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

VII. The Three Taverns

28. The Old King’s New Jester

YOU that in vain would front the coming order

With eyes that meet forlornly what they must,

And only with a furtive recognition

See dust where there is dust,—

Be sure you like it always in your faces,

Obscuring your best graces,

Blinding your speech and sight,

Before you seek again your dusty places

Where the old wrong seems right.

Longer ago than cave-men had their changes

Our fathers may have slain a son o two,

Discouraging a further dialectic

Regarding what was new;

And after their unstudied admonition

Occasional contrition

For their old-fashioned ways

May have reduced their doubts, and in addition

Softened their final days.

Farther away than feet shall ever travel.

Are the vague towers of our unbuilded State;

But there are mightier things than we to lead us,

That will not let us wait.

And we go on with none to tell us whether

Or not we’ve each a tether

Determining how fast or how far we go;

And it is well, since we must go together,

That we are not to know.

If the old wrong and all its injured glamour

Haunts you by day and gives your night no peace,

You may as well, agreeably and serenely,

Give the new wrong its lease;

For should you nourish a too fervid yearning

For what is not returning,

The vicious and unfused ingredient

May give you qualms—and one or two concerning

The last of your content.