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by Wallace Stevens |

THE COMEDIAN AS THE LETTER C

I 

The World without Imagination 

1 Nota: man is the intelligence of his soil, 
2 The sovereign ghost. As such, the Socrates 
3 Of snails, musician of pears, principium 
4 And lex. Sed quaeritur: is this same wig 
5 Of things, this nincompated pedagogue, 
6 Preceptor to the sea? Crispin at sea 
7 Created, in his day, a touch of doubt. 
8 An eye most apt in gelatines and jupes, 
9 Berries of villages, a barber's eye, 
10 An eye of land, of simple salad-beds, 
11 Of honest quilts, the eye of Crispin, hung 
12 On porpoises, instead of apricots, 
13 And on silentious porpoises, whose snouts 
14 Dibbled in waves that were mustachios, 
15 Inscrutable hair in an inscrutable world. 

16 One eats one pat¨¦, even of salt, quotha. 
17 It was not so much the lost terrestrial, 
18 The snug hibernal from that sea and salt, 
19 That century of wind in a single puff. 
20 What counted was mythology of self, 
21 Blotched out beyond unblotching. Crispin, 
22 The lutanist of fleas, the knave, the thane, 
23 The ribboned stick, the bellowing breeches, cloak 
24 Of China, cap of Spain, imperative haw 
25 Of hum, inquisitorial botanist, 
26 And general lexicographer of mute 
27 And maidenly greenhorns, now beheld himself, 
28 A skinny sailor peering in the sea-glass. 
29 What word split up in clickering syllables 
30 And storming under multitudinous tones 
31 Was name for this short-shanks in all that brunt? 
32 Crispin was washed away by magnitude. 
33 The whole of life that still remained in him 
34 Dwindled to one sound strumming in his ear, 
35 Ubiquitous concussion, slap and sigh, 
36 Polyphony beyond his baton's thrust. 

37 Could Crispin stem verboseness in the sea, 
38 The old age of a watery realist, 
39 Triton, dissolved in shifting diaphanes 
40 Of blue and green? A wordy, watery age 
41 That whispered to the sun's compassion, made 
42 A convocation, nightly, of the sea-stars, 
43 And on the cropping foot-ways of the moon 
44 Lay grovelling. Triton incomplicate with that 
45 Which made him Triton, nothing left of him, 
46 Except in faint, memorial gesturings, 
47 That were like arms and shoulders in the waves, 
48 Here, something in the rise and fall of wind 
49 That seemed hallucinating horn, and here, 
50 A sunken voice, both of remembering 
51 And of forgetfulness, in alternate strain. 
52 Just so an ancient Crispin was dissolved. 
53 The valet in the tempest was annulled. 
54 Bordeaux to Yucatan, Havana next, 
55 And then to Carolina. Simple jaunt. 
56 Crispin, merest minuscule in the gates, 
57 Dejected his manner to the turbulence. 
58 The salt hung on his spirit like a frost, 
59 The dead brine melted in him like a dew 
60 Of winter, until nothing of himself 
61 Remained, except some starker, barer self 
62 In a starker, barer world, in which the sun 
63 Was not the sun because it never shone 
64 With bland complaisance on pale parasols, 
65 Beetled, in chapels, on the chaste bouquets. 
66 Against his pipping sounds a trumpet cried 
67 Celestial sneering boisterously. Crispin 
68 Became an introspective voyager. 

69 Here was the veritable ding an sich, at last, 
70 Crispin confronting it, a vocable thing, 
71 But with a speech belched out of hoary darks 
72 Noway resembling his, a visible thing, 
73 And excepting negligible Triton, free 
74 From the unavoidable shadow of himself 
75 That lay elsewhere around him. Severance 
76 Was clear. The last distortion of romance 
77 Forsook the insatiable egotist. The sea 
78 Severs not only lands but also selves. 
79 Here was no help before reality. 
80 Crispin beheld and Crispin was made new. 
81 The imagination, here, could not evade, 
82 In poems of plums, the strict austerity 
83 Of one vast, subjugating, final tone. 
84 The drenching of stale lives no more fell down. 
85 What was this gaudy, gusty panoply? 
86 Out of what swift destruction did it spring? 
87 It was caparison of mind and cloud 
88 And something given to make whole among 
89 The ruses that were shattered by the large. 

II 

Concerning the Thunderstorms of Yucatan 

90 In Yucatan, the Maya sonneteers 
91 Of the Caribbean amphitheatre, 
92 In spite of hawk and falcon, green toucan 
93 And jay, still to the night-bird made their plea, 
94 As if raspberry tanagers in palms, 
95 High up in orange air, were barbarous. 
96 But Crispin was too destitute to find 
97 In any commonplace the sought-for aid. 
98 He was a man made vivid by the sea, 
99 A man come out of luminous traversing, 
100 Much trumpeted, made desperately clear, 
101 Fresh from discoveries of tidal skies, 
102 To whom oracular rockings gave no rest. 
103 Into a savage color he went on. 

