bio

Edwin Muir--Scottish

Edwin Muir
(1887-1959)

 

Muir’s early life was struck with tragedy when first his family lost their Orkney Island farm, and then two of his brothers and parents died.  Adrift in Glasgow in his early teens Muir was forced to do menial jobs.  By 1916, his interest in poetry and left-wing politics became evident.  His first book, We Moderns, a volume of essays on contemporary issues, was published in 1918.  In that same year he met his future wife, Willa Anderson, who as Willa Muir, became a well-known novelist.  The two collaborated on translating more than forty novels from German, including those of Franz Kafka.  First Poems, a collection of Muir’s poetry was released in 1925.  In 1946 Muir became director of the British Council.  In 1955 he was named the Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard.  He died in 1959.


The Castle

All through that summer at ease we lay,
And daily from the turret wall
We watched the mowers in the hay
And the enemy half a mile away.
They seemed no threat to us at all.

For what, we thought, had we to fear
With our arms and provender, load on load,
Our towering battlements, tier on tier,
And friendly allies drawing near
On every leafy summer road.

Our gates were strong, our walls were thick,
So smooth and high, no man could win
A foothold there, no clever trick
Could take us in, have us dead or quick.
Only a bird could have got in.

What could they offer us for bait?
Our captain was brave and we were true...
There was a little private gate,
A little wicked wicket gate.
The wizened warder let them through.

Oh then our maze of tunnelled stone
Grew thin and treacherous as air.
The cause was lost without a groan,
The famous citadel overthrown,
And all its secret galleries bare.

How can this shameful tale be told?
I will maintain until my death
We could do nothing, being sold;
Our only enemy was gold,
And we had no arms to fight it with.



 

Elsa Morante--Italian

 

 

Elsa Morante
(1912-1985)

 

Elsa Morante is best known as a novelist, but she also wrote stories and poetry.  Born in Rome in 1912 her work often centered on the struggles of youth as they came to grip with their place in the adult world.  Morante was married to Italian novelist and film critic Alberto Moravia.  Since both were Jewish they were forced to flee Rome for their lives during the war. During this period she began work on her most famous novel, La storia, which was not published until 1974.  It was also during this period that she started translating the writings of Katherine Mansfield. Her first novel, Menzogna e sortilegioHouse of Liars), published in 1948 won the prestigious Viareggio prize.  Morante died in 1985.  During her lifetime she completed nine novels and works and other narratives, and three collections of poetry.


Sunday Evening

Through the pain of sick wards

and of all prison walls

of barbed-wire camps, of convicts and their keepers,

of ovens Siberias and slaughter-houses

of marches solitudes drunkenness and suicides

and the leaps of conception

the sickly sweet taste of the seed and the dead,

through the innumerable body of pain

theirs and mine,

today I reject reason, majesty

that denies the last grace,

and I spend my Sunday with madness.

Oh pierced prayer of elevation,

I claim for myself the guilt of the offense

in the vile body.

stamp your grace

on my ill-grown mind.  I receive you.

 

And the small carnage begins again.

The sweat nausea the cold fleshly fingertips the bones’ agony

and the round of wonderful abstractions

in the horror of stripping away flesh.

The usual deadly female peacock called Scheherazade

unfurls her wheel of stabbing pains,

feathers and flowers suddenly petrified

in the giddiness of colors against nature, a lacerating lynching

with sharp stones.  No way out.

The range of the limitless is another prison law

more perverse than any limit.  But still

beyond a glacial era the daily norm

resurfaces at intervals with its poor domestic face

while the blend of nature’s kingdoms

melts the veins in waves like childhood’s first menses

until the lymph is burned away.  The carnal fever is consumed.

conscience now is only a moth beating against the deathly dark

seeking a tread of substance.  Summer is dead.

Farewell farewell destinations addresses popes bestiaries

                                                and numberings,

Villa della Scimmia, Piazza Navonna, Avenue of the Americas.

Farewell measures, directions, five senses.  Farewell slavish duties

            slavish rights slavish judgments.

