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Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Peace on Earth

 He took a frayed hat from his head, 
And “Peace on Earth” was what he said.
“A morsel out of what you’re worth, And there we have it: Peace on Earth.
Not much, although a little more Than what there was on earth before I’m as you see, I’m Ichabod,— But never mind the ways I’ve trod; I’m sober now, so help me God.
” I could not pass the fellow by.
“Do you believe in God?” said I; “And is there to be Peace on Earth?” “Tonight we celebrate the birth,” He said, “of One who died for men; The Son of God, we say.
What then? Your God, or mine? I’d make you laugh Were I to tell you even half That I have learned of mine today Where yours would hardly seem to stay.
Could He but follow in and out Some anthropoids I know about, The god to whom you may have prayed Might see a world He never made.
” “Your words are flowing full,” said I; “But yet they give me no reply; Your fountain might as well be dry.
” “A wiser One than you, my friend, Would wait and hear me to the end; And for his eyes a light would shine Through this unpleasant shell of mine That in your fancy makes of me A Christmas curiosity.
All right, I might be worse than that; And you might now be lying flat; I might have done it from behind, And taken what there was to find.
Don’t worry, for I’m not that kind.
‘Do I believe in God?’ Is that The price tonight of a new hat? Has he commanded that his name Be written everywhere the same? Have all who live in every place Identified his hidden face? Who knows but he may like as well My story as one you may tell? And if he show me there be Peace On Earth, as there be fields and trees Outside a jail-yard, am I wrong If now I sing him a new song? Your world is in yourself, my friend, For your endurance to the end; And all the Peace there is on Earth Is faith in what your world is worth, And saying, without any lies, Your world could not be otherwise.
” “One might say that and then be shot,” I told him; and he said: “Why not?” I ceased, and gave him rather more Than he was counting of my store.
“And since I have it, thanks to you, Don’t ask me what I mean to do,” Said he.
“Believe that even I Would rather tell the truth than lie— On Christmas Eve.
No matter why.
” His unshaved, educated face, His inextinguishable grace.
And his hard smile, are with me still, Deplore the vision as I will; For whatsoever he be at, So droll a derelict as that Should have at least another hat.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

