Dry is the sunlight in the Apollonian temple,
And the wind makes a hollow sound where it wanders
Among the broken columns. Open to the sky,
A vault deserted even by memory,
Who will come here now, except, over
The cracking pavement, the incurious lizard, eyes
Blinking in the sun; or the milkweed feather blown
To no fertile seeding. Even death lives elsewhere.
This might be any seacoast for the terns
And wild gulls to conquer, any high place
Looking out on the unwrinkled sea.
The sand, the crab-grass, the dry sky where burns
Steadily the white inhuman sun:
Land’s end, Time’s end, the absolute of peace,
If peace means only absence from all living,
The impersonal circles of the flashing gulls.
If this were the nineteenth century, if I
Had come from the complacencies of plush and beaded
Lamps, the ornate rectitude of money,
If I were the Poet with the cultured soul,
Put down each night upon the lavender sheets
Of certainty-God in his heavenly mansion,
Lucifer fuming in his vulgar shooting-box,
Down there I’d metaphor the sea’s bright girdle.
Armored in Lasting Values; Art like a halo,
Good being manly, Truth like Mother, and Beauty beautiful,
-God in his nowhere beaded shooting-box-
I’d mourn the Sea of Faith at its ornate ebb,
And know To Do Good Is To Be Good, mourn
Those ignorant armies clashing, doing no good,
But calm as the sea I’d sing, rejoicing their chance
For improvement, proving my gift, its tutelary beauty.
Ah, but the times have changed, have changed, Saint Matthew,
The cliff by the sea where I walk shakes in the darkness.
The sea launches no scriptures. Its hungry throat
Devours impartially the good, the evil-
Even the poets go down like lyric Jonahs.
We are all afraid, Saint Matthew, we are doubtful,
Though our ignorant armies are terribly aware,
Flailed in the combat of their consciousness.
It is death everywhere, in the ornate mansions,
In the vulgar shooting-boxes. Death for the young,
For the hopeful. Impartial as a bomb, death takes
Charge of things. And the torpedo flowers in the surf:
Its bloody harvest the boys who did not want to die.
Then what shall I ask from my poems, Saint Matthew? Tell,
If you know, tell. I know no answers who write
Because I must, the word within a word which is always a word.
Love lives no longer at the world’s bright center,
But shy in corners, eyes turned from the sun,
Happiest in darkness, is the voice
Suddenly tender, the quick gesture of the hand,
The dangerous longing when you are not here.
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