Take refuge blindly on the other side, hells or limbos, it

                                                Doesn’t matter,

rather than find yourself back in your disgusting domicile

where you’re crushed between walls soiled by painted canvases

recognizable as rags and dust of degraded Sindons.


The floor is a bloody mud boiling again

In the rooms, disintegrating ossuaries, in the last lightning flash

Of a misshapen brass plate, where lemons

Swell to plastic balls.  And from the mirror

With dusty eye-sockets something alien but at the same time

Close, intimate, stares at you, dark fish-scale beyond every

                                                            Incarnation,

that also denies the skeleton and the whole business

of geneses and epiphanies

of tombs and Easters.  Don’t try the twisted ruinous itinerary

of the stairs, that is for you an ascension of centuries,

and above, below, there is always Hell.

The decayed sky is the low ragged tent

of the earthly leper-house.  And the Mozartian flute is a malign hopping that beats back

all the way into your eye-bulb its trivial mimicry

of an obsessive arithmetic that has no other meaning…

No further sky’s exposed.  The thousand-petaled lotus doesn’t open.

You’re all there is here.  There’s nothing else.

Be present at this.  And stop calling on

dead lovers, dead mothers.

Stripped bare, poorer still than you, they don’t frequent this

or other dimensions.  Their final habitation

remains in your memory alone.

 

Memory memory, house of pain

where through great rooms and deserted galleries

an uproar of loudspeakers keeps repeating

(the mechanism is bewitched) always the bitter point

of the Eli Eli without an answer.  The shriek of the boy

who leaps blinded by the sacred evil.

The young assassin raving in the mad dormitory.

The cropped Christian litany in the hospital

storeroom, around the old dead Jewess

who pushed away the cross with her small delirious hands.

WITHOUT THE COMFORTS OF RELIGION.  This house is

                                                full of blood,

but the blood itself, all blood, is only spectral vapors

like the mind that bears witness to them.

And when the hours of requiem arrives for  you, it will be like

                                    this through those cries.

 

The desecrated Sunday declines now

the plague-moons are already sinking

the thorny hedge buds again, your senses chime in five voices.

Hurray again, hurray to meet your usual poor tomorrows,

your usual death-doomed body.

It’s super-time.  Oh hunger for life, feed yourself

again on the daily substance of slaughters.


Be born again to forms to confidences and arbitrary choruses

To consciousness

To health

To the order of dates

To your place.

 

No Revelation.  (Even if the play is illegal,

it always depends on the collective factory of free will).

No sin (The machine designed for torture

isn’t guilty of the tortures, oh poor sinners).

And no special grace.

(The only common grace is patience

up to the consummation’s amen).

Go away content.  Absolved, absolved, though backsliding.

Good evening, good evening.

This Sunday too is over.

 

Translated by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann

 

 

 

Marianne Moore--American

 

         

Marianne Moore
(1887-1972)

 

Born in 1887, Moore spent her younger years moving with her family between the homes of relatives.  She attended Bryn Mawr College and graduated in 1901, taught briefly at the Carlisle Indian School, and in 1918 moved with to New York City.  In 1921 she became an assistant at the New York Public Library where she met a number of poets, including William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens.  During this time she contributed to a prestigious literary magazine, the Dial.  She became editor of the Dial from 1925 to 1929 and became a member of the Imagist writing movement along with Pound, Williams and Hilda Doolittle (H.D.).  Doolittle published Moore’s first collection of verse, simply titled Poems, without her knowledge.  Moore received the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the Bollingen prize for her writing.  She died in 1972.


