C.H. Sisson’s "The Pattern" is a poem of thirty stanzas of four lines each, published in 1993 by the Enitharmon Press of London as part of its Enitharmon Pamphlets series. It’s a stark and elegant little book, set in 10-point Garamond Light with a cover the color of vellum. The copy in my university library is fitted with a tacky cardboard cover, but I understand. Otherwise, it would be filed away on a restricted shelf and I would only be permitted to visit it, like an inmate in prison. This copy is number 164 of the two-hundred printed.
Expressions of futility, like suicide notes, tend to be brief. One doesn’t rhapsodize at great length the stringency of existence. “The Pattern” is as grim a statement of the vanity of human wishes as I know, yet oddly bracing because of Sisson’s immunity to the blandishments of cant:
“The days seem long now, and life is long
Although the years hurry away to death;
No-one can daunt time; the young and strong
Are weak before it draws their dying breath.”