Here too. Here, as on the other unfurling
Frontier of the continent, the great
Prairie where a solitary cry fades out;
Here too the lariat, the Indian, the yearling.
Here too the secretive and unseen bird
That over the clamorous strains of history
Sings for one evening and its memory;
Here too the mystic alphabet, the word
Of stars which dictate to my cursive flow
Names that the days on their labyrinthine way
Will leave behind them: San Jacinto, say,
Or that other Thermopylae, the Alamo.
Here too that unknown, brief,
Needy and fretful commotion, life.
Always around him was the ancestral sea,
Sea of the Saxons, those who called it whale-road,
By which they coupled two enormous things,
The whale and the vast sea it vastly ploughs.
The sea belonged to him. And when his eyes
Beheld on the high seas the walls of water,
He had already longed for and possessed them
In that collateral sea which is the Scriptures
Or in the misty profile of the archetypes.
As man, he gave himself to the seven seas
And to the long, exhausting days and nights
And knew the harpoon crimsoned by Leviathan,
The brindled sands, the night smells and the dawn smells,
And the horizon where Chance lies in wait.
And then the exultation of being brave,
And, at the end, the joy of spying Ithaca.
Conqueror of the sea, he trod the solid
Land which is the root of mountain ranges,
Motionless in time, a sleeping compass,
And over which he notes an uncertain route.
In the hereditary shade of orchards,
Melville crosses the evenings of New England
But sea inhabits him. It is the shame
Of the mutilated captain of the Pequod,
The untranslatable ocean and its tempests
And the abomination of that whiteness.
It is the great book. It is azure Proteus.
Some Islamic histories have the story
Of a certain king in the East, who, victimized
By boring splendor, went out in disguise
And by himself to wander the poor quarter
And lose himself amidst the crush of people
Whose hands were rough and names soon forgotten.
Today, like that Emir Haroun al-Rashid,
God desires to walk among the humble
And so he suckles at a mother’s breast,
Just like those kin that crumble into dust.
So the whole globe shall be conveyed to him,
Air, water, morning, lily, stone and bread,
And after that the bloody martyrdom.
The mockery, the lash, the nails, the wood.
Adam Is Your Ashes
The sword will perish like the sprig of flowers.
Crystal is no more breakable than rock.
Things are their own destiny of dust.
Iron is corrosion. The voice, echo.
Adam, the youthful father, is your ashes.
The last garden will presently be the first.
The nightingale and Pindar are but voices.
The dawn is the reflection of the sunset.
The Mycenaean is the golden mask.
The towering rampart is the broken wall.
Urquiza, what the daggers leave behind.
The face that eyes the same face in the mirror
Is not yesterday’s face. The night has eaten it.
Time, delicate time, is shaping us.
What luck to be the invulnerable water
That flows in Heraclitus’ parable.
Or the intricacies of fire,—but just now.
In this long day that seems not to be passing,
I feel myself both durable and decrepit.
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