For thy breach is great like the sea: who can heal thee?
CITY of man,
You who bequeathed us liberty in bronze,
Rose of old Europe,
Gifted and feared tragedienne of loss,
You who bequeathed us birth and played our fall,
Tell us, how shall we mention your name in the dark,
O mention your death?
The victors walk
As tourists walked the pattern of Versailles,
The masters ride
As braided generals rode beneath the arch,
You who bequeathed us every grace of stone,
Where are your crowds, the temper of the world,
Roar we remember?
Sheared to the ground
The aged cities of the continent
Fight at the base,
And still unharmed as in a truce you stand
And all your mighty sculpture rises clear,
Your glass unbroken and your boulevards
Unpocked and swept.
Shunned by a war
Because you chose the fiction of a sleep,
Dead at the heart
For fear of furthering the task of work,
Forges and wheels had tired your desire,
Your hours were evenings, you discussed too much
The curve of progress.
Think of your words,
The brilliant final music of your poems
Spun in the brain,
The line of melody too sweet to hear;
You who bequeathed us teachers of the tongue
And held the burden of the book unsung,
Hushed in the ear.
Language of joy
But loath to learn the substantive of joy,
Soft syllables of even water-drops,
Shyly you set the fashion of all speech,
The king’s persuasion and the statesman’s turn,
Whore of the phrase.
Your lexicon more scattered than the Jews.
Figures of war,
The total terminology of blood,
Exquisite punctuation, graces, slurs,
All private dalliance, cookery and gain,
Babel of dreams,
Your islands of opinion never met,
Your very streets were laid like river-beds,
Circles were forts that watched the boulevards,
You thought in tides, the center of your storms
Misted the seas.
City of hands,
You gambled nature on philosophies,
From red to black
Drew all the generations of your luck;
Faithful to change and greediest of news
You pressed the logic of conclusions on
Into the Rhine.
The River Id
Flowed thickly from objective Germany,
To you it ran
The flashing mirror of your inwardness.
How often did your even image strike
And smash itself to darken the outside
And blind your way!
The crazed trajectory of civil wars
Led you across,
You dragged the word Equality like guns,
Entered the eerie lebensraum of space:
O then you froze your banners and returned
Lost to yourself.
City of books,
Your writers wore the heavy robes of law,
Gave to your priests satanic sacrament;
Your banks were kept by painters, novelists
Owned your department stores, your actresses
East of the soul,
So long the port-of-call of every clerk,
Of scholars, healers, agents, mistresses,
Pretenders to the past, utopians,
Exiles of spirit, bibliographers,
Woman of flesh,
You know how we shall mourn from time to time
Your silent fall,
Not like Jerusalem with piteous prayer,
Not like the Caesar’s city sacked by Huns
And carried piecemeal to the sturdier north
To build again;
The almost foreordained to lose the world,
A world was gone,
The bitterest extermination held;
And not like Nanking, Amsterdam we mourn,
City of joyous names, city of youth,
Your natural death,
But dimmed by thought,
All generations filing past your grave
Will bare their heads,
As I, one in the millions of your throng,
Stand at this battle-hour and look down
And drop my flower, Paris, where you lie
Hushed and destroyed.