The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them “Supper.” At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all—
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart—
He saw all spoiled. “Don’t let him cut my hand off—
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!”
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

This poem is in the public domain. 


Satan, now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where he must now attempt the bold enterprise which he undertook alone against God and Man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions—fear, envy, and despair; but at length confirms himself in evil; journeys on to Paradise, whose outward prospect and situation is described; overleaps the bounds; sits, in the shape of a Cormorant, on the Tree of Life, as highest in the Garden, to look about him. The Garden described; Satan’s first sight of Adam and Eve; his wonder at their excellent form and happy state, but with resolution to work their fall; overhears their discourse; thence gathers that the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden them to eat of under penalty of death, and thereon intends to found his temptation by seducing them to transgress; then leaves them a while, to know further of their state by some other means. Meanwhile Uriel, descending on a sunbeam, warns Gabriel, who had in charge the gate of Paradise, that some evil Spirit had escaped the Deep, and passed at noon by his Sphere, in the shape of a good Angel, down to Paradise, discovered after by his furious gestures in the Mount. Gabriel promises to find him ere morning. Night coming on, Adam and Eve discourse of going to their rest; their bower described; their evening worship. Gabriel, drawing forth his bands of night—watch to walk the rounds of Paradise, appoints two strong Angels to Adam’s bower, lest the evil Spirit should be there doing some harm to Adam or Eve sleeping: there they find him at the ear of Eve, tempting her in a dream, and bring him, though unwilling, to Gabriel; by whom questioned, he scornfully answers; prepares resistance; but, hindered by a sign from Heaven, flies out of Paradise.

O for that warning voice, which he who saw  
The Apocalypse heard cry in Heaven aloud,  
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,  
Came furious down to be revenged on men,  
Woe to the inhabitants on Earth! that now,           
While time was, our first parents had been warned  
The coming of their secret Foe, and scaped,  
Haply so scaped, his mortal snare! For now  
Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down,  
The tempter, ere the accuser, of mankind,            
To wreak on innocent frail Man his loss  
Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell.  
Yet not rejoicing in his speed, though bold  
Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast,  
Begins his dire attempt; which, nigh the birth            
Now rowling, boils in his tumultuous breast,  
And like a devilish engine back recoils  
Upon himself. Horror and doubt distract  
His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir  
The hell within him; for within him Hell            
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell  
One step, no more than from Himself, can fly  
By change of place. Now conscience wakes despair  
That slumbered; wakes the bitter memory  
Of what he was, what is, and what must be            
Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue!  
Sometimes towards Eden, which now in his view  
Lay pleasant, his grieved look he fixes sad;  
Sometimes towards Heaven and the full-blazing Sun,  
Which now sat high in his meridian tower:            
Then, much revolving, thus in sighs began:—  
  "O thou that, with surpassing glory crowned,  
Look’st from thy sole dominion like the god  
Of this new World—at whose sight all the stars  
Hide their diminished heads—to thee I call,            
But with no friendly voice, and add thy name,  
O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams,  
That bring to my remembrance from what state  
I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere,  
Till pride and worse ambition threw me down,            
Warring in Heaven against Heaven’s matchless King!  
Ah, wherefore? He deserved no such return  
From me, whom he created what I was  
In that bright eminence, and with his good  
Upbraided none; nor was his service hard.            
What could be less than to afford him praise,  
The easiest recompense, and pay him thanks,  
How due? Yet all his good proved ill in me,  
And wrought but malice. Lifted up so high,  
I ’sdained subjection, and thought one step higher            
Would set me highest, and in a moment quit  
The debt immense of endless gratitude,  
So burthensome, still paying, still to owe;  
Forgetful what from him I still received;  
And understood not that a grateful mind            
By owing owes not, but still pays, at once  
Indebted and discharged—what burden then?  
Oh, had his powerful destiny ordained  
Me some inferior Angel, I had stood  
Then happy; no unbounded hope had raised            
Ambition. Yet why not? Some other Power  
As great might have aspired, and me, though mean,  
Drawn to his part. But other Powers as great  
Fell not, but stand unshaken, from within  
Or from without to all temptations armed!            
Hadst thou the same free will and power to stand?  
Thou hadst. Whom has thou then, or what, to accuse,  
But Heaven’s free love dealt equally to all?  
Be then his love accursed, since, love or hate,  
To me alike it deals eternal woe.            
