Home  »  Collected Poems by Robinson, Edwin Arlington  »  28. Atherton’s Gambit

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

V. The Town Down the River

28. Atherton’s Gambit

THE MASTER played the bishop’s pawn,

For jest, while Atherton looked on;

The master played this way and that,

And Atherton, amazed thereat,

Said “Now I have a thing in view

That will enlighten one or two,

And make a difference or so

In what it is they do not know.”

The morning stars together sang

And forth a mighty music rang—

Not heard by many, save as told

Again through magic manifold

By such a few as have to play

For others, in the Master’s way,

The music that the Master made

When all the morning stars obeyed.

Atherton played the bishop’s pawn

While more than one or two looked on;

Atherton played this way and that,

And many a friend, amused thereat,

Went on about his business

Nor cared for Atherton the less;

A few stood longer by the game,

With Atherton to them the same.

The morning stars are singing still,

To crown, to challenge, and to kill;

And if perforce there falls a voice

On pious ears that have no choice

Except to urge an erring hand

To wreak its homage on the land,

Who of us that is worth his while

Will, if he listen, more than smile?

Who of us, being what he is,

May scoff at others’ ecstasies?

However we may shine to-day,

More-shining ones are on the way;

And so it were not wholly well

To be at odds with Azrael,—

Nor were it kind of any one

To sing the end of Atherton.