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

II. The Children of the Night

40. The Chorus of Old Men in “Ægeus”

YE gods that have a home beyond the world,

Ye that have eyes for all man’s agony,

Ye that have seen this woe that we have seen,—

Look with a just regard,

And with an even grace,

Here on the shattered corpse of a shattered king,

Here on a suffering world where men grow old

And wander like sad shadows till, at last,

Out of the flare of life,

Out of the whirl of years,

Into the mist they go,

Into the mist of death.

O shades of you that loved him long before

The cruel threads of that black sail were spun,

May loyal arms and ancient welcomings

Receive him once again

Who now no longer moves

Here in this flickering dance of changing days,

Where a battle is lost and won for a withered wreath,

And the black master Death is over all

To chill with his approach,

To level with his touch,

The reigning strength of youth,

The fluttered heart of age.

Woe for the fateful day when Delphi’s word was lost—

Woe for the loveless prince of Æthra’s line!

Woe for a father’s tears and the curse of a king’s release—

Woe for the wings of pride and the shafts of doom!

And thou, the saddest wind

That ever blew from Crete,

Sing the fell tidings back to that thrice unhappy ship!—

Sing to the western flame,

Sing to the dying foam.

A dirge for the sundered years and a dirge for the years to be!

Better his end had been as the end of a cloudless day,

Bright, by the word of Zeus, with a golden star,

Wrought of a golden fame, and flung to the central sky,

To gleam on a stormless tomb for evermore:—

Whether or not there fell

To the touch of an alien hand

The sheen of his purple robe and the shine of his diadem,

Better his end had been

To die as an old man dies,—

But the fates are ever the fates, and a crown is ever a crown.