Keeping Their World Large

 

All too literally, their flesh and their spirit are our shield

New York Times, June 7, 1944

 

I should like to see that country’s tiles, bedrooms, stone patios

and ancient wells: Rinaldo

Caramonica’s the cobbler’s, Frank Sblendorio’s

and Dominick Angelastro’s country—

the grocer’s, the iceman’s the dancer’s—the

beautiful Miss Damiano’s; wisdom’s

 

and all angels’ Italy, this Christmas Day

this Christmas year.

a noiseless piano, an

innocent war, the heart that can act against itself.  Here,

each unlike and all alike, could

so many—stumbling, falling, multiplied

till bodies lay as ground to walk on—

 

“If Christ and the apostles died in vain,

I’ll die in vain with them”

against this way of victory.

that forest of white crosses!

my eyes won’t close to it.

 

All laid like animals for sacrifice—

like Isaac on the mount,

were their own sacrifice.

 

Marching to death, marching to life?

“Keeping their world large,”

whose spirits and whose bodies

all too literally were our shield,

are still our shield.

 

They fought the enemy,

we fight fat living and self-pity

shine, o shine,

unfalsifying sun, on this sick scene.

 

Gabriela Mistral--Chilean

 

  

Gabriela Mistral
(1889-1957)

 

Born as Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga in 1889, Gabriela Mistral was the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945.  Although Mistral is best known as a poet, she was a prominent educator, diplomat and feminist.  She served as Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid and Lisbon, and was involved in cultural committees attached to the League of Nations.  She held numerous honorary degrees and taught Spanish literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College and at the University of Puerto Rico.  Sonetos de la muerte, a collection of love poems in memory of the dead was published in 1914 helped make her name a standard within the literary community.  In 1922 her book, Desolación was published followed in 1924 by Ternura.  Her complete poetry was published in 1958.  She died in 1957. 


Finnish Champion*

Finnish Champion, you are stretched out

in the burnished light of your final stadium,

red as the pheasant in life and in death,

stitched with wounds, drained as a gargoyle spout of your blood.

 

You have fallen in the snows of your childhood,

among blue edges and steely mirrors,

crying No! to the North and the East,

a No! that compresses profusion of snow,

hardens the skis to diamonds,

stops the war tank like a wild board.

 

Swimmer, ball-player, runner,

let them burn your name and call you “Finland.”

hallowed be your final course,

hallowed the meridian that took your body,

hallowed the midnight sin that granted your final miracle.

 

You denied the invader the draught of your lakes,

your paths, the life-thread of your reindeer,

the threshold of your home, the cube of your arena,

the rainbow of  your Virgins and Christ,

the baptized foreheads of your children.

 

Translated by Doris Dana

* During World War II Finland put up amazing resistance to massive invasions by Russian forces.

 

Janice Mirikitani--American

 

    

Janice Miriktani
(1941-    )

 

Janice Mirikitani,  sansei, a third-generation Japanese American, was born in Stockton, California, just before World War II.  Like other Japanese-Americans she and her family were interned for the duration of the war.  Besides being a poet, Mirikitani is a dancer, teacher and political activist.  She was the editor of several anthologies, including Third World Women, Time to Greez! Incantations from the Third World, and AYUMI: A Japanese American Anthology.  Her collections of poetry include Awake in the River (1978), Shedding Silence (1987), Watch Out! (1993), We, the Dangerous (1995), and Love Works (2002).  Mirikitani also has worked with youth to publish their poetry and artwork.

 

Excerpt from It Isn’t Easy

my poems

strung like bloody beads across my throat,

my disembowelment, my seppuku—

scarlet entrails

twisting from the open wound. . .


my unbeautiful hunger,

this selfish desire to be loud, bigger

than light, this longing

for movement, my own . . . .

 

Who lives within me?...

Go home, Jap!

Where is home?


A country of betrayal.

No one speaks to us

 

Czeslaw Milosz--Polish

Czeslaw Milosz
(1911-2004)

Born in Lithuania in 1911, Czeslaw Milosz spent his formative years in Vilnius.  His first poetry was published in 1930.  
Most of World War II, Milosz spent in Warsaw working with underground presses.  In 1945 he became involved in the 
diplomatic service of the People’s Poland but broke with the government in 1951.  Shortly after he moved to France, 
he wrote several more books, and in 1953 received the Prix Littéraire Européen.  In 1961 he became professor of 
Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California—Berkeley.  Milosoz has received countless honors 
including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, the P.E.N. Award for poetry translations and
numerous honorary Doctor of Letters degrees.  He died in 2004.