104 How greatly had he grown in his demesne, 
105 This auditor of insects! He that saw 
106 The stride of vanishing autumn in a park 
107 By way of decorous melancholy; he 
108 That wrote his couplet yearly to the spring, 
109 As dissertation of profound delight, 
110 Stopping, on voyage, in a land of snakes, 
111 Found his vicissitudes had much enlarged 
112 His apprehension, made him intricate 
113 In moody rucks, and difficult and strange 
114 In all desires, his destitution's mark. 
115 He was in this as other freemen are, 
116 Sonorous nutshells rattling inwardly. 
117 His violence was for aggrandizement 
118 And not for stupor, such as music makes 
119 For sleepers halfway waking. He perceived 
120 That coolness for his heat came suddenly, 
121 And only, in the fables that he scrawled 
122 With his own quill, in its indigenous dew, 
123 Of an aesthetic tough, diverse, untamed, 
124 Incredible to prudes, the mint of dirt, 
125 Green barbarism turning paradigm. 
126 Crispin foresaw a curious promenade 
127 Or, nobler, sensed an elemental fate, 
128 And elemental potencies and pangs, 
129 And beautiful barenesses as yet unseen, 
130 Making the most of savagery of palms, 
131 Of moonlight on the thick, cadaverous bloom 
132 That yuccas breed, and of the panther's tread. 
133 The fabulous and its intrinsic verse 
134 Came like two spirits parlaying, adorned 
135 In radiance from the Atlantic coign, 
136 For Crispin and his quill to catechize. 
137 But they came parlaying of such an earth, 
138 So thick with sides and jagged lops of green, 
139 So intertwined with serpent-kin encoiled 
140 Among the purple tufts, the scarlet crowns, 
141 Scenting the jungle in their refuges, 
142 So streaked with yellow, blue and green and red 
143 In beak and bud and fruity gobbet-skins, 
144 That earth was like a jostling festival 
145 Of seeds grown fat, too juicily opulent, 
146 Expanding in the gold's maternal warmth. 
147 So much for that. The affectionate emigrant found 
148 A new reality in parrot-squawks. 
149 Yet let that trifle pass. Now, as this odd 
150 Discoverer walked through the harbor streets 
151 Inspecting the cabildo, the fa?ade 
152 Of the cathedral, making notes, he heard 
153 A rumbling, west of Mexico, it seemed, 
154 Approaching like a gasconade of drums. 
155 The white cabildo darkened, the fa?ade, 
156 As sullen as the sky, was swallowed up 
157 In swift, successive shadows, dolefully. 
158 The rumbling broadened as it fell. The wind, 
159 Tempestuous clarion, with heavy cry, 
160 Came bluntly thundering, more terrible 
161 Than the revenge of music on bassoons. 
162 Gesticulating lightning, mystical, 
163 Made pallid flitter. Crispin, here, took flight. 
164 An annotator has his scruples, too. 
165 He knelt in the cathedral with the rest, 
166 This connoisseur of elemental fate, 
167 Aware of exquisite thought. The storm was one 
168 Of many proclamations of the kind, 
169 Proclaiming something harsher than he learned 
170 From hearing signboards whimper in cold nights 
171 Or seeing the midsummer artifice 
172 Of heat upon his pane. This was the span 
173 Of force, the quintessential fact, the note 
174 Of Vulcan, that a valet seeks to own, 
175 The thing that makes him envious in phrase. 

176 And while the torrent on the roof still droned 
177 He felt the Andean breath. His mind was free 
178 And more than free, elate, intent, profound 
179 And studious of a self possessing him, 
180 That was not in him in the crusty town 
181 From which he sailed. Beyond him, westward, lay 
182 The mountainous ridges, purple balustrades, 
183 In which the thunder, lapsing in its clap, 
184 Let down gigantic quavers of its voice, 
185 For Crispin to vociferate again. 

III 

Approaching Carolina 

186 The book of moonlight is not written yet 
187 Nor half begun, but, when it is, leave room 
188 For Crispin, fagot in the lunar fire, 
189 Who, in the hubbub of his pilgrimage 
190 Through sweating changes, never could forget 
191 That wakefulness or meditating sleep, 
192 In which the sulky strophes willingly 
193 Bore up, in time, the somnolent, deep songs. 
194 Leave room, therefore, in that unwritten book 
195 For the legendary moonlight that once burned 
196 In Crispin's mind above a continent. 
197 America was always north to him, 
198 A northern west or western north, but north, 
199 And thereby polar, polar-purple, chilled 
200 And lank, rising and slumping from a sea 
201 Of hardy foam, receding flatly, spread 
202 In endless ledges, glittering, submerged 
203 And cold in a boreal mistiness of the moon. 
204 The spring came there in clinking pannicles 
205 Of half-dissolving frost, the summer came, 
206 If ever, whisked and wet, not ripening, 
207 Before the winter's vacancy returned. 
208 The myrtle, if the myrtle ever bloomed, 
209 Was like a glacial pink upon the air. 
210 The green palmettoes in crepuscular ice 
211 Clipped frigidly blue-black meridians, 
212 Morose chiaroscuro, gauntly drawn. 

213 How many poems he denied himself 
214 In his observant progress, lesser things 
215 Than the relentless contact he desired; 
216 How many sea-masks he ignored; what sounds 
217 He shut out from his tempering ear; what thoughts, 
218 Like jades affecting the sequestered bride; 
219 And what descants, he sent to banishment! 
220 Perhaps the Arctic moonlight really gave 
221 The liaison, the blissful liaison, 
222 Between himself and his environment, 
223 Which was, and is, chief motive, first delight, 
224 For him, and not for him alone. It seemed 
225 Elusive, faint, more mist than moon, perverse, 
226 Wrong as a divagation to Peking, 
227 To him that postulated as his theme 
228 The vulgar, as his theme and hymn and flight, 
229 A passionately niggling nightingale. 
230 Moonlight was an evasion, or, if not, 
231 A minor meeting, facile, delicate. 

232 Thus he conceived his voyaging to be 
233 An up and down between two elements, 
234 A fluctuating between sun and moon, 
235 A sally into gold and crimson forms, 
236 As on this voyage, out of goblinry, 
237 And then retirement like a turning back 
238 And sinking down to the indulgences 
239 That in the moonlight have their habitude. 
240 But let these backward lapses, if they would, 
241 Grind their seductions on him, Crispin knew 
242 It was a flourishing tropic he required 
243 For his refreshment, an abundant zone, 
244 Prickly and obdurate, dense, harmonious 
245 Yet with a harmony not rarefied 
246 Nor fined for the inhibited instruments 
247 Of over-civil stops. And thus he tossed 
248 Between a Carolina of old time, 
249 A little juvenile, an ancient whim, 
250 And the visible, circumspect presentment drawn 
251 From what he saw across his vessel's prow. 

