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

V. The Town Down the River

5. Leffingwell


NO, no,—forget your Cricket and your Ant,

For I shall never set my name to theirs

That now bespeak the very sons and heirs

Incarnate of Queen Gossip and King Cant.

The case of Leffingwell is mixed, I grant,

And futile Seems the burden that he bears;

But are we sounding his forlorn affairs

Who brand him parasite and sycophant?

I tell you, Leffingwell was more than these;

And if he prove a rather sorry knight,

What quiverings in the distance of what light

May not have lured him with high promises,

And then gone down?—He may have been deceived;

He may have lied,—he did; and he believed.


THE DIRGE is over, the good work is done,

All as he would have had it, and we go;

And we who leave him say we do not know

How much is ended or how much begun.

So men have said before of many a one;

So men may say of us when Time shall throw

Such earth as may be needful to bestow

On you and me the covering hush we shun.

Well hated, better loved, he played and lost,

And left us; and we smile at his arrears;

And who are we to know what it all cost,

Or what we may have wrung from him, the buyer?

The pageant of his failure-laden years

Told ruin of high price. The place was higher.


WE never knew the sorrow or the pain

Within him, for he seemed as one asleep—

Until he faced us with a dying leap,

And with a blast of paramount, profane,

And vehement valediction did explain

To each of us, in words that we shall keep,

Why we were not to wonder or to weep,

Or ever dare to wish him back again.

He may be now an amiable shade,

With merry fellow-phantoms unafraid

Around him—but we do not ask. We know

That he would rise and haunt us horribly,

And be with us o’ nights of a certainty.

Did we not hear him when he told us so?