London Bridge

 “Do I hear them? Yes, I hear the children singing—and what of it? 
Have you come with eyes afire to find me now and ask me that? 
If I were not their father and if you were not their mother, 
We might believe they made a noise….
What are you—driving at!” “Well, be glad that you can hear them, and be glad they are so near us,— For I have heard the stars of heaven, and they were nearer still.
All within an hour it is that I have heard them calling, And though I pray for them to cease, I know they never will; For their music on my heart, though you may freeze it, will fall always, Like summer snow that never melts upon a mountain-top.
Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead—the children—singing? Do you hear the children singing?… God, will you make them stop!” “And what now in His holy name have you to do with mountains? We’re back to town again, my dear, and we’ve a dance tonight.
Frozen hearts and falling music? Snow and stars, and—what the devil! Say it over to me slowly, and be sure you have it right.
” “God knows if I be right or wrong in saying what I tell you, Or if I know the meaning any more of what I say.
All I know is, it will kill me if I try to keep it hidden— Well, I met him….
Yes, I met him, and I talked with him—today.
” “You met him? Did you meet the ghost of someone you had poisoned, Long ago, before I knew you for the woman that you are? Take a chair; and don’t begin your stories always in the middle.
Was he man, or was he demon? Anyhow, you’ve gone too far To go back, and I’m your servant.
I’m the lord, but you’re the master.
Now go on with what you know, for I’m excited.
” “Do you mean— Do you mean to make me try to think that you know less than I do?” “I know that you foreshadow the beginning of a scene.
Pray be careful, and as accurate as if the doors of heaven Were to swing or to stay bolted from now on for evermore.
” “Do you conceive, with all your smooth contempt of every feeling, Of hiding what you know and what you must have known before? Is it worth a woman’s torture to stand here and have you smiling, With only your poor fetish of possession on your side? No thing but one is wholly sure, and that’s not one to scare me; When I meet it I may say to God at last that I have tried.
And yet, for all I know, or all I dare believe, my trials Henceforward will be more for you to bear than are your own; And you must give me keys of yours to rooms I have not entered.
Do you see me on your threshold all my life, and there alone? Will you tell me where you see me in your fancy—when it leads you Far enough beyond the moment for a glance at the abyss?” “Will you tell me what intrinsic and amazing sort of nonsense You are crowding on the patience of the man who gives you—this? Look around you and be sorry you’re not living in an attic, With a civet and a fish-net, and with you to pay the rent.
I say words that you can spell without the use of all your letters; And I grant, if you insist, that I’ve a guess at what you meant.
” “Have I told you, then, for nothing, that I met him? Are you trying To be merry while you try to make me hate you?” “Think again, My dear, before you tell me, in a language unbecoming To a lady, what you plan to tell me next.
If I complain, If I seem an atom peevish at the preference you mention— Or imply, to be precise—you may believe, or you may not, That I’m a trifle more aware of what he wants than you are.
But I shouldn’t throw that at you.
Make believe that I forgot.
Make believe that he’s a genius, if you like,—but in the meantime Don’t go back to rocking-horses.
There, there, there, now.
” “Make believe! When you see me standing helpless on a plank above a whirlpool, Do I drown, or do I hear you when you say it? Make believe? How much more am I to say or do for you before I tell you That I met him! What’s to follow now may be for you to choose.
Do you hear me? Won’t you listen? It’s an easy thing to listen….
” “And it’s easy to be crazy when there’s everything to lose.
” “If at last you have a notion that I mean what I am saying, Do I seem to tell you nothing when I tell you I shall try? If you save me, and I lose him—I don’t know—it won’t much matter.
I dare say that I’ve lied enough, but now I do not lie.
” “Do you fancy me the one man who has waited and said nothing While a wife has dragged an old infatuation from a tomb? Give the thing a little air and it will vanish into ashes.
There you are—piff! presto!” “When I came into this room, It seemed as if I saw the place, and you there at your table, As you are now at this moment, for the last time in my life; And I told myself before I came to find you, ‘I shall tell him, If I can, what I have learned of him since I became his wife.
’ And if you say, as I’ve no doubt you will before I finish, That you have tried unceasingly, with all your might and main, To teach me, knowing more than I of what it was I needed, Don’t think, with all you may have thought, that you have tried in vain; For you have taught me more than hides in all the shelves of knowledge Of how little you found that’s in me and was in me all along.
I believed, if I intruded nothing on you that I cared for, I’d be half as much as horses,—and it seems that I was wrong; I believed there was enough of earth in me, with all my nonsense Over things that made you sleepy, to keep something still awake; But you taught me soon to read my book, and God knows I have read it— Ages longer than an angel would have read it for your sake.
I have said that you must open other doors than I have entered, But I wondered while I said it if I might not be obscure.
Is there anything in all your pedigrees and inventories With a value more elusive than a dollar’s? Are you sure That if I starve another year for you I shall be stronger To endure another like it—and another—till I’m dead?” “Has your tame cat sold a picture?—or more likely had a windfall? Or for God’s sake, what’s broke loose? Have you a bee-hive in your head? A little more of this from you will not be easy hearing Do you know that? Understand it, if you do; for if you won’t….
What the devil are you saying! Make believe you never said it, And I’ll say I never heard it….
Oh, you….
If you….
” “If I don’t?” “There are men who say there’s reason hidden somewhere in a woman, But I doubt if God himself remembers where the key was hung.
” “He may not; for they say that even God himself is growing.
I wonder if He makes believe that He is growing young; I wonder if He makes believe that women who are giving All they have in holy loathing to a stranger all their lives Are the wise ones who build houses in the Bible….
” “Stop—you devil!” “…Or that souls are any whiter when their bodies are called wives.
If a dollar’s worth of gold will hoop the walls of hell together, Why need heaven be such a ruin of a place that never was? And if at last I lied my starving soul away to nothing, Are you sure you might not miss it? Have you come to such a pass That you would have me longer in your arms if you discovered That I made you into someone else….
Oh!…Well, there are worse ways.
But why aim it at my feet—unless you fear you may be sorry….
There are many days ahead of you.
” “I do not see those days.
” “I can see them.
Granted even I am wrong, there are the children.
And are they to praise their father for his insight if we die? Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead—the children—singing? Do you hear them? Do you hear the children?” “Damn the children!” “Why? What have they done?…Well, then,—do it….
Do it now, and have it over.
” “Oh, you devil!…Oh, you….
” “No, I’m not a devil, I’m a prophet— One who sees the end already of so much that one end more Would have now the small importance of one other small illusion, Which in turn would have a welcome where the rest have gone before.
But if I were you, my fancy would look on a little farther For the glimpse of a release that may be somewhere still in sight.
Furthermore, you must remember those two hundred invitations For the dancing after dinner.
We shall have to shine tonight.
We shall dance, and be as happy as a pair of merry spectres, On the grave of all the lies that we shall never have to tell; We shall dance among the ruins of the tomb of our endurance, And I have not a doubt that we shall do it very well.
There!—I’m glad you’ve put it back; for I don’t like it.
Shut the drawer now.
No—no—don’t cancel anything.
I’ll dance until I drop.
I can’t walk yet, but I’m going to….
Go away somewhere, and leave me….
Oh, you children! Oh, you children!…God, will they never stop!”
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Discovery

 We told of him as one who should have soared 
And seen for us the devastating light 
Whereof there is not either day or night, 
And shared with us the glamour of the Word 
That fell once upon Amos to record
For men at ease in Zion, when the sight 
Of ills obscured aggrieved him and the might 
Of Hamath was a warning of the Lord.
Assured somehow that he would make us wise, Our pleasure was to wait; and our surprise Was hard when we confessed the dry return Of his regret.
For we were still to learn That earth has not a school where we may go For wisdom, or for more than we may know.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Ballad by the Fire