252 He came. The poetic hero without palms 
253 Or jugglery, without regalia. 
254 And as he came he saw that it was spring, 
255 A time abhorrent to the nihilist 
256 Or searcher for the fecund minimum. 
257 The moonlight fiction disappeared. The spring, 
258 Although contending featly in its veils, 
259 Irised in dew and early fragrancies, 
260 Was gemmy marionette to him that sought 
261 A sinewy nakedness. A river bore 
262 The vessel inward. Tilting up his nose, 
263 He inhaled the rancid rosin, burly smells 
264 Of dampened lumber, emanations blown 
265 From warehouse doors, the gustiness of ropes, 
266 Decays of sacks, and all the arrant stinks 
267 That helped him round his rude aesthetic out. 
268 He savored rankness like a sensualist. 
269 He marked the marshy ground around the dock, 
270 The crawling railroad spur, the rotten fence, 
271 Curriculum for the marvellous sophomore. 
272 It purified. It made him see how much 
273 Of what he saw he never saw at all. 
274 He gripped more closely the essential prose 
275 As being, in a world so falsified, 
276 The one integrity for him, the one 
277 Discovery still possible to make, 
278 To which all poems were incident, unless 
279 That prose should wear a poem's guise at last. 

IV 

The Idea of a Colony 

280 Nota: his soil is man's intelligence. 
281 That's better. That's worth crossing seas to find. 
282 Crispin in one laconic phrase laid bare 
283 His cloudy drift and planned a colony. 
284 Exit the mental moonlight, exit lex, 
285 Rex and principium, exit the whole 
286 Shebang. Exeunt omnes. Here was prose 
287 More exquisite than any tumbling verse: 
288 A still new continent in which to dwell. 
289 What was the purpose of his pilgrimage, 
290 Whatever shape it took in Crispin's mind, 
291 If not, when all is said, to drive away 
292 The shadow of his fellows from the skies, 
293 And, from their stale intelligence released, 
294 To make a new intelligence prevail? 
295 Hence the reverberations in the words 
296 Of his first central hymns, the celebrants 
297 Of rankest trivia, tests of the strength 
298 Of his aesthetic, his philosophy, 
299 The more invidious, the more desired. 
300 The florist asking aid from cabbages, 
301 The rich man going bare, the paladin 
302 Afraid, the blind man as astronomer, 
303 The appointed power unwielded from disdain. 
304 His western voyage ended and began. 
305 The torment of fastidious thought grew slack, 
306 Another, still more bellicose, came on. 
307 He, therefore, wrote his prolegomena, 
308 And, being full of the caprice, inscribed 
309 Commingled souvenirs and prophecies. 
310 He made a singular collation. Thus: 
311 The natives of the rain are rainy men. 
312 Although they paint effulgent, azure lakes, 
313 And April hillsides wooded white and pink, 
314 Their azure has a cloudy edge, their white 
315 And pink, the water bright that dogwood bears. 
316 And in their music showering sounds intone. 
317 On what strange froth does the gross Indian dote, 
318 What Eden sapling gum, what honeyed gore, 
319 What pulpy dram distilled of innocence, 
320 That streaking gold should speak in him 
321 Or bask within his images and words? 
322 If these rude instances impeach themselves 
323 By force of rudeness, let the principle 
324 Be plain. For application Crispin strove, 
325 Abhorring Turk as Esquimau, the lute 
326 As the marimba, the magnolia as rose. 

327 Upon these premises propounding, he 
328 Projected a colony that should extend 
329 To the dusk of a whistling south below the south. 
330 A comprehensive island hemisphere. 
331 The man in Georgia waking among pines 
332 Should be pine-spokesman. The responsive man, 
333 Planting his pristine cores in Florida, 
334 Should prick thereof, not on the psaltery, 
335 But on the banjo's categorical gut, 
336 Tuck tuck, while the flamingos flapped his bays. 
337 Sepulchral se?ors, bibbing pale mescal, 
338 Oblivious to the Aztec almanacs, 
339 Should make the intricate Sierra scan. 
340 And dark Brazilians in their caf¨¦s, 
341 Musing immaculate, pampean dits, 
342 Should scrawl a vigilant anthology, 
343 To be their latest, lucent paramour. 
344 These are the broadest instances. Crispin, 
345 Progenitor of such extensive scope, 
346 Was not indifferent to smart detail. 
347 The melon should have apposite ritual, 
348 Performed in verd apparel, and the peach, 
349 When its black branches came to bud, belle day, 
350 Should have an incantation. And again, 
351 When piled on salvers its aroma steeped 
352 The summer, it should have a sacrament 
353 And celebration. Shrewd novitiates 
354 Should be the clerks of our experience. 

355 These bland excursions into time to come, 
356 Related in romance to backward flights, 
357 However prodigal, however proud, 
358 Contained in their afflatus the reproach 
359 That first drove Crispin to his wandering. 
360 He could not be content with counterfeit, 
361 With masquerade of thought, with hapless words 
362 That must belie the racking masquerade, 
363 With fictive flourishes that preordained 
364 His passion's permit, hang of coat, degree 
365 Of buttons, measure of his salt. Such trash 
366 Might help the blind, not him, serenely sly. 
367 It irked beyond his patience. Hence it was, 
368 Preferring text to gloss, he humbly served 
369 Grotesque apprenticeship to chance event, 
370 A clown, perhaps, but an aspiring clown. 
371 There is a monotonous babbling in our dreams 
372 That makes them our dependent heirs, the heirs 
373 Of dreamers buried in our sleep, and not 
374 The oncoming fantasies of better birth. 
375 The apprentice knew these dreamers. If he dreamed 
376 Their dreams, he did it in a gingerly way. 
377 All dreams are vexing. Let them be expunged. 
378 But let the rabbit run, the cock declaim. 

379 Trinket pasticcio, flaunting skyey sheets, 
380 With Crispin as the tiptoe cozener? 
381 No, no: veracious page on page, exact. 

V 

A Nice Shady Home 

382 Crispin as hermit, pure and capable, 
383 Dwelt in the land. Perhaps if discontent 
384 Had kept him still the pricking realist, 
385 Choosing his element from droll confect 
386 Of was and is and shall or ought to be, 
387 Beyond Bordeaux, beyond Havana, far 
388 Beyond carked Yucatan, he might have come 
389 To colonize his polar planterdom 
390 And jig his chits upon a cloudy knee. 
391 But his emprize to that idea soon sped. 
392 Crispin dwelt in the land and dwelling there 
393 Slid from his continent by slow recess 
394 To things within his actual eye, alert 
395 To the difficulty of rebellious thought 
396 When the sky is blue. The blue infected will. 
397 It may be that the yarrow in his fields 
398 Sealed pensive purple under its concern. 
399 But day by day, now this thing and now that 
400 Confined him, while it cosseted, condoned, 
401 Little by little, as if the suzerain soil 
402 Abashed him by carouse to humble yet 
403 Attach. It seemed haphazard denouement. 
404 He first, as realist, admitted that 
405 Whoever hunts a matinal continent 
406 May, after all, stop short before a plum 
407 And be content and still be realist. 
408 The words of things entangle and confuse. 
409 The plum survives its poems. It may hang 
410 In the sunshine placidly, colored by ground 
411 Obliquities of those who pass beneath, 
412 Harlequined and mazily dewed and mauved 
413 In bloom. Yet it survives in its own form, 
414 Beyond these changes, good, fat, guzzly fruit. 
415 So Crispin hasped on the surviving form, 
416 For him, of shall or ought to be in is. 

