The World

The World

He had not time, the Son and King of Man,
To lie with all the world, nor did he love
Them any less for it. I lived the span
Of thirty years—and now I walk above

The mountain-tops and cities of my youth,
Look down on all I owned, all I possessed,
All that could have been mine. The iron truth
that muzzles the resentment in my breast

Is that my time was short. Could there have been
A day in every garden, if I’d had
A night in each resplendent home, and seen
In every pair of eyes the good and bad

Of all mankind, and tasted on the skin
Of every woman all of her I know,
Then I could answer, yes. Yes, I would sin,
For this, for all the moments played below,

This infinite eternity of still
And perfect things—for this, and only this,
I’d take the Devil’s hand of my own will,
And seal my own perdition with a kiss.

But I have crested thirty, and I see
Below me like a lake I saw in dream
The endless city of my memory,
Whose broader streets I know, whose houses seem

Like packages unopened, gifts ungiven,
Whose people are estranged, whose secret joys
And inner worlds are silent under heaven,
Unknown to me. There rises such a noise

From rooftops, black against the dreamless snow,
Defiant islands in the perfect cold,
Made clear and dry by heat that from below
Comes welling up, unfelt but not untold.

An orchestra of lives, each goodnight kiss
A sounding string, each toast a horn upraised
In shared rejoicing, could be made from this;
But walls are sound, and windowpanes are glazed

And leak no heat, no song, along their seams.
The people lock their doors. No memories grow
From hidden moments, from sequestered dreams,
But those of windows, and the feeble glow

Of lights within. The silver moon is pale
And storyless as a new, unworn shroud.
No one would die for this, this scattered tale
Of fearful hermits, all alone and proud

On gathered heaps of life and memory.
The houses swell with warmth. The streets are cold.
It’s still. The fearful world is free,
And sleeps entombed with hoards of worthless gold.


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