 Slowly I smoke and hug my knee, 
The while a witless masquerade 
Of things that only children see 
Floats in a mist of light and shade: 
They pass, a flimsy cavalcade, 
And with a weak, remindful glow, 
The falling embers break and fade, 
As one by one the phantoms go.
Then, with a melancholy glee To think where once my fancy strayed, I muse on what the years may be Whose coming tales are all unsaid, Till tongs and shovel, snugly laid Within their shadowed niches, grow By grim degrees to pick and spade, As one by one the phantoms go.
But then, what though the mystic Three Around me ply their merry trade? -- And Charon soon may carry me Across the gloomy Stygian glade? -- Be up, my soul! nor be afraid Of what some unborn year may show; But mind your human debts are paid, As one by one the phantoms go.
ENVOY Life is the game that must be played: This truth at least, good friend, we know; So live and laugh, nor be dismayed As one by one the phantoms go.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Late Summer

 (ALCAICS)


Confused, he found her lavishing feminine 
Gold upon clay, and found her inscrutable; 
And yet she smiled.
Why, then, should horrors Be as they were, without end, her playthings? And why were dead years hungrily telling her Lies of the dead, who told them again to her? If now she knew, there might be kindness Clamoring yet where a faith lay stifled.
A little faith in him, and the ruinous Past would be for time to annihilate, And wash out, like a tide that washes Out of the sand what a child has drawn there.
God, what a shining handful of happiness, Made out of days and out of eternities, Were now the pulsing end of patience— Could he but have what a ghost had stolen! What was a man before him, or ten of them, While he was here alive who could answer them, And in their teeth fling confirmations Harder than agates against an egg-shell? But now the man was dead, and would come again Never, though she might honor ineffably The flimsy wraith of him she conjured Out of a dream with his wand of absence.
And if the truth were now but a mummery, Meriting pride’s implacable irony, So much the worse for pride.
Moreover, Save her or fail, there was conscience always.
Meanwhile, a few misgivings of innocence, Imploring to be sheltered and credited, Were not amiss when she revealed them.
Whether she struggled or not, he saw them.
Also, he saw that while she was hearing him Her eyes had more and more of the past in them; And while he told what cautious honor Told him was all he had best be sure of, He wondered once or twice, inadvertently, Where shifting winds were driving his argosies, Long anchored and as long unladen, Over the foam for the golden chances.
“If men were not for killing so carelessly, And women were for wiser endurances,” He said, “we might have yet a world here Fitter for Truth to be seen abroad in; “If Truth were not so strange in her nakedness, And we were less forbidden to look at it, We might not have to look.
” He stared then Down at the sand where the tide threw forward Its cold, unconquered lines, that unceasingly Foamed against hope, and fell.
He was calm enough, Although he knew he might be silenced Out of all calm; and the night was coming.
“I climb for you the peak of his infamy That you may choose your fall if you cling to it.
No more for me unless you say more.
All you have left of a dream defends you: “The truth may be as evil an augury As it was needful now for the two of us.
We cannot have the dead between us.
Tell me to go, and I go.
”—She pondered: “What you believe is right for the two of us Makes it as right that you are not one of us.
If this be needful truth you tell me, Spare me, and let me have lies hereafter.
” She gazed away where shadows were covering The whole cold ocean’s healing indifference.
No ship was coming.
When the darkness Fell, she was there, and alone, still gazing.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Octaves

