Allen Tate: Selected Poetry.

The Poet

From The Mediterranean and Other Poems

The Mediterranean

	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.

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