417 Was he to bray this in profoundest brass 
418 Arointing his dreams with fugal requiems? 
419 Was he to company vastest things defunct 
420 With a blubber of tom-toms harrowing the sky? 
421 Scrawl a tragedian's testament? Prolong 
422 His active force in an inactive dirge, 
423 Which, let the tall musicians call and call, 
424 Should merely call him dead? Pronounce amen 
425 Through choirs infolded to the outmost clouds? 
426 Because he built a cabin who once planned 
427 Loquacious columns by the ructive sea? 
428 Because he turned to salad-beds again? 
429 Jovial Crispin, in calamitous crape? 
430 Should he lay by the personal and make 
431 Of his own fate an instance of all fate? 
432 What is one man among so many men? 
433 What are so many men in such a world? 
434 Can one man think one thing and think it long? 
435 Can one man be one thing and be it long? 
436 The very man despising honest quilts 
437 Lies quilted to his poll in his despite. 
438 For realists, what is is what should be. 
439 And so it came, his cabin shuffled up, 
440 His trees were planted, his duenna brought 
441 Her prismy blonde and clapped her in his hands, 
442 The curtains flittered and the door was closed. 
443 Crispin, magister of a single room, 
444 Latched up the night. So deep a sound fell down 
445 It was as if the solitude concealed 
446 And covered him and his congenial sleep. 
447 So deep a sound fell down it grew to be 
448 A long soothsaying silence down and down. 
449 The crickets beat their tambours in the wind, 
450 Marching a motionless march, custodians. 

451 In the presto of the morning, Crispin trod, 
452 Each day, still curious, but in a round 
453 Less prickly and much more condign than that 
454 He once thought necessary. Like Candide, 
455 Yeoman and grub, but with a fig in sight, 
456 And cream for the fig and silver for the cream, 
457 A blonde to tip the silver and to taste 
458 The rapey gouts. Good star, how that to be 
459 Annealed them in their cabin ribaldries! 
460 Yet the quotidian saps philosophers 
461 And men like Crispin like them in intent, 
462 If not in will, to track the knaves of thought. 
463 But the quotidian composed as his, 
464 Of breakfast ribands, fruits laid in their leaves, 
465 The tomtit and the cassia and the rose, 
466 Although the rose was not the noble thorn 
467 Of crinoline spread, but of a pining sweet, 
468 Composed of evenings like cracked shutters flung 
469 Upon the rumpling bottomness, and nights 
470 In which those frail custodians watched, 
471 Indifferent to the tepid summer cold, 
472 While he poured out upon the lips of her 
473 That lay beside him, the quotidian 
474 Like this, saps like the sun, true fortuner. 
475 For all it takes it gives a humped return 
476 Exchequering from piebald fiscs unkeyed. 

VI 

And Daughters with Curls 

477 Portentous enunciation, syllable 
478 To blessed syllable affined, and sound 
479 Bubbling felicity in cantilene, 
480 Prolific and tormenting tenderness 
481 Of music, as it comes to unison, 
482 Forgather and bell boldly Crispin's last 
483 Deduction. Thrum, with a proud douceur 
484 His grand pronunciamento and devise. 

485 The chits came for his jigging, bluet-eyed, 
486 Hands without touch yet touching poignantly, 
487 Leaving no room upon his cloudy knee, 
488 Prophetic joint, for its diviner young. 
489 The return to social nature, once begun, 
490 Anabasis or slump, ascent or chute, 
491 Involved him in midwifery so dense 
492 His cabin counted as phylactery, 
493 Then place of vexing palankeens, then haunt 
494 Of children nibbling at the sugared void, 
495 Infants yet eminently old, then dome 
496 And halidom for the unbraided femes, 
497 Green crammers of the green fruits of the world, 
498 Bidders and biders for its ecstasies, 
499 True daughters both of Crispin and his clay. 
500 All this with many mulctings of the man, 
501 Effective colonizer sharply stopped 
502 In the door-yard by his own capacious bloom. 
503 But that this bloom grown riper, showing nibs 
504 Of its eventual roundness, puerile tints 
505 Of spiced and weathery rouges, should complex 
506 The stopper to indulgent fatalist 
507 Was unforeseen. First Crispin smiled upon 
508 His goldenest demoiselle, inhabitant, 
509 She seemed, of a country of the capuchins, 
510 So delicately blushed, so humbly eyed, 
511 Attentive to a coronal of things 
512 Secret and singular. Second, upon 
513 A second similar counterpart, a maid 
514 Most sisterly to the first, not yet awake 
515 Excepting to the motherly footstep, but 
516 Marvelling sometimes at the shaken sleep. 
517 Then third, a thing still flaxen in the light, 
518 A creeper under jaunty leaves. And fourth, 
519 Mere blusteriness that gewgaws jollified, 
520 All din and gobble, blasphemously pink. 
521 A few years more and the vermeil capuchin 
522 Gave to the cabin, lordlier than it was, 
523 The dulcet omen fit for such a house. 
524 The second sister dallying was shy 
525 To fetch the one full-pinioned one himself 
526 Out of her botches, hot embosomer. 
527 The third one gaping at the orioles 
528 Lettered herself demurely as became 
529 A pearly poetess, peaked for rhapsody. 
530 The fourth, pent now, a digit curious. 
531 Four daughters in a world too intricate 
532 In the beginning, four blithe instruments 
533 Of differing struts, four voices several 
534 In couch, four more person?, intimate 
535 As buffo, yet divers, four mirrors blue 
536 That should be silver, four accustomed seeds 
537 Hinting incredible hues, four self-same lights 
538 That spread chromatics in hilarious dark, 
539 Four questioners and four sure answerers. 

