20140915

Lost Anchors

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Like a dry fish flung inland far from shore,
There lived a sailor, warped and ocean-browned,
Who told of an old vessel, harbor-drowned
And out of mind a century before,
Where divers, on descending to explore
A legend that had lived its way around
The world of ships, in the dark hulk had found
Anchors, which had been seized and seen no more.

Improving a dry leisure to invest
Their misadventure with a manifest
Analogy that he may read who runs,
The sailor made it old as ocean grass--
Telling of much that once had come to pass
With him, whose mother should have had no sons.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20140909

Doctor of Billiards

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Of all among the fallen from on high,
We count you last and leave you to regain
Your born dominion of a life made vain
By three spheres of insidious ivory.
You dwindle to the lesser tragedy--
Content, you say.  We call, but you remain.
Nothing alive gone wrong could be so plain,
Or quite so blasted with absurdity.

You click away the kingdom that is yours,
And you click off your crown for cap and bells;
You smile, who are still the master of the feast,
And for your smile we credit you the least;
But when your false, unhallowed laugh occurs,
We seem to think there may be something else.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20140908

Verlaine

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Why do you dig like long-clawed scavengers
To touch the covered corpse of him that fled
The uplands for the fens, and rioted
Like a sick satyr with doom's worshippers?
Come! let the grass grow there; and leave his verse
To tell the story of the life he led.
Let the man go:  let the dead flesh be dead,
And let the worms be its biographers.

Song sloughs away the sin to find redress
In art's complete remembrance:  nothing clings
For long but laurel to the stricken brow
That felt the Muse's finger; nothing less
Than hell's fulfillment of the end of things
Can blot the star that shines on Paris now.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20140831

Supremacy

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

There is a drear and lonely tract of hell
From all the common gloom removed afar:
A flat, sad land it is, where shadows are,
Whose lorn estate my verse may never tell.
I walked among them and I knew them well:
Men I had slandered on life's little star
For churls and sluggards; and I knew the scar
Upon their brows of woe ineffable.

But as I went majestic on my way,
Into the dark they vanished, one by one,
Till, with a shaft of God's eternal day,
The dream of all my glory was undone,--
And, with a fool's importunate dismay,
I heard the dead men singing in the sun.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20140829

George Crabbe

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Give him the darkest inch your shelf allows,
Hide him in lonely garrets, if you will,--
But his hard, human pulse is throbbing still
With the sure strength that fearless truth allows.
In spite of all fine science disavows,
of his plain excellence and stubborn skill
There yet remains what fashion cannot kill,
Though years have thinned the laurel from his brows.

Whether or not we read him, we can feel
From time to time the vigor or his name
Against us like a finger for the shame
And emptiness of what our souls reveal
In books that are as altars where we kneel
To consecrate the flicker, not the flame.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20140828

L'Envoi

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Now in a thought, now in a shadowed word,
Now in a voice that thrills eternity,
Ever there comes an onward phrase to me
Of some transcendent music I have heard;
No piteous thing by soft hands dulcimered,
No trumpet crash of blood-sick victory,
But a glad strain of some vast harmony
That no brief mortal touch has ever stirred.

There is no music in the world like this,
No character wherewith to set it down,
No kind of instrument to make it sing.
No kind of instrument?  Ah, yes, there is;
And after time and place are overthrown,
God's touch will keep its one chord quivering.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.

20140827

On the Night of a Friend's Wedding

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

If ever I am old, and all alone,
I shall have killed one grief, at any rate;
For then, thank God, I shall not have to wait
Much longer for the sheaves that I have sown.
The devil only knows what I have done,
But here I am, and here are six or eight
Good friends, who most ingenuously prate
About my songs to such and such a one.

But everything is askew to-night,--
As if the time were come, or almost come,
For their untenanted mirage of me
To lose itself and crumble out of sight,
Like a tall ship that floats above the foam
A little while, and then breaks utterly.

Note:  A recitation can be heard here.