 

A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto

 

Bees build around red liver,
Ants build around black bone.
It has begun: the tearing, the trampling on silks,
It has begun: the breaking of glass, wood, copper, nickel, silver, foam
Of gypsum, iron sheets, violin strings, trumpets, leaves, balls, crystals.
Poof! Phosphorescent fire from yellow walls
Engulfs animal and human hair.

Bees build around the honeycomb of lungs,
Ants build around white bone.
Torn is paper, rubber, linen, leather, flax,
Fiber, fabrics, cellulose, snakeskin, wire.
The roof and the wall collapse in flame and heat seizes the foundations.
Now there is only the earth, sandy, trodden down,
With one leafless tree.

Slowly, boring a tunnel, a guardian mole makes his way,
With a small red lamp fastened to his forehead.
He touches buried bodies, counts them, pushes on,
He distinguishes human ashes by their luminous vapor,
The ashes of each man by a different part of the spectrum.
Bees build around a red trace.
Ants build around the place left by my body.

I am afraid, so afraid of the guardian mole.
He has swollen eyelids, like a Patriarch
Who has sat much in the light of candles
Reading the great book of the species.

What will I tell him, I, a Jew of the New Testament,
Waiting two thousand years for the second coming of Jesus?
My broken body will deliver me to his sight
And he will count me among the helpers of death:
The uncircumcised.

Warsaw, 1943

 


On Prayer

 

You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word is
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.


1945

YOU! THE LAST Polish poet! -drunk, he embraced me,
My friend from the Avant-Garde, in a long military coat,
Who had lived through the war in Russia and, there, understood.

He could not have learned those things from Apollinaire,
Or Cubist manifestos, or the festivals of Paris streets.
The best cure for illusions is hunger, patience, and obedience.

In their fine capitals they still liked to talk.
Yet the twentieth century went on. It was not they
Who would decide what words were going to mean.

On the steppe, as he was binding his bleeding feet with a rag
He grasped the futile pride of those lofty generations.
As far as he could see, a flat, unredeemed earth.

Gray silence settled over every tribe and people.
After the bells of baroque churches, after a hand on a saber,
After disputes over free will, and arguments of diets.

I blinked, ridiculous and rebellious,
Alone with my Jesus Mary against irrefutable power,
A descendant of ardent prayers, of gilded sculptures and miracles.

And I knew I would speak in the language of the vanquished
No more durable than old customs, family rituals,
Christmas tinsel, and once a year the hilarity of carols.


 

Robert Lowell--American

          
Robert Lowell
(1917-1977)
Lowell's early writing was warmly received, and his second book, Lord Weary’s Castle, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1947, when Lowell was just thirty. During World War II Lowell was a conscientious objector and was imprisoned for his belief. He continued his opposition to war during the Vietnam war. Throughout his life he struggled with depression, and was repeatedly hospitalized. His collection of poetry, Life Studies, published in 1959, spoke directly to his personal experience. Lowell served as the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 1962 until his death in 1977.    

 

