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History


ISSUE:  Summer 1935

Past crag and scarp
At length, way won;
And done
The chert’s sharp
Incision,
The track-flint’s bite.
Now done, the belly’s lack,
Belt tight—
The shrunk sack,
Corn spent, meats foul:
The dry gut-growl.

We now have known the last,
And can appraise
Pain past:
We came bad ways,
The watercourses
Dry,
No herb for horses.
(We slew them shamefastly,
Dodging their gaze.)
Sleet came some days,
At night no fuel.
And so, thin-wrapt,
We slept:
Forgot the frosty nostril,
Joints rotten and the ulcered knee,
The cold-kibed heel,
The cracked lip.
It was bad country of no tree,
The abrupt landslip,
The glacier’s snore.
Much man can bear.

How blind the passes were!

And now
We see, below,
The delicate landscape unfurled:
A world
Of ripeness blent, and green;
The fruited earth,
Fire on the good hearth,
The fireside scene.
(Those people have no name,
Who shall know dearth
And flame.)
It is a land of corn and kine,
Of milk
And wine,
And beds that are as silk:
The gentle thigh,
The unlit night-lamp nigh.
Thus it was prophesied:
We shall possess,
And abide—
Nothing less.
We may not be denied.
The inhabitant shall flee as the fox;
His foot shall be among the rocks.

In the new land
Our seed shall prosper, and
In those unsifted times
Our sons shall cultivate
Peculiar crimes,
Having not love, nor hate,
Scarce memory.
And some,
Of all most weary,
Most defective of desire,
Shall grope toward Time’s cold womb;
In dim pools peer
To see, of some grandsire,
The long and toothèd jawbone greening there.
(O Time, for them the aimless bitch—
Purblind, field-worn,
Slack dugs by the dry thorn torn—
Forever quartering the ground in which
The blank and fanged
Rough certainty lies hid.)

Now at our back
The night wind lifts,
Rain in the wind.
Downward, the darkness sifts.
It is the hour for attack.
Wind fondles, far below, the leaves of the land,
Freshening the arbor.
Recall our honor,
And descend!
We seek what end?
The slow dynastic ease,
Travail’s cease?
Not pleasure, sure:
Alloy of fact.
The act
Alone is pure.
What appetency knows the flood,
What thirst, the sword?
What name
Sustains the core of flame?
We are
But doom’s apparitor.
Time falls, but has no end.
 Descend!

The bride’s surrender will be sweet.
The gentle path suggests our feet.
We shall assay
The rugged ritual, but not of anger:
Let us go down before
Our thews are latched in the myth’s langour,
Our hearts with fable grey.

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