 I 

We thrill too strangely at the master's touch;
We shrink too sadly from the larger self
Which for its own completeness agitates
And undetermines us; we do not feel -- 
We dare not feel it yet -- the splendid shame
Of uncreated failure; we forget,
The while we groan, that God's accomplishment
Is always and unfailingly at hand.
II Tumultuously void of a clean scheme Whereon to build, whereof to formulate, The legion life that riots in mankind Goes ever plunging upward, up and down, Most like some crazy regiment at arms, Undisciplined of aught but Ignorance, And ever led resourcelessly along To brainless carnage by drunk trumpeters.
III To me the groaning of world-worshippers Rings like a lonely music played in hell By one with art enough to cleave the walls Of heaven with his cadence, but without The wisdom or the will to comprehend The strangeness of his own perversity, And all without the courage to deny The profit and the pride of his defeat.
IV While we are drilled in error, we are lost Alike to truth and usefulness.
We think We are great warriors now, and we can brag Like Titans; but the world is growing young, And we, the fools of time, are growing with it: -- We do not fight to-day, we only die; We are too proud of death, and too ashamed Of God, to know enough to be alive.
V There is one battle-field whereon we fall Triumphant and unconquered; but, alas! We are too fleshly fearful of ourselves To fight there till our days are whirled and blurred By sorrow, and the ministering wheels Of anguish take us eastward, where the clouds Of human gloom are lost against the gleam That shines on Thought's impenetrable mail.
VI When we shall hear no more the cradle-songs Of ages -- when the timeless hymns of Love Defeat them and outsound them -- we shall know The rapture of that large release which all Right science comprehends; and we shall read, With unoppressed and unoffended eyes, That record of All-Soul whereon God writes In everlasting runes the truth of Him.
VII The guerdon of new childhood is repose: -- Once he has read the primer of right thought, A man may claim between two smithy strokes Beatitude enough to realize God's parallel completeness in the vague And incommensurable excellence That equitably uncreates itself And makes a whirlwind of the Universe.
VIII There is no loneliness: -- no matter where We go, nor whence we come, nor what good friends Forsake us in the seeming, we are all At one with a complete companionship; And though forlornly joyless be the ways We travel, the compensate spirit-gleams Of Wisdom shaft the darkness here and there, Like scattered lamps in unfrequented streets.
IX When one that you and I had all but sworn To be the purest thing God ever made Bewilders us until at last it seems An angel has come back restigmatized, -- Faith wavers, and we wonder what there is On earth to make us faithful any more, But never are quite wise enough to know The wisdom that is in that wonderment.
X Where does a dead man go? -- The dead man dies; But the free life that would no longer feed On fagots of outburned and shattered flesh Wakes to a thrilled invisible advance, Unchained (or fettered else) of memory; And when the dead man goes it seems to me 'T were better for us all to do away With weeping, and be glad that he is gone.
XI So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended, And unremunerative years we search To get where life begins, and still we groan Because we do not find the living spark Where no spark ever was; and thus we die, Still searching, like poor old astronomers Who totter off to bed and go to sleep, To dream of untriangulated stars.
XII With conscious eyes not yet sincere enough To pierce the glimmered cloud that fluctuates Between me and the glorifying light That screens itself with knowledge, I discern The searching rays of wisdom that reach through The mist of shame's infirm credulity, And infinitely wonder if hard words Like mine have any message for the dead.
XIII I grant you friendship is a royal thing, But none shall ever know that royalty For what it is till he has realized His best friend in himself.
'T is then, perforce, That man's unfettered faith indemnifies Of its own conscious freedom the old shame, And love's revealed infinitude supplants Of its own wealth and wisdom the old scorn.
XIV Though the sick beast infect us, we are fraught Forever with indissoluble Truth, Wherein redress reveals itself divine, Transitional, transcendent.
Grief and loss, Disease and desolation, are the dreams Of wasted excellence; and every dream Has in it something of an ageless fact That flouts deformity and laughs at years.
XV We lack the courage to be where we are: -- We love too much to travel on old roads, To triumph on old fields; we love too much To consecrate the magic of dead things, And yieldingly to linger by long walls Of ruin, where the ruinous moonlight That sheds a lying glory on old stones Befriends us with a wizard's enmity.
XVI Something as one with eyes that look below The battle-smoke to glimpse the foeman's charge, We through the dust of downward years may scan The onslaught that awaits this idiot world Where blood pays blood for nothing, and where life Pays life to madness, till at last the ports Of gilded helplessness be battered through By the still crash of salvatory steel.
XVII To you that sit with Sorrow like chained slaves, And wonder if the night will ever come, I would say this: The night will never come, And sorrow is not always.
But my words Are not enough; your eyes are not enough; The soul itself must insulate the Real, Or ever you do cherish in this life -- In this life or in any life -- repose.
XVIII Like a white wall whereon forever breaks Unsatisfied the tumult of green seas, Man's unconjectured godliness rebukes With its imperial silence the lost waves Of insufficient grief.
This mortal surge That beats against us now is nothing else Than plangent ignorance.
Truth neither shakes Nor wavers; but the world shakes, and we shriek.
XIX Nor jewelled phrase nor mere mellifluous rhyme Reverberates aright, or ever shall, One cadence of that infinite plain-song Which is itself all music.
Stronger notes Than any that have ever touched the world Must ring to tell it -- ring like hammer-blows, Right-echoed of a chime primordial, On anvils, in the gleaming of God's forge.
XX The prophet of dead words defeats himself: Whoever would acknowledge and include The foregleam and the glory of the real, Must work with something else than pen and ink And painful preparation: he must work With unseen implements that have no names, And he must win withal, to do that work, Good fortitude, clean wisdom, and strong skill.
XXI To curse the chilled insistence of the dawn Because the free gleam lingers; to defraud The constant opportunity that lives Unchallenged in all sorrow; to forget For this large prodigality of gold That larger generosity of thought, -- These are the fleshly clogs of human greed, The fundamental blunders of mankind.
XXII Forebodings are the fiends of Recreance; The master of the moment, the clean seer Of ages, too securely scans what is, Ever to be appalled at what is not; He sees beyond the groaning borough lines Of Hell, God's highways gleaming, and he knows That Love's complete communion is the end Of anguish to the liberated man.
XXIII Here by the windy docks I stand alone, But yet companioned.
There the vessel goes, And there my friend goes with it; but the wake That melts and ebbs between that friend and me Love's earnest is of Life's all-purposeful And all-triumphant sailing, when the ships Of Wisdom loose their fretful chains and swing Forever from the crumbled wharves of Time.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Ballad of a Ship

 Down by the flash of the restless water 
The dim White Ship like a white bird lay; 
Laughing at life and the world they sought her, 
And out she swung to the silvering bay.
Then off they flew on their roystering way, And the keen moon fired the light foam flying Up from the flood where the faint stars play, And the bones of the brave in the wave are lying.
'T was a king's fair son with a king's fair daughter, And full three hundred beside, they say, -- Revelling on for the lone, cold slaughter So soon to seize them and hide them for aye; But they danced and they drank and their souls grew gay, Nor ever they knew of a ghoul's eye spying Their splendor a flickering phantom to stray Where the bones of the brave in the wave are lying.
Through the mist of a drunken dream they brought her (This wild white bird) for the sea-fiend's prey: The pitiless reef in his hard clutch caught her, And hurled her down where the dead men stay.
A torturing silence of wan dismay -- Shrieks and curses of mad souls dying -- Then down they sank to slumber and sway Where the bones of the brave in the wave are lying.
ENVOY Prince, do you sleep to the sound alway Of the mournful surge and the sea-birds' crying? -- Or does love still shudder and steel still slay, Where the bones of the brave in the wave are lying?
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Ballad of Dead Friends

