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But for the Grace of God

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Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson

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 “There, but for the grace of God, goes…”


There is a question that I ask,
And ask again: 
What hunger was half-hidden by the mask 
That he wore then? 

There was a word for me to say
That I said not; 
And in the past there was another day 
That I forgot: 

A dreary, cold, unwholesome day, 
Racked overhead,—
As if the world were turning the wrong way, 
And the sun dead: 

A day that comes back well enough 
Now he is gone.
What then? Has memory no other stuff To seize upon? Wherever he may wander now In his despair, Would he be more contented in the slough If all were there? And yet he brought a kind of light Into the room; And when he left, a tinge of something bright Survived the gloom.
Why will he not be where he is, And not with me? The hours that are my life are mine, not his,— Or used to be.
What numerous imps invisible Has he at hand, Far-flying and forlorn as what they tell At his command? What hold of weirdness or of worth Can he possess, That he may speak from anywhere on earth His loneliness? Shall I be caught and held again In the old net?— He brought a sorry sunbeam with him then, But it beams yet.


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