Nay, cursed be thou; since against his thy will  
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.  
Me miserable! which way shall I fly  
Infinite wrauth and infinite despair?  
Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;            
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep  
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,  
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.  
O, then, at last relent! Is there no place  
Left for repentence, none for pardon left?            
None left but by submission; and that word  
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame  
Among the Spirits beneath, whom I seduced  
With other promises and other vaunts  
Than to submit, boasting I could subdue            
The Omnipotent. Aye me! they little know  
How dearly I abide that boast so vain,  
Under what torments inwardly I groan.  
While they adore me on the throne of Hell,  
With diadem and sceptre high advanced,            
The lower still I fall, only supreme  
In misery: such joy ambition finds!  
But say I could repent, and could obtain,  
By act of grace, my former state; how soon  
Would highth recal high thoughts, how soon unsay            
What feigned submission swore! Ease would recant  
Vows made in pain, as violent and void  
(For never can true reconcilement grow  
Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep)  
Which would but lead me to a worse relapse             
And heavier fall: so should I purchase dear  
Short intermission, bought with double smart.  
This knows my Punisher; therefore as far  
From granting he, as I from begging, peace.  
All hope excluded thus, behold, instead             
Of us, outcast, exiled, his new delight,  
Mankind, created, and for him this World!  
So farewell hope, and, with hope, farewell fear,  
Farewell remorse! All good to me is lost;  
Evil, be thou my Good: by thee at least             
Divided empire with Heaven’s King I hold,  
By thee, and more than half perhaps will reign;  
As Man ere long, and this new World, shall know."  
  Thus while he spake, each passion dimmed his face,  
Thrice changed with pale—ire, envy, and despair;             
Which marred his borrowed visage, and betrayed  
Him counterfeit, if any eye beheld:  
For Heavenly minds from such distempers foul  
Are ever clear. Whereof he soon aware  
Each perturbation smoothed with outward calm,             
Artificer of fraud; and was the first  
That practised falsehood under saintly shew,  
Deep malice to conceal, couched with revenge:  
Yet not enough had practised to deceive  
Uriel, once warned; whose eye pursued him down             
The way he went, and on the Assyrian mount  
Saw him disfigured, more than could befall  
Spirit of happy sort: his gestures fierce  
He marked and mad demeanour, then alone,  
As he supposed, all unobserved, unseen.             
  So on he fares, and to the border comes  
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,  
Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green,  
As with a rural mound, the champain head  
Of a steep wilderness whose hairy sides             
With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild.  
Access denied; and overhead up-grew  
Insuperable highth of loftiest shade,  
Cedar, and pine, and fir, and branching palm,  
A sylvan scene, and, as the ranks ascend             
Shade above shade, a woody theatre  
Of stateliest view. Yet higher than their tops  
The verdurous wall of Paradise up-sprung;  
Which to our general Sire gave prospect large  
Into his nether empire neighbouring round.             
And higher than that wall a circling row  
Of goodliest trees, loaden with fairest fruit,  
Blossoms and fruits at once of golden hue,  
Appeared, with gay enamelled colours mixed;  
On which the sun more glad impressed his beams             
Than in fair evening cloud, or humid bow,  
When God hath showered the earth; so lovely seemed  
That lantskip. And of pure now purer air  
Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires  
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive             
All sadness but despair. Now gentle gales,  
Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense  
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole  
Those balmy spoils. As when to them who sail  
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past             
Mozambic, off at sea north-east winds blow  
Sabean odours from the spicy shore  
Of Araby the Blest, with such delay  
Well pleased they slack their course, and many a league  
Cheered with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles;             
So entertained those odorous sweets the Fiend  
Who came their bane, though with them better pleased  
Than Asmodeus with the fishy fume  
That drove him, though enamoured, from the spouse  
Of Tobit’s son, and with a vengeance sent             
From Media post to Ægypt, there fast bound.  
  Now to the ascent of that steep savage hill  
Satan had journeyed on, pensive and slow;  
But further way found none; so thick entwined,  
As one continued brake, the undergrowth             
Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplexed  
All path of man or beast that passed that way.  