 As we the withered ferns 
By the roadway lying, 
Time, the jester, spurns 
All our prayers and prying -- 
All our tears and sighing, 
Sorrow, change, and woe -- 
All our where-and-whying 
For friends that come and go.
Life awakes and burns, Age and death defying, Till at last it learns All but Love is dying; Love's the trade we're plying, God has willed it so; Shrouds are what we're buying For friends that come and go.
Man forever yearns For the thing that's flying.
Everywhere he turns, Men to dust are drying, -- Dust that wanders, eying (With eyes that hardly glow) New faces, dimly spying For friends that come and go.
ENVOY And thus we all are nighing The truth we fear to know: Death will end our crying For friends that come and go.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Miniver Cheevy

Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
He wept that he was ever born,
And he had reasons.
Miniver loved the days of old When swords were bright and steeds were prancing; The vision of a warrior bold Would set him dancing.
Miniver sighed for what was not, And dreamed, and rested from his labors; He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot, And Priam's neighbors.
Miniver mourned the ripe renown That made so many a name so fragrant; He mourned Romance, now on the town, And Art, a vagrant.
Miniver loved the Medici, Albeit he had never seen one; He would have sinned incessantly Could he have been one.
Miniver cursed the commonplace And eyed a khaki suit with loathing; He missed the mediæval grace Of iron clothing.
Miniver scorned the gold he sought But sore annoyed was he without it; Miniver thought, and thought, and thought, And thought about it.
Miniver Cheevy, born too late, Scratched his head and kept on thinking; Miniver coughed, and called it fate, And kept on drinking.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Aunt Imogen

 Aunt Imogen was coming, and therefore 
The children—Jane, Sylvester, and Young George— 
Were eyes and ears; for there was only one 
Aunt Imogen to them in the whole world, 
And she was in it only for four weeks
In fifty-two.
But those great bites of time Made all September a Queen’s Festival; And they would strive, informally, to make The most of them.
—The mother understood, And wisely stepped away.
Aunt Imogen Was there for only one month in the year, While she, the mother,—she was always there; And that was what made all the difference.
She knew it must be so, for Jane had once Expounded it to her so learnedly That she had looked away from the child’s eyes And thought; and she had thought of many things.
There was a demonstration every time Aunt Imogen appeared, and there was more Than one this time.
And she was at a loss Just how to name the meaning of it all: It puzzled her to think that she could be So much to any crazy thing alive— Even to her sister’s little savages Who knew no better than to be themselves; But in the midst of her glad wonderment She found herself besieged and overcome By two tight arms and one tumultuous head, And therewith half bewildered and half pained By the joy she felt and by the sudden love That proved itself in childhood’s honest noise.
Jane, by the wings of sex, had reached her first; And while she strangled her, approvingly, Sylvester thumped his drum and Young George howled.
But finally, when all was rectified, And she had stilled the clamor of Young George By giving him a long ride on her shoulders, They went together into the old room That looked across the fields; and Imogen Gazed out with a girl’s gladness in her eyes, Happy to know that she was back once more Where there were those who knew her, and at last Had gloriously got away again From cabs and clattered asphalt for a while; And there she sat and talked and looked and laughed And made the mother and the children laugh.
Aunt Imogen made everybody laugh.
There was the feminine paradox—that she Who had so little sunshine for herself Should have so much for others.
How it was That she could make, and feel for making it, So much of joy for them, and all along Be covering, like a scar, and while she smiled, That hungering incompleteness and regret— That passionate ache for something of her own, For something of herself—she never knew.
She knew that she could seem to make them all Believe there was no other part of her Than her persistent happiness; but the why And how she did not know.
Still none of them Could have a thought that she was living down— Almost as if regret were criminal, So proud it was and yet so profitless— The penance of a dream, and that was good.
Her sister Jane—the mother of little Jane, Sylvester, and Young George—might make herself Believe she knew, for she—well, she was Jane.
Young George, however, did not yield himself To nourish the false hunger of a ghost That made no good return.
He saw too much: The accumulated wisdom of his years Had so conclusively made plain to him The permanent profusion of a world Where everybody might have everything To do, and almost everything to eat, That he was jubilantly satisfied And all unthwarted by adversity.
Young George knew things.
The world, he had found out, Was a good place, and life was a good game— Particularly when Aunt Imogen Was in it.
And one day it came to pass— One rainy day when she was holding him And rocking him—that he, in his own right, Took it upon himself to tell her so; And something in his way of telling it— The language, or the tone, or something else— Gripped like insidious fingers on her throat, And then went foraging as if to make A plaything of her heart.
Such undeserved And unsophisticated confidence Went mercilessly home; and had she sat Before a looking glass, the deeps of it Could not have shown more clearly to her then Than one thought-mirrored little glimpse had shown, The pang that wrenched her face and filled her eyes With anguish and intolerable mist.
The blow that she had vaguely thrust aside Like fright so many times had found her now: Clean-thrust and final it had come to her From a child’s lips at last, as it had come Never before, and as it might be felt Never again.
Some grief, like some delight, Stings hard but once: to custom after that The rapture or the pain submits itself, And we are wiser than we were before.
And Imogen was wiser; though at first Her dream-defeating wisdom was indeed A thankless heritage: there was no sweet, No bitter now; nor was there anything To make a daily meaning for her life— Till truth, like Harlequin, leapt out somehow From ambush and threw sudden savor to it— But the blank taste of time.
There were no dreams, No phantoms in her future any more: One clinching revelation of what was One by-flash of irrevocable chance, Had acridly but honestly foretold The mystical fulfilment of a life That might have once … But that was all gone by: There was no need of reaching back for that: The triumph was not hers: there was no love Save borrowed love: there was no might have been.
But there was yet Young George—and he had gone Conveniently to sleep, like a good boy; And there was yet Sylvester with his drum, And there was frowzle-headed little Jane; And there was Jane the sister, and the mother,— Her sister, and the mother of them all.
They were not hers, not even one of them: She was not born to be so much as that, For she was born to be Aunt Imogen.
Now she could see the truth and look at it; Now she could make stars out where once had palled A future’s emptiness; now she could share With others—ah, the others!—to the end The largess of a woman who could smile; Now it was hers to dance the folly down, And all the murmuring; now it was hers To be Aunt Imogen.
—So, when Young George Woke up and blinked at her with his big eyes, And smiled to see the way she blinked at him, ’T was only in old concord with the stars That she took hold of him and held him close, Close to herself, and crushed him till he laughed.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Lancelot

