From The Mediterranean and Other Poems
Quem das finem, rex magne, dolorum? Where we went in the boat was a long bay A slingshot wide, walled in by towering stone—— Peaked margin of antiquity's delay, And we went there out of time's monotone: Where we went up the black hull no light moved But a gull white-winged along the feckless wave, The breeze, unseen but fierce as a body loved, That boat drove onward like a willing slave: Where we went in the small ship the seaward Parted and gave to us the murmuring shore, And we made feast and in our secret need Devoured the very plates Aeneas bore: Where derelict you see through the low twilight The green coast that you, thunder-tossed, would win, Drop sail, and hastening to drink all night Eat dish and bowl to take that sweet land in! Where we feasted and caroused on the sandless Pebbles, affecting our day of piracy, What prophecy of eaten plates could landless Wanderers fulfil by the ancient sea? We for that time might taste the famous age Eternal here yet hidden from our eyes When lust of power undid its stuffless rage; They, in a wineskin, bore earth's paradise. Let us lie down once more by the breathing side Of Ocean, where our live forefathers sleep As if the Known Sea still were a month wide—— Atlantis howls but is no longer sleep! What country shall we conquer, what fair land Unman our conquest and locate our blood? We've cracked the hemispheres with careless hand! Now, from the Gates of Hercules we flood Westward, westward til the barbarous brine Whelms us to the tired land where tasseling corn, Fat beans, grapes sweeter than muscadine Rot on the vine: in that land were we born.
Aeneas at Washington
I saw myself furious with blood Neoptolemus, at his side the black Atridae, Hecubae and the hundred daughters, Priam Cut down, his filth drenching the holy fires. In that extremity I bore me well, A true gentleman, valorous in arms, Disinterested and honourable. Then fled: That was a time when civilization Run by the few fell to the many, and Crashed to the shout of men, the clang of arms: Cold victualing I seized, I hoisted up The old man my father upon my back, In the smoke made by sea for a new world Saving little——a mind imperishable If time is, a love of past things tenuous As the hesitation of receding love. (To the reduction of uncitied littorals We brought chiefly the vigor of prophecy, Our hunger breeding calculation And fixed triumphs.) I saw the thirsty dove In the glowing fields of Troy, hemp ripening And tawny corn, the thickening Blue Grass All lying rich forever in the green sun. I see all things apart, the towers that men Contrive I too contrived long, long ago. Now I demand little. The singular passion Abides its object and consumes desire In the circling shadow of its appetite. There was a time when the young eyes were slow, Their flame steady beyond the firstling fire, I stood in the rain, far from home at night fall By the Potomac, the great Dome lit the water, The city my blood had built I knew no more While the screech-owl whistled his new delight Consecutively dark. Stuck in the wet mire Four thousand leagues from the ninth buried city I thought of Troy, what we had built her for.
Aeneas at New York
A reply to Archibald MacLeish's poem, "Invocation to the Social Muse," in The New Republic, October 26, 1932 You have Sir said it well but I have if Not knowledge a long memory of arms The dates the various implements of war Is it just to demand of us also to bear arms? It is just: what mannner of man was he Sinon who swore arms at Neptune's priest, swearing When the hard spear betrayed the horse's belly? First we are priests second we are not whores We are those who have arranged the auguries And in dangerous youth made the good battle I think Sir that you honoring our trade (And nothing is lost save its honor) And wishing us our own integrity and calm Fall, if I may say it with respect, in error: Is it just to demand of us also to bear arms It is just and it is chiefly the nice question Of the period of life and of whose arms: You will remember the name of the poet fighting, The young man at Salamis. Was he a whore? The poet is he who fights on the passionate Side and whoever loses he wins; when he Is defeated it is hard to say who wins Neither views nor princes nor are there rules There is the infallible instinct for the right battle On the passionate side. With whose arms Not the arms of Mister J.P. Morgan: he is not one: With one's own arms when necessity detects The fir-built horse inside the gates of Troy We have nothing to do with Aulis nor intrigues At Mycenae. I cannot of course prescribe For other cities. Here (I merely suggest it) Is what we did at Troy: there was no column Of marchers there were myself and sad Hector Have you Penates have you altars, have You your great-great-grandfather's breeches? DO not I do not attempt to wear the greeves The moths are fed; our shanks too thin. Have you His flintlock or had he none have you bought A new Browning? The use of arms is ownership Of the appropriate gun. It is ownership that brings Victory that is not hinted at in "Das Kapital." I think there is never but one true war So let us as you desire perfect our trade.