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

III. Captain Craig, Etc.

17. Variations of Greek Themes


WHEN these graven lines you see,

Traveler, do not pity me;

Though I be among the dead,

Let no mournful word be said.

Children that I leave behind,

And their children, all were kind;

Near to them and to my wife,

I was happy all my life.

My three sons I married right,

And their sons I rocked at night;

Death nor sorrow ever brought

Cause for one unhappy thought.

Now, and with no need of tears,

Here they leave me, full of years,—

Leave me to my quiet rest

In the region of the blest.


THE DAY when Charmus ran with five

In Arcady, as I’m alive,

He came in seventh.—“Five and one

Make seven, you say? It can’t be done.”—

Well, if you think it needs a note,

A friend in a fur overcoat

Ran with him, crying all the while,

“You’ll beat ’em, Charmus, by a mile!”

And so he came in seventh.

Therefore, good Zoilus, you see

The thing is plain as plain can be;

And with four more for company,

He would have been eleventh.


THE GLOOM of death is on the raven’s wing,

The song of death is in the raven’s cries:

But when Demophilus begins to sing,

The raven dies.


EUTYCHIDES, who wrote the songs,

Is going down where he belongs.

O you unhappy ones, beware:

Eutychides will soon be there!

For he is coming with twelve lyres,

And with more than twice twelve quires

Of the stuff that he has done

In the world from which he’s gone.

Ah, now must you know death indeed,

For he is coming with all speed;

And with Eutychides in Hell,

Where’s a poor tortured soul to dwell?


SO now the very bones of you are gone

Where they were dust and ashes long ago;

And there was the last ribbon you tied on

To bind your hair, and that is dust also;

And somewhere there is dust that was of old

A soft and scented garment that you wore—

The same that once till dawn did closely fold

You in with fair Charaxus, fair no more.

But Sappho, and the white leaves of her song,

Will make your name a word for all to learn,

And all to love thereafter, even while

It’s but a name; and this will be as long

As there are distant ships that will return

Again to your Naucratis and the Nile.


THIS dust was Timas; and they say

That almost on her wedding day

She found her bridal home to be

The dark house of Persephone.

And many maidens, knowing then

That she would not come back again,

Unbound their curls; and all in tears,

They cut them off with sharpened shears.

(Antipater of Sidon)

I’M sure I see it all now as it was,

When first you set your foot upon the shore

Where dim Cocytus flows for evermore,

And how it came to pass

That all those Dorian women who are there

In Hades, and still fair,

Came up to you, so young, and wept and smiled

When they beheld you and your little child.

And then, I’m sure, with tears upon your face

To be in that sad place,

You told of the two children you had borne,

And then of Euphron, whom you leave to mourn.

“One stays with him,” you said,

“And this one I bring with me to the dead.”

(Marcus Argentarius)

LIKE many a one, when you had gold

Love met you smiling, we are told;

But now that all your gold is gone,

Love leaves you hungry and alone.

And women, who have called you more

Sweet names than ever were before,

Will ask another now to tell

What man you are and where you dwell.

Was ever anyone but you

So long in learning what is true?

Must you find only at the end

That who has nothing has no friend?


TO-MORROW? Then your one word left is always now the same;

And that’s a word that names a day that has no more a name.

To-morrow, I have learned at last, is all you have to give:

The rest will be another’s now, as long as I may live.

You will see me in the evening?—And what evening has there been,

Since time began with women, but old age and wrinkled skin?


WHEN I, poor Lais, with my crown

Of beauty could laugh Hellas down,

Young lovers crowded at my door,

Where now my lovers come no more.

So, Goddess, you will not refuse

A mirror that has now no use;

For what I was I cannot be,

And what I am I will not see.


NO dust have I to cover me,

My grave no man may show;

My tomb is this unending sea,

And I lie far below.

My fate, O stranger, was to drown;

And where it was the ship went down

Is what the sea-birds know.