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Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935). Collected Poems. 1921.

I. The Man Against the Sky

12. The Unforgiven

WHEN he, who is the unforgiven,

Beheld her first, he found her fair:

No promise ever dreamt in heaven

Could then have lured him anywhere

That would have been away from there;

And all his wits had lightly striven,

Foiled with her voice, and eyes, and hair.

There’s nothing in the saints and sages

To meet the shafts her glances had,

Or such as hers have had for ages

To blind a man till he be glad,

And humble him till he be mad.

The story would have many pages,

And would be neither good nor bad.

And, having followed, you would find him

Where properly the play begins;

But look for no red light behind him—

No fumes of many-colored sins,

Fanned high by screaming violins.

God knows what good it was to blind him,

Or whether man or woman wins.

And by the same eternal token,

Who knows just how it will all end?—

This drama of hard words unspoken,

This fireside farce, without a friend

Or enemy to comprehend

What augurs when two lives are broken,

And fear finds nothing left to mend.

He stares in vain for what awaits him,

And sees in Love a coin to toss;

He smiles, and her cold hush berates him

Beneath his hard half of the cross;

They wonder why it ever was;

And she, the unforgiving, hates him

More for her lack than for her loss.

He feeds with pride his indecision,

And shrinks from what will not occur,

Bequeathing with infirm derision

His ashes to the days that were,

Before she made him prisoner;

And labors to retrieve the vision

That he must once have had of her.

He waits, and there awaits an ending,

And he knows neither what nor when;

But no magicians are attending

To make him see as he saw then,

And he will never find again

The face that once had been the rending

Of all his purpose among men.

He blames her not, nor does he chide her,

And she has nothing new to say;

If he were Bluebeard he could hide her,

But that’s not written in the play,

And there will be no change today;

Although, to the serene outsider,

There still would seem to be a way.