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

I. The Man Against the Sky

14. Veteran Sirens

THE GHOST of Ninon would be sorry now

To laugh at them, were she to see them here,

So brave and so alert for learning how

To fence with reason for another year.

Age offers a far comelier diadem

Than theirs; but anguish has no eye for grace,

When time’s malicious mercy cautions them

To think a while of number and of space.

The burning hope, the worn expectancy,

The martyred humor, and the maimed allure,

Cry out for time to end his levity,

And age to soften its investiture;

But they, though others fade and are still fair,

Defy their fairness and are unsubdued;

Although they suffer, they may not forswear

The patient ardor of the unpursued.

Poor flesh, to fight the calendar so long;

Poor vanity, so quaint and yet so brave;

Poor folly, so deceived and yet so strong,

So far from Ninon and so near the grave.