about the eaves,
Only the leaves, only the leaves,
Murmured in a minor weird
As though they shrank, as though they feared,--
Feared some blind, inscrutable thing,
And ever they kept on murmuring.
Upon the window-panes the dust
Was caked and cracked like a wizened crust,--
A grimy crust that none would touch
Unless he felt gaunt famine's clutch.
Mould made dank and dark each door,
And every lintel and every floor
With the drifting silt of the years was deep;
And shapes that crawl and writhe and creep
Traced strange arabesques over all.

It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

Above, in the long low dancing-hall,
You could hear the death-watch in the wall,
A sound that seemed to jibe and mock
Like the eerie tick of a ghostly clock.
In every corner and crevice hung
Spider-tapestries that clung
To the crumbling mortar,--grim festoons;
And the wraith of ancient rigadoons
Floated faintly, as though unseen
Fiddlers fingered the chorded bow,
And maskers, antic of garb and mien,
Flitted in sinuous to and fro.

It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

And every chamber, wide and bare,
Breathed on the dim and moated air
Spectral echoings,--doubts and fears,
Hates and loves of the parted years;
And every hallway and every stair
Creaked and groaned with the gruesome tread
Of those long silent, of those long dead,--
Youth, in its radiant rainbow guise;
Wrinkled Age, with its shrunken eyes;
Honor, garbed in the mail of Trust;
Poverty, Riches and slinking Lust;
Oh, what a motley!--vanished quite
Into the vastnesses of night!

It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

And so I left it standing still
And stark by the crossroads under the hill,
With its sagging roof and its rotting beams,
And all of its tangled maze of dreams.
But it holds me, aye, it haunts me yet,
Like a hooded vision of Regret,
Though I fain would say to it, "Be gone!"
As to the night mists saith the dawn.
And yet I needs must let it dwell
In memory till some happy spell
Shall bid it be invisible!
Come, healing spirit, and touch my soul,
And make it sweet and sane and whole!

It had five chimneys, had that Inn,
(As every man has senses five,
The while upon earth he bides alive)
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!
And rumor said it was soiled with sin!

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Clinton Scollard