Vincent Clay





What is your substance, whereof are you made,

That millions of strange shadows on you tend?

Since every one hath every one one shade,

And you, but one, can every shadow lend.

Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit

Is poorly imitated after you;

On Helen’s cheek all art of beauty set

And you in Grecian tires are painted new;

Speak of the spring, and foison of the year:

The one doth shadow of your beauty show,

The other as your bounty doth appear,

And you in every blessed shape we know.

    In all external grace you have some part,

    But you like none, none you, for constant heart.





What with all your idle hours have you made,

That to the shifting lives of all you tend?

Since you chase the changes worked by sun not shade,

And to rank pullulation your mass you lend;

Describe true beauty, but the counterfeit

Is preferred so you can be any you;

On flesh, with cash-choice, an edge may be set

And the face of beauty is scratched in new;

Speak only of what you will do next year;

The chance of getting on a TV show,

Th’abundance of change, don’t let it appear,

And make yourself amazing – we know.

    In time’s progress you do have a part,

    But just in succession of heart and heart.





What beer should we drink? A choice to be made

That could change lives. What way tonight to tend?

Since every choice is a change: which lamp shade,

And to get it, which bank persuade to lend;

Describe the perfect house: its counterfeit

Is what you might attain – and lucky you;

On any screen put on any box set

And it will entertain if it is new;

Speak now and ever throughout the year;

The words we choose our surfaces might show,

The best we can, but decay will appear,

And decay keep appearing new. We know

    In time: death. So one part gin, lime one part,

    But the next might offer a change of heart.








Th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action; and till action, lust

Is perjured, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;

Enjoyed no sooner but despised straight;

Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,

Past reason hated as a swallowed bait,

On purpose laid to make the taker mad;

Mad in pursuit, and in possession so,

Had, having, and in quest, to have extreme;

A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;

Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.

    All this the world well knows, yet none knows well

    To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.





Th’urge of ambition is blunted, and shame

Is lost. Work is done; prescription lust

Is accorded. Numb, happy, not to blame,

Savagery tamed, the spirit put in trust;

Enjoyed is the rhythm of life lived straight;

Past thinking further on trials never had,

Past thinking farther than our daily bait,

On every table laid, except those of the mad;

Mad to wish disorder, but we, just so,

Had them done. Now we’re done with the extreme;

A brief lull after sex, but never woe;

Before, to come, slip to a single dream.

    All things we relinquish, to be fed well

    To the future, know not heaven or hell.





Th’orrid rain is no surprise. The real shame

Is th’effect on the cricket. Plus, outdoors lust

Is harder to fulfil, leading to blame,

Savage recriminations, loss of trust;

Enjoyed, though, tea, served from pot piping straight;

Past gashouse on one short stroll I had,

Past the canal and my brother hooking bait,

On one night drank seven pints – that was mad;

Mad like the other Friday. OK, so,

Had a small headache, but nothing extreme;

A stubborn flaky scalp is my great woe;

Before midsummer, too, odd repeating dream.

    All in all, now, the Met Office done well

    To tell us today will be hot in hell.


Also published in Introducing, 'Sommerpause'