Memories of West Street and Lepke    

Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming

in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,
I hog a whole house on Boston's 
"hardly passionate Marlborough Street,"
where even the man
scavenging filth in the back alley trash cans,
has two children, a beach wagon, a helpmate,
and is "a young Republican."
I have a nine months' daughter,
young enough to be my granddaughter.
Like the sun she rises in her flame-flamingo infants' wear. 
These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?
I was a fire-breathing Catholic C.O.,
and made my manic statement,
telling off the state and president, and then
sat waiting sentence in the bull pen 
beside a negro boy with curlicues
of marijuana in his hair.
Given a year,
I walked on the roof of the West Street Jail, a short
enclosure like my school soccer court,
and saw the Hudson River once a day
through sooty clothesline entanglements
and bleaching khaki tenements. 
Strolling, I yammered metaphysics with Abramowitz,
a jaundice-yellow ("it's really tan")
and fly-weight pacifist,
so vegetarian,
he wore rope shoes and preferred fallen fruit.
He tried to convert Bioff and Brown,
the Hollywood pimps, to his diet.
Hairy, muscular, suburban,
wearing chocolate double-breasted suits,
they blew their tops and beat him black and blue.
I was so out of things, I'd never heard
of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Are you a C.O.?" I asked a fellow jailbird.
"No," he answered, "I'm a J.W."
He taught me the "hospital tuck,"
and pointed out the T-shirted back
of Murder Incorporated's Czar Lepke,
there piling towels on a rack,
or dawdling off to his little segregated cell full
of things forbidden to the common man:
a portable radio, a dresser, two toy American
flags tied together with a ribbon of Easter palm.
Flabby, bald, lobotomized,
he drifted in a sheepish calm,
where no agonizing reappraisal
jarred his concentration on the electric chair
hanging like an oasis in his air
of lost connections. . . .

 

History 


History has to live with what was here,

clutching and close to fumbling all we had--

it is so dull and gruesome how we die,

unlike writing, life never finishes.

Abel was finished; death is not remote,
a flash-in-the-pan electrifies the skeptic,
his baby crying all night like a new machine.
the beautiful, mist-drunken hunter's moon ascends--
a child could give it a face: two holes, two holes,

his cows crowding like skulls against high-voltage wire,

my eyes, my mouth, between them a skull's no-nose--

O there's a terrifying innocence in my face

drenched with the silver salvage of the morn-frost.
 

Louis Macneice--Irish/British

       
Louis MacNeice
(1907-1993)

 

Born in 1907 in Belfast, Ireland, Louis MacNeice attended Oxford majoring in classics and philosophy. In 1941, he became a staff writer and producer for the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). While at the BBC, Macneice wrote plays and became a well-published poet. Throughout his professional career Macneice found himself being critical of politics. His poem, “Prayer before Birth,” written during World War II, expresses his concern for what influence the world’s tyranny can have on an unborn child. Macneice died at the age of 55 following a short illness with pneumonia. His last book of poems, The Burning Perch, was published in the year of his death, 1963.

 

Prayer before Birth


I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
     club-footed ghoul come near me.
I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me,
     with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me,
        on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.
I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
     to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
        in the back of my mind to guide me.
I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
     when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
        my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
           my life when they murder by means of my
              hands, my death when they live me.
I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when
     old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains
        frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white
            waves call me to folly and the desert calls
              me to doom and the beggar refuses
                 my gift and my children curse me.
I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
     come near me! I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my
     humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton,
        would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with
           one face, a thing, and against all those
              who would dissipate my entirety, would
                 blow me like thistledown hither and
                    thither or hither and thither
                       like water held in the
                          hands would spill me.
Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

 

John Magee--British/American


  
 John Magee
(1922-1941)
 
John Magee’s brief life is remembered because of his poem, “High Flight.” Born in Shanghai, China, in 1922 to an American father and British mother.  John spent his first years of schooling in China, but moved with his mother to England to continue his education. It was during his adolescence that he began to write poetry. At the outbreak of World War II he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, since the U.S. had not officially entered the war.  Magee was killed when his Spitfire plane collided with an RAF trainer. His gravestone is inscribed with the first and last lines of his “High Flight” poem: “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth—Put out my hand and touched the Face of God.”
 

High Flight
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence; hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, Up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
 

 

 

Stanley Kunitz--American



Stanley Kunitz
(1905-2006)

Born in 1905, Kunitz studied English at Harvard and began his writing career as a reporter for The Worcester Telegram, and then as editor for H.W. Wilson Company. He was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1943, and as a conscientious objector he served as a non-combatant and discharged as a staff sergeant. After the war, he began an illustrious teaching career at Bennington College, University of Washington, Vassar, Brandeis, Yale and for over twenty years, taught at Columbia University. During his lifetime, Kunitz received the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award and the National Medal of the Arts. He was named poet laureate of the U.S. twice. Passport to War, his second poetry collection was written when Kunitz was serving on the European front.