One gate there only was, and that looked east  
On the other side. Which when the Arch-Felon saw,  
Due entrance he disdained, and, in contempt,             
At one slight bound high overleaped all bound  
Of hill or highest wall, and sheer within  
Lights on his feet. As when a prowling wolf,  
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,  
Watching where shepherds pen their flocks at eve,             
In hurdled cotes amid the field secure,  
Leaps o’er the fence with ease into the fold;  
Or as a thief, bent to unhoard the cash  
Of some rich burgher, whose substantial doors,  
Cross-barred and bolted fast, fear no assault,             
In at the window climbs, or o’er the tiles;  
So climb this first grand Thief into God’s fold:  
So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb.  
Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life,  
The middle tree and highest there that grew,             
Sat like a Cormorant; yet not true life  
Thereby regained, but sat devising death  
To them who lived; nor on the virtue thought  
Of that life-giving plant, but only used  
For prospect what, well used, had been the pledge             
Of immortality. So little knows  
Any, but God alone, to value right  
The good before him, but perverts best things  
To worst abuse, or to their meanest use.  
Beneath him, with new wonder, now he views,             
To all delight of human sense exposed,  
In narrow room Nature’s whole wealth; yea, more—  
A Heaven on Earth: for blissful Paradise  
Of God the garden was, by him in the east  
Of Eden planted. Eden stretched her line             
From Auran eastward to the royal towers  
Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings,  
Or where the sons of Eden long before  
Dwelt in Telassar. In this pleasant soil  
His far more pleasant garden God ordained.             
Out of the fertile ground he caused to grow  
All trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste;  
And all amid them stood the Tree of Life,  
High eminent, blooming ambrosial fruit  
Of vegetable gold; and next to life,             
Our death, the Tree of Knowledge, grew fast by—  
Knowledge of good, bought dear by knowing ill.  
Southward through Eden went a river large,  
Nor changed his course, but through the shaggy hill  
Passed underneath ingulfed; for God had thrown             
That mountain, as his garden-mould, high raised  
Upon the rapid current, which, through veins  
Of porous earth with kindly thirst updrawn,  
Rose a fresh fountain, and with many a rill  
Watered the garden; thence united fell             
Down the steep glade, and met the nether flood,  
Which from his darksome passage now appears,  
And now, divided into four main streams,  
Runs diverse, wandering many a famous realm  
And country whereof here needs no account;             
But rather to tell how, if Art could tell  
How, from that sapphire fount the crisped brooks,  
Rowling on orient pearl and sands of gold,  
With mazy error under pendant shades  
Ran nectar, visiting each plant, and fed             
Flowers worthy of Paradise, which not nice Art  
In beds and curious knots, but Nature boon  
Poured forth profuse on hill, and dale, and plain,  
Both where the morning sun first warmly smote  
The open field, and where the unpierced shade             
Imbrowned the noontide bowers. Thus was this place,  
A happy rural seat of various view:  
Groves whose rich trees wept odorous gums and balm,  
Others whose fruit, burnished with golden rind,  
Hung amiable—Hesperian fables true,             
If true, here only—and of delicious taste.  
Betwixt them lawns, or level downs, and flocks  
Grazing the tender herb, were interposed,  
Or palmy hillock; or the flowery lap  
Of some irriguous valley spread her store,             
Flowers of all hue, and without thorn the rose.  
Another side, umbrageous grots and caves  
Of cool recess, o’er which the mantling vine  
Lays forth her purple grape, and gently creeps  
Luxuriant; meanwhile murmuring waters fall             
Down the slope hills dispersed, or in a lake,  
That to the fringèd bank with myrtle crowned  
Her crystal mirror holds, unite their streams.  
The birds their quire apply; airs, vernal airs,  
Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune             
The trembling leaves, while universal Pan,  
Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,  
Led on the eternal Spring. Not that fair field  
Of Enna, where Proserpin gathering flowers,  
Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis             
Was gathered—which cost Ceres all that pain  
To seek her through the world—nor that sweet grove  
Of Daphne, by Orontes and the inspired  
Castalian spring, might with this Paradise  
Of Eden strive; nor that Nyseian isle,             
Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham,  
Whom Gentiles Ammon call and Libyan Jove,  
Hid Amalthea, and her florid son,  
Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea’s eye;  
Nor, where Abassin kings their issue guard,             
Mount Amara (though this by some supposed  
True Paradise) under the Ethiop line  
By Nilus’ head, enclosed with shining rock,  
A whole day’s journey high, but wide remote  
From this Assyrian garden, where the Fiend             
Saw undelighted all delight, all kind  
Of living creatures, new to sight and strange.  