540 Crispin concocted doctrine from the rout. 
541 The world, a turnip once so readily plucked, 
542 Sacked up and carried overseas, daubed out 
543 Of its ancient purple, pruned to the fertile main, 
544 And sown again by the stiffest realist, 
545 Came reproduced in purple, family font, 
546 The same insoluble lump. The fatalist 
547 Stepped in and dropped the chuckling down his craw, 
548 Without grace or grumble. Score this anecdote 
549 Invented for its pith, not doctrinal 
550 In form though in design, as Crispin willed, 
551 Disguised pronunciamento, summary, 
552 Autumn's compendium, strident in itself 
553 But muted, mused, and perfectly revolved 
554 In those portentous accents, syllables, 
555 And sounds of music coming to accord 
556 Upon his law, like their inherent sphere, 
557 Seraphic proclamations of the pure 
558 Delivered with a deluging onwardness. 
559 Or if the music sticks, if the anecdote 
560 Is false, if Crispin is a profitless 
561 Philosopher, beginning with green brag, 
562 Concluding fadedly, if as a man 
563 Prone to distemper he abates in taste, 
564 Fickle and fumbling, variable, obscure, 
565 Glozing his life with after-shining flicks, 
566 Illuminating, from a fancy gorged 
567 By apparition, plain and common things, 
568 Sequestering the fluster from the year, 
569 Making gulped potions from obstreperous drops, 
570 And so distorting, proving what he proves 
571 Is nothing, what can all this matter since 
572 The relation comes, benignly, to its end? 

573 So may the relation of each man be clipped.


by Walt Whitman |

From Far Dakota’s Cañons.

 FROM far Dakota’s cañons, 
Lands of the wild ravine, the dusky Sioux, the lonesome stretch, the silence, 
Haply to-day a mournful wail, haply a trumpet-note for heroes. 

The battle-bulletin, 
The Indian ambuscade, the craft, the fatal environment,
The cavalry companies fighting to the last in sternest heroism, 
In the midst of their little circle, with their slaughter’d horses for breastworks, 
The fall of Custer and all his officers and men. 

Continues yet the old, old legend of our race, 
The loftiest of life upheld by death,
The ancient banner perfectly maintain’d, 
O lesson opportune, O how I welcome thee! 
As sitting in dark days, 
Lone, sulky, through the time’s thick murk looking in vain for light, for hope, 
From unsuspected parts a fierce and momentary proof,
(The sun there at the centre though conceal’d, 
Electric life forever at the centre,) 
Breaks forth a lightning flash. 

Thou of the tawny flowing hair in battle, 
I erewhile saw, with erect head, pressing ever in front, bearing a bright sword in thy
 hand,
Now ending well in death the splendid fever of thy deeds, 
(I bring no dirge for it or thee, I bring a glad triumphal sonnet,) 
Desperate and glorious, aye in defeat most desperate, most glorious, 
After thy many battles in which never yielding up a gun or a color 
Leaving behind thee a memory sweet to soldiers,
Thou yieldest up thyself.


by Walt Whitman |

Centenarian’s Story The.

 GIVE me your hand, old Revolutionary; 
The hill-top is nigh—but a few steps, (make room, gentlemen;) 
Up the path you have follow’d me well, spite of your hundred and extra years; 
You can walk, old man, though your eyes are almost done; 
Your faculties serve you, and presently I must have them serve me.

Rest, while I tell what the crowd around us means; 
On the plain below, recruits are drilling and exercising; 
There is the camp—one regiment departs to-morrow; 
Do you hear the officers giving the orders? 
Do you hear the clank of the muskets?

Why, what comes over you now, old man? 
Why do you tremble, and clutch my hand so convulsively? 
The troops are but drilling—they are yet surrounded with smiles; 
Around them, at hand, the well-drest friends, and the women; 
While splendid and warm the afternoon sun shines down;
Green the midsummer verdure, and fresh blows the dallying breeze, 
O’er proud and peaceful cities, and arm of the sea between. 
But drill and parade are over—they march back to quarters; 
Only hear that approval of hands! hear what a clapping! 

As wending, the crowds now part and disperse—but we, old man,
Not for nothing have I brought you hither—we must remain; 
You to speak in your turn, and I to listen and tell. 

THE CENTENARIAN.
When I clutch’d your hand, it was not with terror; 
But suddenly, pouring about me here, on every side, 
And below there where the boys were drilling, and up the slopes they ran,
And where tents are pitch’d, and wherever you see, south and south-east and
 south-west, 
Over hills, across lowlands, and in the skirts of woods, 
And along the shores, in mire (now fill’d over), came again, and suddenly raged, 
As eighty-five years agone, no mere parade receiv’d with applause of friends, 
But a battle, which I took part in myself—aye, long ago as it is, I took part in it,
Walking then this hill-top, this same ground. 

Aye, this is the ground; 
My blind eyes, even as I speak, behold it re-peopled from graves; 
The years recede, pavements and stately houses disappear; 
Rude forts appear again, the old hoop’d guns are mounted;
I see the lines of rais’d earth stretching from river to bay; 
I mark the vista of waters, I mark the uplands and slopes: 
Here we lay encamp’d—it was this time in summer also. 

As I talk, I remember all—I remember the Declaration; 
It was read here—the whole army paraded—it was read to us here;
By his staff surrounded, the General stood in the middle—he held up his
 unsheath’d
 sword, 
It glitter’d in the sun in full sight of the army. 

’Twas a bold act then; 
The English war-ships had just arrived—the king had sent them from over the sea; 
We could watch down the lower bay where they lay at anchor,
And the transports, swarming with soldiers. 

A few days more, and they landed—and then the battle. 

Twenty thousand were brought against us, 
A veteran force, furnish’d with good artillery. 

I tell not now the whole of the battle;
But one brigade, early in the forenoon, order’d forward to engage the red-coats; 
Of that brigade I tell, and how steadily it march’d, 
And how long and how well it stood, confronting death. 

