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

I. The Man Against the Sky

20. The Burning Book


TO the lore of no manner of men

Would his vision have yielded

When he found what will never again

From his vision be shielded,—

Though he paid with as much of his life

As a nun could have given,

And to-night would have been as a knife,

Devil-drawn, devil-driven.

For to-night, with his flame-weary eyes

On the work he is doing,

He considers the tinder that flies

And the quick flame pursuing.

In the leaves that are crinkled and curled

Are his ashes of glory,

And what once were an end of the world

Is an end of a story.

But he smiles, for no more shall his days

Be a toil and a calling

For a way to make others to gaze

On God’s face without falling.

He has come to the end of his words,

And alone he rejoices

In the choiring that silence affords

Of ineffable voices.

To a realm that his words may not reach

He may lead none to find him;

An adept, and with nothing to teach,

He leaves nothing behind him.

For the rest, he will have his release,

And his embers, attended

By the large and unclamoring peace

Of a dream that is ended.