Friendship, when a friend meant a helping sword,
Faithfulness, when power and life were its fruits, hatred, when the hated
Held steel at your throat or had killed your children, were more than metaphors.
Life and the world were as bright as knives.
But now, if I should recall my ruins
From the grass-roots and build my body again in the heavy grave,
Twist myself naked up through the earth like a strong white worm,
Tip the great stone, gulp the white air,
And live once more after long ages
In the change of the world: I should find the old human affections hollowed.
Should I need a friend? No one will really stab me from behind,
The people in the land of the living walk weaponless.
Should I hate an enemy? The evil-doers
Are pitiable now. Or to whom be faithful? Of whom seek faith?
Who has eaten of the victor’s feast and shared the fugitive silence
Of beaten men on the mountain: suffer
Resurrection to join this midge-dance
Of gutted and multiplied echoes of life in the latter sun?
Dead man, be quiet. A fool of a merchant, who’d sell good earth
And grass again to make modern flesh.
If God has been good enough to give you a poet
Then listen to him. But for God’s sake let him alone until he is dead;
no prizes, no ceremony,
They kill the man. A poet is one who listens
To nature and his own heart; and if the noise of the world grows up
around him, and if he is tough enough,
He can shake off his enemies, but not his friends.
That is what withered Wordsworth and muffled Tennyson, and would have
killed Keats; that is what makes
Hemingway play the fool and Faulkner forget his art.
White-maned, wide-throated, the heavy-shouldered children of
the wind leap at the sea-cliff.
The invisible falcon
Brooded on water and bred them in wide waste places, in a bridechamber
wide to the stars’ eyes
In the center of the ocean,
Where no prows pass nor island is lifted … the sea beyond
Lobos is whitened with the falcon’s
Passage, he is here now,
The sky is one cloud, his wing-feathers hiss in the white grass,
my sapling cypresses writhing
In the fury of his passage
Dare not dream of their centuries of future endurance of tempest.
(I have granite and cypress,
Planted in the earth; but the granite sea-boulders are prey to no
hawk’s wing, they have taken worse pounding,
Like me they remember
Old wars and are quiet; for we think that the future is one piece
with the past, we wonder why tree-tops
And people are so shaken.)