Two of far nobler shape, erect and tall,  
God—like erect, with native honour clad  
In naked majesty, seemed lords of all,             
And worthy seemed; for in their looks divine  
The image of their glorious Maker shon,  
Truth, wisdom, sanctitude severe and pure—  
Severe, but in true filial freedom placed,  
Whence true authority in men: though both             
Not equal, as their sex not equal seemed;  
For contemplation he and valour formed,  
For softness she and sweet attractive grace;  
He for God only, she for God in him.  
His fair large front and eye sublime declared             
Absolute rule; and Hyacinthin locks  
Round from his parted forelock manly hung  
Clustering, but not beneath his shoulders broad:  
She, as a veil down to the slender waist,  
Her unadornèd golden tresses wore             
Dishevelled, but in wanton ringlets waved  
As the vine curls her tendrils—which implied  
Subjection, but required with gentle sway,  
And by her yielded, by him best received—  
Yielded, with coy submission, modest pride,             
And sweet, reluctant, amorous delay.  
Nor those mysterious parts were then concealed:  
Then was not guilty shame. Dishonest shame  
Of Nature’s works, honour dishonourable,  
Sin-bred, how have ye troubled all mankind             
With shews instead, mere shews of seeming pure  
And banished from man’s life his happiest life,  
Simplicity and spotless innocence!  
So passed they naked on, nor shunned the sight  
Of God or Angel; for they thought no ill:             
So hand in hand they passed, the loveliest pair  
That ever since in love’s embraces met—  
Adam the goodliest man of men since born  
His sons; the fairest of her daughters Eve.  
Under a tuft of shade that on a green             
Stood whispering soft, by a fresh fountain—side.  
They sat them down; and, after no more toil  
Of their sweet gardening labour than sufficed  
To recommend cool Zephyr, and make ease  
More easy, wholesome thirst and appetite             
More grateful, to their supper-fruits they fell—  
Nectarine fruits, which the complaint boughs  
Yielded them, sidelong as they sat recline  
On the soft downy bank damasked with flowers.  
The savoury pulp they chew, and in the rind,             
Still as they thirsted, scoop the brimming stream  
Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles  
Wanted, nor youthful dalliance, as beseems  
Fair couple linked in happy nuptial league,  
Alone as they. About them frisking played             
All beasts of the earth, since wild, and of all chase  
In wood or wilderness, forest or den.  
Sporting the lion ramped, and in his paw  
Dandled the kid; bears, tigers, ounces, pards,  
Gambolled before them; the unwieldy elephant,             
To make them mirth, used all his might, and wreathed  
His lithe proboscis; close the serpent sly,  
Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine  
His breaded train, and of his fatal guile  
Gave proof unheeded. Others on the grass             
Couched, and, now filled with pasture, gazing sat,  
Or bedward ruminating; for the sun,  
Declined, was hastening now with prone career  
To the Ocean Isles, and in the ascending scale  
Of Heaven the stars that usher evening rose:             
When Satan, still in gaze as first he stood,  
Scarce thus at length failed speech recovered sad:—  
  "O Hell! what do mine eyes with grief behold?  
Into our room of bliss thus high advanced  
Creatures of other mould—Earth-born perhaps,             
Not Spirits, yet to Heavenly Spirits bright  
Little inferior—whom my thoughts pursue  
With wonder, and could love; so lively shines  
In them divine resemblance, and such grace  
The hand that formed them on their shape hath poured.             
Ah! gentle pair, ye little think how nigh  
Your change approaches, when all these delights  
Will vanish, and deliver ye to woe—  
More woe, the more your taste is now of joy:  
Happy, but for so happy ill secured             
Long to continue, and this high seat, your Heaven,  
Ill fenced for Heaven to keep out such a foe  
As now is entered; yet no purposed foe  
To you, whom I could pity thus forlorn,  
Though I unpitied. League with you I seek,             
And mutual amity, so strait, so close,  
That I with you must dwell, or you with me,  
Henceforth. My dwelling, haply, may not please,  
Like this fair Paradise, your sense; yet such  
Accept your Marker’s work; he gave it me,             
Which I as freely give. Hell shall unfold,  
To entertain you two, her widest gates,  
And send forth all her kings; there will be room,  
Not like these narrow limits, to receive  
Your numerous offspring; if no better place,             
Thank him who puts me, loath, to this revenge  
On you, who wrong me not, for him who wronged.  