 

Father and Son

Now in the suburbs and the falling light
I followed him, and now down sandy road
Whitter than bone-dust, through the sweet
Curdle of fields, where the plums
Dropped with their load of ripeness, one by one.
Mile after mile I followed, with skimming feet,
After the secret master of my blood,
Him, steeped in the odor of ponds, whose indomitable love
Kept me in chains. Strode years; stretched into bird;
Raced through the sleeping country where I was young,
The silence unrolling before me as I came,
The night nailed like an orange to my brow.

How should I tell him my fable and the fears,
How bridge the chasm in a casual tone,
Saying, "The house, the stucco one you built,
We lost. Sister married and went from home,
And nothing comes back, it's strange, from where she goes.
I lived on a hill that had too many rooms;
Light we could make, but not enough of warmth,
And when the light failed, I climbed under the hill.
The papers are delivered every day;
I am alone and never shed a tear."

At the water's edge, where the smothering ferns lifted
Their arms, "Father!" I cried, "Return! You know
The way. I’ll wipe the mudstains from your clothes;
No trace, I promise, will remain. Instruct
Your son, whirling between two wars,
In the Gemara of your gentleness,
For I would be a child to those who mourn
And brother to the foundlings of the field
And friend of innocence and all bright eyes.
0’ teach me how to work and keep me kind."
Among the turtles and the lilies he turned to me
The white ignorant hollow of his face.

 

Night Letter

The urgent letter that I try to write

Night after night to you to whom I turn,
The staunchless word, my language of wound,
Begins to stain the page. Here in my room
With the unkenneled need, the Faustian Dog
That chews my penitential bones, I hope
And do not hope, I pray and mock my prayer,
Twisting my coils, this dangling life of mine,
Now twelve years come of age, and me unpleased
With all my ways, my very little ones,
My parts, my lines, unless you hold them dear.
Where is your ministry? I thought I heard
A piece of laughter break upon the stair
Like glass, but when I wheeled around I saw
Disorder, in a tall magician's hat,
Keeping his rabbit-madness crouched inside,
Sit at my desk and scramble all the news.
The strangest things are happening. Christ! The dead,
Pushing the membrane from their face, salute
The dead and scribble slogans on the walls;
Phantoms and phobias mobilize, thronging
The roads; and in the Bitch's streets the men
Are lying down, great crowds with fractured wills
Dumping the shapeless burden of their lives
Into the rivers where the motors flowed.
Of those that stood in my doorway, self-accused,
Besmeared with failure in the swamps of trade,
One put a gun in his examiner's hand,
Making the judgment loud; another squats
Upon the asylum floor and plays with toys,
Like the spiral of a souls balanced on a stone,
Or a new gadget for slicing off the thumb;
The rest whirl in the torment of our time.
What have we done to them that what they are
Shrinks from the touch of what they hoped to be?
"Pardon," I plead, clutching the fragile sleeve
Of my poor father's ghost returned to howl
His wrongs. I suffer the twentieth century,
The nerves of commerce wither in my arm;
Violence shakes my dreams; I am cold,
Chilled by the persecuting wind abroad,
The oratory of the rodent's tooth,
The slaughter of the blue-eyed open towns,
And principle disgraced, and art denied.
My dear, is it too late for peace, too late
For men to gather at the wells to drink
The sweet water; too late for fellowship
And laughter at the forge; too late for us
To say, "Let us be good to one another"?
The lamps go singly out; the valley sleeps;
I tend the last light shining on the farms
And keep for you the thought of love alive,
As scholars dungeoned in an ignorant age
Tended the embers of the Trojan fire.
Cities shall suffer siege and some shall fall,
But man's not taken. What the deep heart means,
Its message of the big, round, childish hand,
Its wonder, its simple lonely cry,
The bloodied envelope addressed to you,
Is history, that wide and mortal pang.

 

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