Who do you think that was, marching steadily, sternly confronting death? 
It was the brigade of the youngest men, two thousand strong,
Rais’d in Virginia and Maryland, and many of them known personally to the General. 

Jauntily forward they went with quick step toward Gowanus’ waters; 
Till of a sudden, unlook’d for, by defiles through the woods, gain’d at night, 
The British advancing, wedging in from the east, fiercely playing their guns, 
That brigade of the youngest was cut off, and at the enemy’s mercy.

The General watch’d them from this hill; 
They made repeated desperate attempts to burst their environment; 
Then drew close together, very compact, their flag flying in the middle; 
But O from the hills how the cannon were thinning and thinning them! 

It sickens me yet, that slaughter!
I saw the moisture gather in drops on the face of the General; 
I saw how he wrung his hands in anguish. 

Meanwhile the British maneuver’d to draw us out for a pitch’d battle; 
But we dared not trust the chances of a pitch’d battle. 

We fought the fight in detachments;
Sallying forth, we fought at several points—but in each the luck was against us; 
Our foe advancing, steadily getting the best of it, push’d us back to the works on
 this
 hill; 
Till we turn’d, menacing, here, and then he left us. 

That was the going out of the brigade of the youngest men, two thousand strong; 
Few return’d—nearly all remain in Brooklyn.

That, and here, my General’s first battle; 
No women looking on, nor sunshine to bask in—it did not conclude with applause; 
Nobody clapp’d hands here then. 

But in darkness, in mist, on the ground, under a chill rain, 
Wearied that night we lay, foil’d and sullen;
While scornfully laugh’d many an arrogant lord, off against us encamp’d, 
Quite within hearing, feasting, klinking wine-glasses together over their victory. 

So, dull and damp, and another day; 
But the night of that, mist lifting, rain ceasing, 
Silent as a ghost, while they thought they were sure of him, my General retreated.

I saw him at the river-side, 
Down by the ferry, lit by torches, hastening the embarcation; 
My General waited till the soldiers and wounded were all pass’d over; 
And then, (it was just ere sunrise,) these eyes rested on him for the last time. 

Every one else seem’d fill’d with gloom;
Many no doubt thought of capitulation. 

But when my General pass’d me, 
As he stood in his boat, and look’d toward the coming sun, 
I saw something different from capitulation. 

TERMINUS.
Enough—the Centenarian’s story ends;
The two, the past and present, have interchanged; 
I myself, as connecter, as chansonnier of a great future, am now speaking. 

And is this the ground Washington trod? 
And these waters I listlessly daily cross, are these the waters he cross’d, 
As resolute in defeat, as other generals in their proudest triumphs?

It is well—a lesson like that, always comes good; 
I must copy the story, and send it eastward and westward; 
I must preserve that look, as it beam’d on you, rivers of Brooklyn. 

See! as the annual round returns, the phantoms return; 
It is the 27th of August, and the British have landed;
The battle begins, and goes against us—behold! through the smoke, Washington’s
 face; 
The brigade of Virginia and Maryland have march’d forth to intercept the enemy; 
They are cut off—murderous artillery from the hills plays upon them; 
Rank after rank falls, while over them silently droops the flag, 
Baptized that day in many a young man’s bloody wounds,
In death, defeat, and sisters’, mothers’ tears. 

Ah, hills and slopes of Brooklyn! I perceive you are more valuable than your owners
 supposed; 
Ah, river! henceforth you will be illumin’d to me at sunrise with something besides
 the
 sun. 

Encampments new! in the midst of you stands an encampment very old; 
Stands forever the camp of the dead brigade.


by Tanwir Phool |

O My Native Land(English translation of Urdu poemAie Watan)

http://forum.urdujahaan.com/viewtopic.php?f=96&t=4192

O my native land !
O my native land !
Far better than a garden
Is your dust and sand

What a dignified place you are !
Full of grace and beauty , as star
You are protected and saved , indeed
By the Mercy of God , near not far

O my native land !
O my native land !
Far better than a garden
Is your dust and sand

Ever-flowing rivers and valleys
Charming scene of butterflies and bees
So much soothing is your environment
Like a paradise , full of ease

O my native land !
O my native land !
Far better than a garden
Is your dust and sand

Phool , the poet is praying always
God bless you during nights and days
Long live up to the Doomsday
With the joyful refulgence and rays

O my native land !
O my native land !
Far better than a garden
Is your dust and sand

Poet : Tanwir Phool  (from his book "Naghmat-e-Pakistan" i:e
"The Melodies of Pakistan").This book has won Presidential 
Award from the Government of Pakistan.


by Robert Seymour Bridges |

From The Testament of Beauty

 'Twas at that hour of beauty when the setting sun
squandereth his cloudy bed with rosy hues, to flood
his lov'd works as in turn he biddeth them Good-night;
and all the towers and temples and mansions of men
face him in bright farewell, ere they creep from their pomp
naked beneath the darkness;- while to mortal eyes
'tis given, ifso they close not of fatigue, nor strain
at lamplit tasks-'tis given, as for a royal boon
to beggarly outcasts in homeless vigil, to watch
where uncurtain's behind the great windows of space
Heav'n's jewel'd company circleth unapproachably-
'Twas at sunset that I, fleeing to hide my soul
in refuge of beauty from a mortal distress,
walk'd alone with the Muse in her garden of thought,
discoursing at liberty with the mazy dreams
that came wavering pertinaciously about me; as when
the small bats, issued from their hangings, flitter o'erhead
thru' the summer twilight, with thin cries to and fro
hunting in muffled flight atween the stars and flowers.
Then fell I in strange delusion, illusion strange to tell;
for as a man who lyeth fast asleep in his bed
may dream he waketh, and that he walketh upright
pursuing some endeavour in full conscience-so 'twas
with me; but contrawise; for being in truth awake
methought I slept and dreamt; and in thatt dream methought
I was telling a dream; nor telling was I as one
who, truly awaked from a true sleep, thinketh to tell
his dream to a friend, but for his scant remembrances
findeth no token of speech-it was not so with me;
for my tale was my dream and my dream the telling,
and I remember wondring the while I told it
how I told it so tellingly. And yet now 'twould seem
that Reason inveighed me with her old orderings;
as once when she took thought to adjust theology,
peopling the inane that vex'd her between God and man
with a hierarchy of angels; like those asteroids
wherewith she later fill'd the gap 'twixt Jove and Mars.
Verily by Beauty it is that we come as WISDOM,
yet not by Reason at Beauty; and now with many words
pleasing myself betimes I am fearing lest in the end
I play the tedious orator who maundereth on
for lack of heart to make an end of his nothings.
Wherefor as when a runner who hath run his round
handeth his staff away, and is glad of his rest,
here break I off, knowing the goal was not for me
the while I ran on telling of what cannot be told.