And, should I at your harmless innocence  
Melt, as I do, yet public reason just—  
Honour and empire with revenge enlarged             
By conquering this new World—compels me now  
To do what else, though damned, I should abhor."  
  So spake the Fiend, and with necessity,  
The tyrant’s plea, excused his devilish deeds.  
Then from his lofty stand on that high tree             
Down he alights among the sportful herd  
Of those four-footed kinds, himself now one,  
Now other, as their shape served best his end  
Nearer to view his prey, and, unespied,  
To mark what of their state he more might learn             
By word or action marked. About them round  
A lion now he stalks with fiery glare;  
Then as a tiger, who by chance hath spied  
In some pourlieu two gentle fawns at play,  
Straight crouches close; then rising, changes oft             
His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground,  
Whence rushing he might surest seize them both  
Griped in each paw: when Adam, first of men.  
To first of women, Eve, thus moving speech,  
Turned him all ear to hear new utterance flow:—             
  "Sole partner and sole part of all these joys,  
Dearer thyself than all, needs must the Power  
That made us, and for us this ample World,  
Be infinitely good, and of his good  
As liberal and free as infinite;             
That raised us from the dust, and placed us here  
In all this happiness, who at this hand  
Have nothing merited, nor can perform  
Aught whereof he hath need; he who requires  
From us no other service than to keep             
This one, this easy charge—of all the trees  
In Paradise that bear delicious fruit  
So various, not to taste that only Tree  
Of Knowledge, planted by the Tree of Life;  
So near grows Death to Life, whate’er Death is—             
Some dreadful thing no doubt; for well thou know’st  
God hath pronounced it Death to taste that Tree:  
The only sign of our obedience left  
Among so many signs of power and rule  
Conferred upon us, and dominion given             
Over all other creatures that possess  
Earth, Air, and Sea. Then let us not think hard  
One easy prohibition, who enjoy  
Free leave so large to all things else, and choice  
Unlimited of manifold delights;             
But let us ever praise him, and extol  
His bounty, following our delightful task,  
To prune these growing plants, and tend these flowers;  
Which, were it toilsome, yet with thee were sweet."  
  To whom thus Eve replied:—"O thou for whom             
And from whom I was formed flesh of thy flesh,  
And without whom am to no end, my guide  
And head! what thou hast said is just and right.  
For we to him, indeed, all praises owe,  
And daily thanks—I chiefly, who enjoy             
So far the happier lot, enjoying thee  
Pre-eminent by so much odds, while thou  
Like consort to thyself canst nowhere find.  
That day I oft remember, when from sleep  
I first awaked, and found myself reposed,             
Under a shade, on flowers, much wondering where  
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.  
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound  
Of waters issued from a cave, and spread  
Into a liquid plain; then stood unmoved,             
Pure as the expanse of Heaven. I thither went  
With unexperienced thought, and laid me down  
On the green bank, to look into the clear  
Smooth lake, that to me seemed another sky.  
As I bent down to look, just opposite             
A Shape within the watery gleam appeared,  
Bending to look on me. I started back,  
It started back; but pleased I soon returned  
Pleased it returned as soon with answering looks  
Of sympathy and love. There I had fixed             
Mine eyes till now, and pined with vain desire,  
Had not a voice thus warned me: ‘What thou seest,  
What there thou seest, fair creature, is thyself;  
With thee it came and goes: but follow me,  
And I will bring thee where no shadow stays             
Thy coming, and thy soft imbraces—he  
Whose image thou art; him thou shalt enjoy  
Inseparably thine; to him shalt bear  
Multitudes like thyself, and thence be called  
Mother of human race.’ What could I do,             
But follow straight, invisibly thus led?  
Till I espied thee, fair, indeed, and tall,  
Under a platan; yet methought less fair,  
Less winning soft, less amiably mild,  
That that smooth watery image. Back I turned;             
Thou, following, cried’st aloud, ‘Return, fair Eve;  
Whom fliest thou? Whom thou fliest, of him thou art,  
His flesh, his bone, to give thee being I lent  
Out of my side to thee, nearest my heart,  
Substantial life, to have thee by my side             
Henceforth an individual solace dear:  
Part of my soul I seek thee, and thee claim  
My other half.’ With that thy gentle hand  
Seized mine: I yielded, and from that time see  
How beauty is excelled by manly grace             
And wisdom, which alone is truly fair."  
