The poem is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:
Death is the eternal tedious platitude
With which all tales invariably end.
Deviceless seems the scurvy demiurge
Who can invent no other doom, but must
Repeat, as puerile penny-a-liners do,
This horror staled by time-long usage. Why,
For variation's sake, if for naught else,
Not dower with immortality one rose,
One seer, one star, one duad of blest lovers?...
O, bestial, dumb submission! Will no voice
Cry out against this cosmic abatoir
Where God the butcher drives us one by one
Into the slaughter-pen and slits our throats?
In lieu or prayer or incense, let us proffer
A protest and a taunt, deriding Him
Who is corruption's pimp, and caterer
To pampered maggots...
With this poem, CAS joins a passionate tradition of modern-era poets who wrote on the same subject. A few famous examples come to mind:
- Emily Dickinson: "Because I could not stop for Death"
- Edna St. Vincent Millay: "Conscientious Objector"
- Dylan Thomas: "Do not go gentle into that good night"
CAS' take on the theme is almost vicious in tone, giving no quarter to "God the butcher", who is labeled as "corruption's pimp, and caterer".
Given the extreme language used in "Contra Mortem", I can see why CAS chose not to publish this one. And yet that very intensity of diction reveals a side of the artist not often seen in his best-known work, where a sardonic viewpoint is more often at work.
Although we don't have an exact date of composition, it is believed to have been written somewhere between 1930 and 1938. That time span covers the death of CAS' mother (1935) and the death of his father (1937). One can't help but wonder if "Contra Mortem" was a reaction to one or both of those sad events.