For not the Muse herself can tell of Goddes love;
which cometh to the child from the Mother's embrace,
an Idea spacious as the starry firmament's
inescapable infinity of radiant gaze,
that fadeth only as it outpasseth mortal sight:
and this direct contact is 't with eternities,
this springtide miracle of the soul's nativity
that oft hath set philosophers adrift in dream;
which thing Christ taught, when he set up a little child
to teach his first Apostles and to accuse their pride,
saying, 'Unless ye shall receive it as a child,
ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.'
So thru'out all his young mental apprenticehood
the child of very simplicity, and in the grace
and beauteous attitude of infantine wonder,
is apt to absorb Ideas in primal purity,
and by the assimilation of thatt immortal food
may build immortal life; but ever with the growth
of understanding, as the sensible images
are more and more corrupt, troubled by questioning thought,
or with vainglory alloy'd, 'tis like enought the boy
in prospect of his manhood wil hav cast to th' winds
his Baptism with his Babyhood; nor might he escape
the fall of Ev'ryman, did not a second call
of nature's Love await him to confirm his Faith
or to revoke him if he is whollylapsed therefrom.
And so mighty is this second vision, which cometh
in puberty of body and adolescence of mind
that, forgetting his Mother, he calleth it 'first Love';
for it mocketh at suasion or stubbornness of heart,
as the oceantide of the omnipotent Pleasur of God,
flushing all avenues of life, and unawares
by thousandfold approach forestalling its full flood
with divination of the secret contacts of Love,--
of faintest ecstasies aslumber in Nature's calm,
like thought in a closed book, where some poet long since
sang his throbbing passion to immortal sleep-with coy
tenderness delicat as the shifting hues
that sanctify the silent dawn with wonder-gleams,
whose evanescence is the seal of their glory,
consumed in self-becoming of eternity;
til every moment as it flyeth, cryeth 'Seize!
Seize me ere I die! I am the Life of Life.'
'Tis thus by near approach to an eternal presence
man's heart with divine furor kindled and possess'd
falleth in blind surrender; and finding therewithal
in fullest devotion the full reconcilement
betwixt his animal and spiritual desires,
such welcome hour of bliss standeth for certain pledge
of happiness perdurable: and coud he sustain
this great enthusiasm, then the unbounded promise
would keep fulfilment; since the marriage of true minds
is thatt once fabled garden, amidst of which was set
the single Tree that bore such med'cinable fruit
that if man ate thereof he should liv for ever.
Friendship is in loving rather than in being lov'd,
which is its mutual benediction and recompense;
and tho' this be, and tho' love is from lovers learn'd,
it springeth none the less from the old essence of self.
No friendless man ('twas well said) can be truly himself;
what a man looketh for in his friend and findeth,
and loving self best, loveth better than himself,
is his own better self, his live lovable idea,
flowering by expansion in the loves of his life.
And in the nobility of our earthly friendships
we hav al grades of attainment, and the best may claim
perfection of kind; and so, since ther be many bonds
other than breed (friendships of lesser motiv, found
even in the brutes) and since our politick is based
on actual association of living men, 'twil come
that the spiritual idea of Friendship, the huge
vastidity of its essence, is fritter'd away
in observation of the usual habits of men;
as happ'd with the great moralist, where his book saith
that ther can be no friendship betwixt God and man
because of their unlimited disparity.
From this dilemma of pagan thought, this poison of faith,
Man-soul made glad escape in the worship of Christ;
for his humanity is God's Personality,
and communion with him is the life of the soul.
Of which living ideas (when in the struggle of thought
harden'd by language they became symbols of faith)
Reason builded her maze, wherefrom none should escape,
wandering intent to map and learn her tortuous clews,
chanting their clerkly creed to the high-echoing stones
of their hand-fashion'd temple: but the Wind of heav'n
bloweth where it listeth, and Christ yet walketh the earth,
and talketh still as with those two disciples once 
on the road to Emmaus-where they walk and are sad;
whose vision of him then was his victory over death,
thatt resurrection which all his lovers should share,
who in loving him had learn'd the Ethick of happiness;
whereby they too should come where he was ascended
to reign over men's hearts in the Kingdom of God.
Our happiest earthly comradeships hold a foretaste
of the feast of salvation and by thatt virtue in them
provoke desire beyond them to out-reach and surmount
their humanity in some superhumanity
and ultimat perfection: which, howe'ever 'tis found
or strangeley imagin'd, answereth to the need of each
and pulleth him instinctivly as to a final cause.
Thus unto all who hav found their high ideal in Christ,
Christ is to them the essence discern'd or undeiscern'd
of all their human friendships; and each lover of him
and of his beauty must be as a bud on the Vine
and hav participation in him; for Goddes love
is unescapable as nature's environment,
which if a man ignore or think to thrust it off
he is the ill-natured fool that runneth blindly on death.
This Individualism is man's true Socialism.
This is the rife Idea whose spiritual beauty
multiplieth in communion to transcendant might.
This is thatt excelent way whereon if we wil walk
all things shall be added unto us-thatt Love which inspired
the wayward Visionary in his doctrinal ode
to the three christian Graces, the Church's first hymn
and only deathless athanasian creed,--the which
'except a man believe he cannot be saved.'
This is the endearing bond whereby Christ's company
yet holdeth together on the truth of his promise
that he spake of his grat pity and trust in man's love,
'Lo, I am with you always ev'n to the end of the world.'
Truly the Soul returneth the body's loving
where it hath won it...and God so loveth the world...
and in the fellowship of the friendship of Christ
God is seen as the very self-essence of love,
Creator and mover of all as activ Lover of all,
self-express'd in not-self, mind and body, mother and child,
'twixt lover and loved, God and man: but ONE ETERNAL
in the love of Beauty and in the selfhood of Love.


by Edwin Arlington Robinson |

Theophilus

 By what serene malevolence of names 
Had you the gift of yours, Theophilus? 
Not even a smeared young Cyclops at his games 
Would have you long,—and you are one of us. 