 Gawaine, aware again of Lancelot 
In the King’s garden, coughed and followed him; 
Whereat he turned and stood with folded arms 
And weary-waiting eyes, cold and half-closed— 
Hard eyes, where doubts at war with memories
Fanned a sad wrath.
“Why frown upon a friend? Few live that have too many,” Gawaine said, And wished unsaid, so thinly came the light Between the narrowing lids at which he gazed.
“And who of us are they that name their friends?” Lancelot said.
“They live that have not any.
Why do they live, Gawaine? Ask why, and answer.
” Two men of an elected eminence, They stood for a time silent.
Then Gawaine, Acknowledging the ghost of what was gone, Put out his hand: “Rather, I say, why ask? If I be not the friend of Lancelot, May I be nailed alive along the ground And emmets eat me dead.
If I be not The friend of Lancelot, may I be fried With other liars in the pans of hell.
What item otherwise of immolation Your Darkness may invent, be it mine to endure And yours to gloat on.
For the time between, Consider this thing you see that is my hand.
If once, it has been yours a thousand times; Why not again? Gawaine has never lied To Lancelot; and this, of all wrong days— This day before the day when you go south To God knows what accomplishment of exile— Were surely an ill day for lies to find An issue or a cause or an occasion.
King Ban your father and King Lot my father, Were they alive, would shake their heads in sorrow To see us as we are, and I shake mine In wonder.
Will you take my hand, or no? Strong as I am, I do not hold it out For ever and on air.
You see—my hand.
” Lancelot gave his hand there to Gawaine, Who took it, held it, and then let it go, Chagrined with its indifference.
“Yes, Gawaine, I go tomorrow, and I wish you well; You and your brothers, Gareth, Gaheris,— And Agravaine; yes, even Agravaine, Whose tongue has told all Camelot and all Britain More lies than yet have hatched of Modred’s envy.
You say that you have never lied to me, And I believe it so.
Let it be so.
For now and always.
Gawaine, I wish you well.
Tomorrow I go south, as Merlin went, But not for Merlin’s end.
I go, Gawaine, And leave you to your ways.
There are ways left.
” “There are three ways I know, three famous ways, And all in Holy Writ,” Gawaine said, smiling: “The snake’s way and the eagle’s way are two, And then we have a man’s way with a maid— Or with a woman who is not a maid.
Your late way is to send all women scudding, To the last flash of the last cramoisy, While you go south to find the fires of God.
Since we came back again to Camelot From our immortal Quest—I came back first— No man has known you for the man you were Before you saw whatever ’t was you saw, To make so little of kings and queens and friends Thereafter.
Modred? Agravaine? My brothers? And what if they be brothers? What are brothers, If they be not our friends, your friends and mine? You turn away, and my words are no mark On you affection or your memory? So be it then, if so it is to be.
God save you, Lancelot; for by Saint Stephen, You are no more than man to save yourself.
” “Gawaine, I do not say that you are wrong, Or that you are ill-seasoned in your lightness; You say that all you know is what you saw, And on your own averment you saw nothing.
Your spoken word, Gawaine, I have not weighed In those unhappy scales of inference That have no beam but one made out of hates And fears, and venomous conjecturings; Your tongue is not the sword that urges me Now out of Camelot.
Two other swords There are that are awake, and in their scabbards Are parching for the blood of Lancelot.
Yet I go not away for fear of them, But for a sharper care.
You say the truth, But not when you contend the fires of God Are my one fear,—for there is one fear more.
Therefore I go.
Gawaine, I wish you well.
” “Well-wishing in a way is well enough; So, in a way, is caution; so, in a way, Are leeches, neatherds, and astrologers.
Lancelot, listen.
Sit you down and listen: You talk of swords and fears and banishment.
Two swords, you say; Modred and Agravaine, You mean.
Had you meant Gaheris and Gareth, Or willed an evil on them, I should welcome And hasten your farewell.
But Agravaine Hears little what I say; his ears are Modred’s.
The King is Modred’s father, and the Queen A prepossession of Modred’s lunacy.
So much for my two brothers whom you fear, Not fearing for yourself.
I say to you, Fear not for anything—and so be wise And amiable again as heretofore; Let Modred have his humor, and Agravaine His tongue.
