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

II. The Children of the Night

7. Her Eyes

UP from the street and the crowds that went,

Morning and midnight, to and fro,

Still was the room where his days he spent,

And the stars were bleak, and the nights were slow.

Year after year, with his dream shut fast,

He suffered and strove till his eyes were dim,

For the love that his brushes had earned at last,

And the whole world rang with the praise of him.

But he cloaked his triumph, and searched, instead,

Till his cheeks were sere and his hairs were gray.

“There are women enough, God knows,” he said …

“There are stars enough—when the sun’s away.”

Then he went back to the same still room

That had held his dream in the long ago,

When he buried his days in a nameless tomb,

And the stars were bleak, and the nights were slow.

And a passionate humor seized him there—

Seized him and held him until there grew

Like life on his canvas, glowing and fair,

A perilous face—and an angel’s too.

Angel and maiden, and all in one,—

All but the eyes. They were there, but yet

They seemed somehow like a soul half done.

What was the matter? Did God forget? …

But he wrought them at last with a skill so sure

That her eyes were the eyes of a deathless woman,—

With a gleam of heaven to make them pure,

And a glimmer of hell to make them human.

God never forgets.—And he worships her

There in that same still room of his,

For his wife, and his constant arbiter

Of the world that was and the world that is.

And he wonders yet what her love could be

To punish him after that strife so grim;

But the longer he lives with her eyes to see,

The plainer it all comes back to him.