By Edwin Arlington Robinson
(1869 - 1935)
 
 
Ballade of Dead Friends
 
 
AS we the withered ferns
    By the roadway lying,
Time, the jester, spurns
    All our prayers and prying—
    All our tears and sighing,
Sorrow, change, and woe—
    All our where-and-whying
For friends that come and go.
 
Life awakes and burns.
  Age and death defying,
Till at last it learns
    All but Love is dying;
    Love’s the trade we’re plying,
God has willed it so;
    Shrouds are what we’re buying
    For friends that come and go.
 
Man forever yearns
    For the thing that ’s flying.
Everywhere he turns,
    Men to dust are drying,—
    Dust that wanders, eyeing
(With eyes that hardly glow)
    New faces, dimly spying
For friends that come and go.
 
ENVOY

And thus we all are nighing
    The truth we fear to know:
Death will end our crying
    For friends that come and go.
 
 
Luke Havergal
 
 
GO to the western gate, Luke Havergal,—
There where the vines cling crimson on the wall,—
And in the twilight wait for what will come.
The wind will moan, the leaves will whisper some,—
Whisper of her, and strike you as they fall;
But go, and if you trust her she will call.
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal—
Luke Havergal.
 
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies
To rift the fiery night that ’s in your eyes;
But there, where western glooms are gathering,
The dark will end the dark, if anything:
God slays Himself with every leaf that flies,
And hell is more than half of paradise.
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies—
In eastern skies.
 
Out of a grave I come to tell you this,—
Out of grave I come to quench the kiss
That flames upon your forehead with a glow
That blinds you to the way that you must go.
Yes, there is yet one way to where she is,—
Bitter, but one that faith can never miss.
Out of a grave I come to tell you this—
To tell you this.
 
There is the western gate, Luke Havergal,
There are the crimson leaves upon the wall.
Go,—for the winds are tearing them away,—
Nor think to riddle the dead words they say,
Nor any more to feel them as they fall;
But go! and if you trust her she will call.
There is the western gate, Luke Havergal—
Luke Havergal.
 
 
The Clerks
 
 
I DID not think that I should find them there
When I came back again; but there they stood,
As in the days they dreamed of when young blood
Was in their cheeks and women called them fair.
Be sure, they met me with an ancient air,—
And, yes, there was a shop-worn brotherhood
About them; but the men were just as good,
And just as human as they ever were.
And you that ache so much to be sublime,
And you that feed yourselves with your descent,
What comes of all your visions and your fears?
Poets and kings are but the clerks of Time,
Tiering the same dull webs of discontent,
Clipping the same sad alnage of the years.
 
 
The House on the Hill
 
 
THEY are all gone away,
    The House is shut and still,
There is nothing more to say.
 
Through broken walls and gray
    The winds blow bleak and shrill:
They are all gone away.
 
Nor is there one to-day
    To speak them good or ill:
There is nothing more to say.
 
Why is it then we stray
    Around that sunken sill?
They are all gone away,
 
And our poor fancy-play
    For them is wasted skill:
There is nothing more to say.
 
There is ruin and decay
    In the House on the Hill:
They are all gone away,
There is nothing more to say.
 
 
The Pity of the Leaves
 
 
VENGEFUL across the cold November moors,
Loud with ancestral shame there came the bleak,
Sad wind that shrieked, and answered with a shriek,
Reverberant through lonely corridors.
The old man heard it; and he heard, perforce,
Words out of lips that were no more to speak—
Words of the past that shook the old man’s cheek
Like dead, remembered footsteps on old floors.
And then there were the leaves that plagued him so!
The brown, thin leaves that on the stones outside
Skipped with a freezing whisper. Now and then
They stopped, and stayed there—just to let him know
How dead they were; but if the old man cried,
They fluttered off like withered souls of men.
 
BACK | TOC | FORWARD