  So spake our general mother, and, with eyes  
Of conjugal attraction unreproved,  
And meek surrender, half-embracing leaned  
On our first father; half her swelling breast             
Naked met his, under the flowing gold  
Of her loose tresses hid. He, in delight  
Both of her beauty and submissive charms,  
Smiled with superior love, as Jupiter  
On Juno smiles when he impregns the clouds             
That shed May flowers, and pressed her matron lip  
With kisses pure. Aside the Devil turned  
For envy; yet with jealous leer malign  
Eyed them askance, and to himself thus plained:—  
  "Sight hateful, sight tormenting! Thus these two,             
Imparadised in one another’s arms,  
The happier Eden, shall enjoy their fill  
Of bliss on bliss; while I to Hell am thrust,  
Where neither joy nor love, but fierce desire,  
Among our other torments not the least,             
Still unfulfilled, with pain of longing pines!  
Yet let me not forget what I have gained  
From their own mouths. All is not theirs, it seems;  
One fatal tree there stands, of Knowledge called,  
Forbidden them to taste. Knowledge forbidden?             
Suspicious, reasonless! Why should their Lord  
Envy them that? Can it be sin to know?  
Can it be death? And do they only stand  
By ignorance? Is that their happy state,  
The proof of their obedience and their faith?             
O fair foundation laid whereon to build  
Their ruin! Hence I will excite their minds  
With more desire to know, and to reject  
Envious commands, invented with design  
To keep them low, whom knowledge might exalt             
Equal with gods. Aspiring to be such,  
They taste and die: what likelier can ensue?  
But first with narrow search I must walk round  
This garden, and no corner leave unspied;  
A chance but chance may lead where I may meet             
Some wandering Spirit of Heaven, by fountain-side,  
Or in thick shade retired, from him to draw  
What further would be learned. Live while ye may,  
Yet happy pair; enjoy, till I return,  
Short pleasures; for long woes are to succeed!"             
  So saying, his proud step he scornful turned,  
But with sly circumspection, and began  
Through wood, through waste, o’er hill, o’er dale, his roam.  
Meanwhile in utmost longitude, where Heaven  
With Earth and Ocean meets, the setting Sun             
Slowly descended, and with right aspect  
Against the eastern gate of Paradise  
Levelled his evening rays. It was a rock  
Of alabaster, piled up to the clouds,  
Conspicuous far, winding with one ascent             
Accessible from Earth, one entrance high;  
The rest was craggy cliff, that overhung  
Still as it rose, impossible to climb.  
Betwixt these rocky pillars Gabriel sat,  
Chief of the angelic guards, awaiting night;             
About him exercised heroic games  
The unarmed youth of Heaven; but nigh at hand  
Celestial armoury, shields, helms, and spears,  
Hung high, with diamond flaming and with gold.  
Thither came Uriel, gliding through the even             
On a sunbeam, swift as a shooting star  
In autumn thwarts the night, when vapours fired  
Impress the air, and shews the mariner  
From what point of his compass to beware  
Impetuous winds, He thus began in haste:—             
  "Gabriel, to thee thy course by lot hath given  
Charge and strict watch that to this happy place  
No evil thing approach or enter in.  
This day at highth of noon came to my sphere  
A Spirit, zealous, as he seemed, to know             
More of the Almighty’s works, and chiefly Man,  
God’s latest image. I described his way  
Bent all on speed, and marked his aerie gait,  
But in the mount that lies from Eden north,  
Where he first lighted, soon discerned his looks             
Alien from Heaven, with passions foul obscured.  
Mine eye pursued him still, but under shade  
Lost sight of him. One of the banished crew,  
I fear, hath ventured from the Deep, to raise  
New troubles; him thy care must be to find."             
  To whom the wingèd Warrior thus returned:—  
"Uriel, no wonder if thy perfect sight,  
Amid the Sun’s bright circle where thou sitt’st,  
See far and wide. In at this gate none pass  
The vigilance here placed, but such as come             
Well known from Heaven; since meridian hour  
No creature thence. If Spirit of other sort,  
So minded, have o’erleaped these earthly bounds  
On purpose, hard thou know’st it to exclude  
Spiritual substance with corporeal bar.             
But, if within the circuit of these walks,  
In whatsoever shape, he lurk of whom  
Thou tell’st, by morrow dawning I shall know."  
