I cannot keep a grief so long,
That it will seed and blossom high;
Harbor a joy until its sails Grow to the mild curve of the sky.
Death stalks each to its seeming close,
Claps a cold hand upon its lips;
Thus goes the round blue of a flower,
Thus goes a town that roars with ships.
Yet flower and town keep not to clod;
They petal, tower, all and one;
Leap up, and throttle Death, and start On a new race from earth to sun.
Each loveliness lasts long enough To cheat us with impermanence;
Stale and familiar were it else,
Doubled its loveliness fleeting hence.
Beauty must have a temporal door At which to lean, a transient field Whereon its steepled roofs to build;
So great the cost, it dare not yield.
Some bright young thing begins its hour,
Cracks a thin shell, and soars away;
Its purples melt along the air;
For it must go, that it may stay.
Impermanence, then, is but the proof
Of the permanent.
I, become corrupt,
Escape, return, eternal, fast.
Towered six feet from the grass, to aging farms
From village flags he went. With delicate touch
To patch a body, to these folk meant much;
But it meant more, that he, as though with charms,
Could patch their wits with waggery at its best;
Their crooked thoughts straightened out when he creaked by
Behind his gentle mare; wide looked the sky,
They grew important, taller at each jest.
He took their height with eyes too light a blue
For face made dark by the wind’s every trick,
Stared secrets out, but held close what they gave;
Spat, when unduly roused, an oath or two,
But kept a seldom music for his sick,
All lover, stripped to fight and thereby save.
Something that needs no clock,
Or plummet stone, or rod,
Or ladder for a height Goes by, and leaves you clod.
Something that keeps no book
For matters deep or light,
Or clerk stooped at a desk,
An ordered page to write.
The lighting of a sun,
The blowing of an air,
Roland and sparrow both Are equals in its care.
Most solemnly it goes Aware of low nor high,
With not a look or nod,
To prove that you are nigh.
Your laughter climbs the town—
Mirth seeks a noisy pitch—
Not a pebble stirs In a roadside ditch.
The year hard at your heart,
Hot-eyed, you rail your lot;
Not a snowdrop is missed From its April plot.
One only is its end,
One purpose first and last—
To make each lovely thing Inevitable, fast.