The two of them have done their worst, And having done their worst, what have they done? A whisper now and then, a chirrup or so In corners,—and what else? Ask what, and answer.
” Still with a frown that had no faith in it, Lancelot, pitying Gawaine’s lost endeavour To make an evil jest of evidence, Sat fronting him with a remote forbearance— Whether for Gawaine blind or Gawaine false, Or both, or neither, he could not say yet, If ever; and to himself he said no more Than he said now aloud: “What else, Gawaine? What else, am I to say? Then ruin, I say; Destruction, dissolution, desolation, I say,—should I compound with jeopardy now.
For there are more than whispers here, Gawaine: The way that we have gone so long together Has underneath our feet, without our will, Become a twofold faring.
Yours, I trust, May lead you always on, as it has led you, To praise and to much joy.
Mine, I believe, Leads off to battles that are not yet fought, And to the Light that once had blinded me.
When I came back from seeing what I saw, I saw no place for me in Camelot.
There is no place for me in Camelot.
There is no place for me save where the Light May lead me; and to that place I shall go.
Meanwhile I lay upon your soul no load Of counsel or of empty admonition; Only I ask of you, should strife arise In Camelot, to remember, if you may, That you’ve an ardor that outruns your reason, Also a glamour that outshines your guile; And you are a strange hater.
I know that; And I’m in fortune that you hate not me.
Yet while we have our sins to dream about, Time has done worse for time than in our making; Albeit there may be sundry falterings And falls against us in the Book of Man.
” “Praise Adam, you are mellowing at last! I’ve always liked this world, and would so still; And if it is your new Light leads you on To such an admirable gait, for God’s sake, Follow it, follow it, follow it, Lancelot; Follow it as you never followed glory.
Once I believed that I was on the way That you call yours, but I came home again To Camelot—and Camelot was right, For the world knows its own that knows not you; You are a thing too vaporous to be sharing The carnal feast of life.
You mow down men Like elder-stems, and you leave women sighing For one more sight of you; but they do wrong.
You are a man of mist, and have no shadow.
God save you, Lancelot.
If I laugh at you, I laugh in envy and in admiration.
” The joyless evanescence of a smile, Discovered on the face of Lancelot By Gawaine’s unrelenting vigilance, Wavered, and with a sullen change went out; And then there was the music of a woman Laughing behind them, and a woman spoke: “Gawaine, you said ‘God save you, Lancelot.
’ Why should He save him any more to-day Than on another day? What has he done, Gawaine, that God should save him?” Guinevere, With many questions in her dark blue eyes And one gay jewel in her golden hair, Had come upon the two of them unseen, Till now she was a russet apparition At which the two arose—one with a dash Of easy leisure in his courtliness, One with a stately calm that might have pleased The Queen of a strange land indifferently.
The firm incisive languor of her speech, Heard once, was heard through battles: “Lancelot, What have you done to-day that God should save you? What has he done, Gawaine, that God should save him? I grieve that you two pinks of chivalry Should be so near me in my desolation, And I, poor soul alone, know nothing of it.
What has he done, Gawaine?” With all her poise, To Gawaine’s undeceived urbanity She was less queen than woman for the nonce, And in her eyes there was a flickering Of a still fear that would not be veiled wholly With any mask of mannered nonchalance.
“What has he done? Madam, attend your nephew; And learn from him, in your incertitude, That this inordinate man Lancelot, This engine of renown, this hewer down daily Of potent men by scores in our late warfare, Has now inside his head a foreign fever That urges him away to the last edge Of everything, there to efface himself In ecstasy, and so be done with us.
Hereafter, peradventure certain birds Will perch in meditation on his bones, Quite as if they were some poor sailor’s bones, Or felon’s jettisoned, or fisherman’s, Or fowler’s bones, or Mark of Cornwall’s bones.
In fine, this flower of men that was our comrade Shall be for us no more, from this day on, Than a much remembered Frenchman far away.
Magnanimously I leave you now to prize Your final sight of him; and leaving you, I leave the sun to shine for him alone, Whiles I grope on to gloom.
Madam, farewell; And you, contrarious Lancelot, farewell.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

