Nothing about the food, the wine, the subjects
Of that night’s passions. Nothing even about
The weather—rain most likely, the damp seeping
Under doors. Just those two words for a night
When everything else slipped into the vacancies
Of the unrecorded. That’s all that’s left. We know
Now the more complete story that Boswell chose
Not to tell: the good doctor’s wearied martyr’s gaze
As he walked the alleyways where the poor remained
Poor, the blind, blind, where the only lesson learned
From suffering was how much better it would be
Not to suffer. We know, too, that Johnson wanted
About this time to rest in God and yet could not
Imagine how to surrender himself to a future
He couldn’t anticipate; he couldn’t help but believe,
To his dismay, that all life needed to go wrong was
The hope it would go right. Too many could not see
How evil fouled the gears of the century’s benign God.
He was headed for another breakdown; Mrs. Thrale
Had already been secretly entrusted with a padlock
And chain to restrain his fits when the time came.