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

I. The Man Against the Sky

4. Cassandra

I HEARD one who said: “Verily,

What word have I for children here?

Your Dollar is your only Word,

The wrath of it your only fear.

“You build it altars tall enough

To make you see, but you are blind;

You cannot leave it long enough

To look before you or behind.

“When Reason beckons you to pause,

You laugh and say that you know best;

But what it is you know, you keep

As dark as ingots in a chest.

“You laugh and answer, ‘We are young;

O leave us now, and let us grow.’—

Not asking how much more of this

Will Time endure or Fate bestow.

“Because a few complacent years

Have made your peril of your pride,

Think you that you are to go on

Forever pampered and untried?

“What lost eclipse of history,

What bivouac of the marching stars,

Has given the sign for you to see

Millenniums and last great wars?

“What unrecorded overthrow

Of all the world has ever known,

Or ever been, has made itself

So plain to you, and you alone?

“Your Dollar, Dove and Eagle make

A Trinity that even you

Rate higher than you rate yourselves;

It pays, it flatters, and it’s new.

“And though your very flesh and blood

Be what your Eagle eats and drinks,

You’ll praise him for the best of birds,

Not knowing what the Eagle thinks.

“The power is yours, but not the sight;

You see not upon what you tread;

You have the ages for your guide,

But not the wisdom to be led.

“Think you to tread forever down

The merciless old verities?

And are you never to have eyes

To see the world for what it is?

“Are you to pay for what you have

With all you are?”—No other word

We caught, but with a laughing crowd

Moved on. None heeded, and few heard.