The Wilderness

 Come away! come away! there’s a frost along the marshes, 
And a frozen wind that skims the shoal where it shakes the dead black water;
There’s a moan across the lowland and a wailing through the woodland 
Of a dirge that sings to send us back to the arms of those that love us.
There is nothing left but ashes now where the crimson chills of autumn Put off the summer’s languor with a touch that made us glad For the glory that is gone from us, with a flight we cannot follow, To the slopes of other valleys and the sounds of other shores.
Come away! come away! you can hear them calling, calling, Calling us to come to them, and roam no more.
Over there beyond the ridges and the land that lies between us, There’s an old song calling us to come! Come away! come away!—for the scenes we leave behind us Are barren for the lights of home and a flame that’s young forever; And the lonely trees around us creak the warning of the night-wind, That love and all the dreams of love are away beyond the mountains.
The songs that call for us to-night, they have called for men before us, And the winds that blow the message, they have blown ten thousand years; But this will end our wander-time, for we know the joy that waits us In the strangeness of home-coming, and a woman’s waiting eyes.
Come away! come away! there is nothing now to cheer us— Nothing now to comfort us, but love’s road home:— Over there beyond the darkness there’s a window gleams to greet us, And a warm hearth waits for us within.
Come away! come away!—or the roving-fiend will hold us, And make us all to dwell with him to the end of human faring: There are no men yet may leave him when his hands are clutched upon them, There are none will own his enmity, there are none will call him brother.
So we’ll be up and on the way, and the less we boast the better For the freedom that God gave us and the dread we do not know:— The frost that skips the willow-leaf will again be back to blight it, And the doom we cannot fly from is the doom we do not see.
Come away! come away! there are dead men all around us— Frozen men that mock us with a wild, hard laugh That shrieks and sinks and whimpers in the shrill November rushes, And the long fall wind on the lake.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed, And he was always human when he talked, But still he fluttered pulses when he said, "Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich--yes, richer than a king-- And admirably schooled in every grace: In fine, we thought that he was everything To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light, And went without the meat and cursed the bread; And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, Went home and put a bullet through his head.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

The Revealer

 (ROOSEVELT)

He turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion … And the men of the city said unto him, What is sweeter than honey? and what is stronger than a lion?—Judges, 14.
The palms of Mammon have disowned The gift of our complacency; The bells of ages have intoned Again their rhythmic irony; And from the shadow, suddenly, ’Mid echoes of decrepit rage, The seer of our necessity Confronts a Tyrian heritage.
Equipped with unobscured intent He smiles with lions at the gate, Acknowledging the compliment Like one familiar with his fate; The lions, having time to wait, Perceive a small cloud in the skies, Whereon they look, disconsolate, With scared, reactionary eyes.
A shadow falls upon the land,— They sniff, and they are like to roar; For they will never understand What they have never seen before.
They march in order to the door, Not knowing the best thing to seek, Nor caring if the gods restore The lost composite of the Greek.
The shadow fades, the light arrives, And ills that were concealed are seen; The combs of long-defended hives Now drip dishonored and unclean; No Nazarite or Nazarene Compels our questioning to prove The difference that is between Dead lions—or the sweet thereof.
But not for lions, live or dead, Except as we are all as one, Is he the world’s accredited Revealer of what we have done; What You and I and Anderson Are still to do is his reward; If we go back when he is gone— There is an Angel with a Sword.
He cannot close again the doors That now are shattered for our sake; He cannot answer for the floors We crowd on, or for walls that shake; He cannot wholly undertake The cure of our immunity; He cannot hold the stars, or make Of seven years a century.
So Time will give us what we earn Who flaunt the handful for the whole, And leave us all that we may learn Who read the surface for the soul; And we’ll be steering to the goal, For we have said so to our sons: When we who ride can pay the toll, Time humors the far-seeing ones.
Down to our nose’s very end We see, and are invincible,— Too vigilant to comprehend The scope of what we cannot sell; But while we seem to know as well As we know dollars, or our skins, The Titan may not always tell Just where the boundary begins.
Written by Edwin Arlington Robinson | Create an image from this poem

The Unforgiven

 When he, who is the unforgiven, 
Beheld her first, he found her fair: 
No promise ever dreamt in heaven 
Could have lured him anywhere 
That would have nbeen away from there; 
And all his wits had lightly striven, 
Foiled with her voice, and eyes, and hair.
There's nothing in the saints and sages To meet the shafts her glances had, Or such as hers have had for ages To blind a man till he be glad, And humble him till he be mad.
The story would have many pages, And would be neither good nor bad.
And, having followed, you would find him Where properly the play begins; But look for no red light behind him-- No fumes of many-colored sins, Fanned high by screaming violins.
God knows what good it was to blind him Or whether man or woman wins.
And by the same eternal token, Who knows just how it will all end?-- This drama of hard words unspoken, This fireside farce without a friend Or enemy to comprehend What augurs when two lives are broken, And fear finds nothing left to mend.
He stares in vain for what awaits him, And sees in Love a coin to toss; He smiles, and her cold hush berates him Beneath his hard half of the cross; They wonder why it ever was; And she, the unforgiving, hates him More for her lack than for her loss.
He feeds with pride his indecision, And shrinks from what wil not occur, Bequeathing with infirm derision His ashes to the days that were, Before she made him prisoner; And labors to retrieve the vision That he must once have had of her.
He waits, and there awaits an ending, And he knows neither what nor when; But no magicians are attending To make him see as he saw then, And he will never find again The face that once had been the rending Of all his purpose among men.
He blames her not, nor does he chide her, And she has nothing new to say; If he was Bluebeard he could hide her, But that's not written in the play, And there will be no change to-day; Although, to the serene outsider, There still would seem to be a way.