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

I. The Man Against the Sky

3. The Clinging Vine

“BE calm? And was I frantic?

You’ll have me laughing soon.

I’m calm as this Atlantic,

And quiet as the moon;

I may have spoken faster

Than once, in other days;

For I’ve no more a master,

And now—‘Be calm,’ he says.

“Fear not, fear no commotion,—

I’ll be as rocks and sand;

The moon and stars and ocean

Will envy my command;

No creature could be stiller

In any kind of place

Than I … No, I’ll not kill her;

Her death is in her face.

“Be happy while she has it,

For she’ll not have it long;

A year, and then you’ll pass it,

Preparing a new song.

And I’m a fool for prating

Of what a year may bring,

When more like her are waiting

For more like you to sing.

“You mock me with denial,

You mean to call me hard?

You see no room for trial

When all my doors are barred?

You say, and you’d say dying,

That I dream what I know;

And sighing, and denying,

You’d hold my hand and go.

“You scowl—and I don’t wonder;

I spoke too fast again;

But you’ll forgive one blunder,

For you are like most men:

You are,—or so you’ve told me,

So many mortal times,

That heaven ought not to hold me

Accountable for crimes.

“Be calm? Was I unpleasant?

Then I’ll be more discreet,

And grant you, for the present,

The balm of my defeat:

What she, with all her striving,

Could not have brought about,

You’ve done. Your own contriving

Has put the last light out.

“If she were the whole story,

If worse were not behind,

I’d creep with you to glory,

Believing I was blind;

I’d creep, and go on seeming

To be what I despise.

You laugh, and say I’m dreaming,

And all your laughs are lies.

“Are women mad? A few are,

And if it’s true you say—

If most men are as you are—

We’ll all be mad some day.

Be calm—and let me finish;

There’s more for you to know.

I’ll talk while you diminish,

And listen while you grow.

“There was a man who married

Because he couldn’t see;

And all his days he carried

The mark of his degree.

But you—you came clear-sighted,

And found truth in my eyes;

And all my wrongs you’ve righted

With lies, and lies, and lies.

“You’ve killed the last assurance

That once would have me strive

To rouse an old endurance

That is no more alive.

It makes two people chilly

To say what we have said,

But you—you’ll not be silly

And wrangle for the dead.

“You don’t? You never wrangle?

Why scold then,—or complain?

More words will only mangle

What you’ve already slain.

Your pride you can’t surrender?

My name—for that you fear?

Since when were men so tender,

And honor so severe?

“No more—I’ll never bear it.

I’m going. I’m like ice.

My burden? You would share it?

Forbid the sacrifice!

Forget so quaint a notion,

And let no more be told;

For moon and stars and ocean

And you and I are cold.”