Told of your deeds I shudder for your dream
And they, no doubt, are few and innocent. 
Meanwhile, I marvel; for in you, it seems, 
Heredity outshines environment. 

What lingering bit of Belial, unforeseen, 
Survives and amplifies itself in you?
What manner of devilry has ever been 
That your obliquity may never do? 

Humility befits a father’s eyes, 
But not a friend of us would have him weep. 
Admiring everything that lives and dies,
Theophilus, we like you best asleep. 

Sleep—sleep; and let us find another man 
To lend another name less hazardous: 
Caligula, maybe, or Caliban, 
Or Cain,—but surely not Theophilus.


by Edward Taylor |

Like A Scarf

 The directions to the lunatic asylum were confusing,
more likely they were the random associations
and confused ramblings of a lunatic.
We arrived three hours late for lunch
and the lunatics were stacked up on their shelves,
quite neatly, I might add, giving credit where credit is due.
The orderlies were clearly very orderly, and they
should receive all the credit that is their due.
When I asked one of the doctors for a corkscrew
he produced one without a moment's hesitation.
And it was a corkscrew of the finest craftsmanship,
very shiny and bright not unlike the doctor himself.
"We'll be conducting our picnic under the great oak
beginning in just a few minutes, and if you'd care
to join us we'd be most honored. However, I understand
you have your obligations and responsibilities,
and if you would prefer to simply visit with us
from time to time, between patients, our invitation
is nothing if not flexible. And, we shan't be the least slighted
or offended in any way if, due to your heavy load,
we are altogether deprived of the pleasure
of exchanging a few anecdotes, regarding the mentally ill,
depraved, diseased, the purely knavish, you in your bughouse,
if you'll pardon my vernacular, O yes, and we in our crackbrain
daily rounds, there are so many gone potty everywhere we roam,
not to mention in one's own home, dead moonstruck.
Well, well, indeed we would have many notes to compare
if you could find the time to join us after your injections."
My invitation was spoken in the evenest tones,
but midway though it I began to suspect I was addressing
an imposter. I returned the corkscrew in a nonthreatening manner.
What, for instance, I asked myself, would a doctor, a doctor of the mind,
be doing with a cordscrew in his pocket?
This was a very sick man, one might even say dangerous.
I began moving away cautiously, never taking my eyes off of him.
His right eyelid was twitching guiltily, or at least anxiously,
and his smock flapping slightly in the wind.
Several members of our party were mingling with the nurses
down by the duck pond, and my grip on the situation
was loosening, the planks in my picnic platform were rotting.
I was thinking about the potato salad in an unstable environment.
A weeping spell was about to overtake me.
I was very close to howling and gnashing the gladiola.
I noticed the great calm of the clouds overhead.
And below, several nurses appeared to me in need of nursing.
The psychopaths were stirring from their naps,
I should say, their postprandial slumbers.
They were lumbering through the pines like inordinately sad moose.
Who could eat liverwurst at a time like this?
But, then again, what's a picnic without pathos?
Lacking a way home, I adjusted the flap in my head and duck-walked
down to the pond and into the pond and began gliding
around in circles, quacking, quacking like a scarf.
Inside the belly of that image I began
recycling like a sorry whim, sincerest regrets
are always best.


by James Tate |

Like A Scarf

 The directions to the lunatic asylum were confusing,
more likely they were the random associations
and confused ramblings of a lunatic.
We arrived three hours late for lunch
and the lunatics were stacked up on their shelves,
quite neatly, I might add, giving credit where credit is due.
The orderlies were clearly very orderly, and they
should receive all the credit that is their due.
When I asked one of the doctors for a corkscrew
he produced one without a moment's hesitation.
And it was a corkscrew of the finest craftsmanship,
very shiny and bright not unlike the doctor himself.
"We'll be conducting our picnic under the great oak
beginning in just a few minutes, and if you'd care
to join us we'd be most honored. However, I understand
you have your obligations and responsibilities,
and if you would prefer to simply visit with us
from time to time, between patients, our invitation
is nothing if not flexible. And, we shan't be the least slighted
or offended in any way if, due to your heavy load,
we are altogether deprived of the pleasure
of exchanging a few anecdotes, regarding the mentally ill,
depraved, diseased, the purely knavish, you in your bughouse,
if you'll pardon my vernacular, O yes, and we in our crackbrain
daily rounds, there are so many gone potty everywhere we roam,
not to mention in one's own home, dead moonstruck.
Well, well, indeed we would have many notes to compare
if you could find the time to join us after your injections."
My invitation was spoken in the evenest tones,
but midway though it I began to suspect I was addressing
an imposter. I returned the corkscrew in a nonthreatening manner.
What, for instance, I asked myself, would a doctor, a doctor of the mind,
be doing with a cordscrew in his pocket?
This was a very sick man, one might even say dangerous.
I began moving away cautiously, never taking my eyes off of him.
His right eyelid was twitching guiltily, or at least anxiously,
and his smock flapping slightly in the wind.
Several members of our party were mingling with the nurses
down by the duck pond, and my grip on the situation
was loosening, the planks in my picnic platform were rotting.
I was thinking about the potato salad in an unstable environment.
A weeping spell was about to overtake me.
I was very close to howling and gnashing the gladiola.
I noticed the great calm of the clouds overhead.
And below, several nurses appeared to me in need of nursing.
The psychopaths were stirring from their naps,
I should say, their postprandial slumbers.
They were lumbering through the pines like inordinately sad moose.
Who could eat liverwurst at a time like this?
But, then again, what's a picnic without pathos?
Lacking a way home, I adjusted the flap in my head and duck-walked
down to the pond and into the pond and began gliding
around in circles, quacking, quacking like a scarf.
Inside the belly of that image I began
recycling like a sorry whim, sincerest regrets
are always best.