When Harry Moseley was working at Rutherford’s laboratory in Manchester, he was famous for working through the night, and for knowing where to find something to eat and drink at 3.00 a.m.
Three in the morning
What’s the time? It’s three
in the morning. You’re dying suddenly
for a cup of tea – something to eat.
“Tea, chaps? Trust me, I know where.”
Past the sleepy porter in his lair
“’Night, Ron! Or morning rather!”
They clatter down the steps together.
Three a.m. and out to the buffeting tide
of Manchester. The walls stand hollow-eyed.
The lab the only smudge of light
among the blackened buildings. Dead of night.
Three in the morning and a brazier burns
down by the market. Tea in urns,
the smell of bacon, thick mugs, thicker brew,
and huddled round in ones and twos
the drovers, tramps, and haulers, reprobates
and cabmen, coalmen, servants out too late
and Harry and the others ‘seeing life’.
Night comrades of the world outside.
Oh, what’s the time now? Three.
and Manchester’s turned to memory.
Dim figures still around a fire,
same sense of unity. The voices quiet.
New smell of cordite, mud, and fear,
the grumble of the battle. Coming here.
Oh close your eyes, run fast down Coupland Street
back to the lab, brassed door, and clattering feet,
‘Good morning, Ron!’ and down the corridor
to take up your experiments once more.
Set down the elements in ordered rows.
Shut out the sunrise and the morning glow.
Harry, don’t ask the time. Don’t ask the date.
It’s three in the morning now. And far too late.
© Meg Barton, October 2015