  So promised he; and Uriel to his charge  
Returned on that bright beam, whose point now raised             
Bore him slope downward to the Sun, now fallen  
Beneath the Azores; whether the Prime Orb,  
Incredible how swift, had thither rowled  
Diurnal, or this less volúbil Earth  
By shorter flight to the east, had left him there             
Arraying with reflected purple and gold  
The clouds that on his western throne attend.  
  Now came still Evening on, and Twilight gray  
Had in her sober livery all things clad;  
Silence accompanied; for beast and bird,             
They to their grassy couch, these to their nests  
Were slunk, all but the wakeful nightingale.  
She all night longer her amorous descant sung:  
Silence was pleased. Now glowed the firmament  
With living Saphirs; Hesperus, that led             
The starry host, rode brightest, till the Moon,  
Rising in clouded majesty, at length  
Apparent queen, unveiled her peerless light,  
And o’er the dark her silver mantle threw;  
When Adam thus to Eve:—"Fair consort, the hour             
Of night, and all things now retired to rest  
Mind us of like repose; since God hath set  
Labour and rest, as day and night, to men  
Successive, and the timely dew of sleep,  
Now falling with soft slumberous weight, inclines             
Our eye-lids. Other creatures all day long  
Rove idle, unimployed, and less need rest;  
Man hath his daily work of body or mind  
Appointed, which declares his dignity,  
And the regard of Heaven on all his ways;             
While other animals unactive range,  
And of their doings God takes no account.  
To—morrow, ere fresh morning streak the east  
With first approach of light, we must be risen,  
And at our pleasant labour, to reform             
Yon flowery arbours, yonder alleys green,  
Our walk at noon, with branches overgrown,  
That mock our scant manuring, and require  
More hands than ours to lop their wanton growth.  
Those blossoms also, and those dropping gums,             
That lie bestrown, unsightly and unsmooth,  
Ask riddance, if we mean to tread with ease.  
Meanwhile, as Nature wills, Night bids us rest."  
  To whom thus Eve, with perfect beauty adorned:—  
"My author and disposer, what thou bidd’st             
Unargued I obey. So God ordains:  
God is thy law, thou mine: to know no more  
Is woman’s happiest knowledge, and her praise.  
With thee conversing, I forget all time,  
All seasons, and their change; all please alike.             
Sweet is the breath of Morn, her rising sweet,  
With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the Sun,  
When first on this delightful land he spreads  
His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,  
Glistering with dew; fragrant the fertil Earth             
After soft showers; and sweet the coming on  
Of grateful Evening mild; then silent Night,  
With this her solemn bird, and this fair Moon,  
And these the gems of Heaven, her starry train:  
But neither breath of Morn, when she ascends             
With charm of earliest birds; nor rising Sun  
On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower,  
Glistering with dew; nor fragrance after showers;  
Nor grateful Evening mild; nor silent Night,  
With her solemn bird; nor walk by moon,             
Or glittering star-light, without thee is sweet.  
But wherefore all night long shine these? for whom  
This glorious sight, when sleep hath shut all eyes?"  
  To whom our general ancestor replied:—  
"Daughter of God and Man, accomplished Eve,             
Those have their course to finish round the Earth  
By morrow evening, and from land to land  
In order, though to nations yet unborn,  
Ministering light prepared, they set and rise;  
Lest total Darkness should by night regain             
Her old possession, and extinguish life  
In nature and all things; which these soft fires  
Not only enlighten, but with kindly heat  
Of various influence foment and warm,  
Temper or nourish, or in part shed down             
Their stellar virtue on all kinds that grow  
On Earth, made hereby apter to receive  
Perfection from the Sun’s more potent ray.  
These then, though unbeheld in deep of night,  
Shine not in vain. Nor think, though men were none,             
That Heaven would want spectators, God want praise.  
Millions of spiritual creatures walk the Earth  
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep:  
All these with ceaseless praise his works behold  
Both day and night. How often, from the steep             
Of echoing hill or thicket, have we heard  
Celestial voices to the midnight air,  
Sole, or responsive each to other’s note,  
Singing their great Creator! Oft in bands  
While they keep watch, or nightly rounding walk,             
With heavenly touch of instrumental sounds  
In full harmonic number joined, their songs  
Divide the night, and lift our thoughts to Heaven."  
  Thus talking, hand in hand along they passed  
On to their blissful bower. It was a place             
Chosen by the sovran Planter, when he framed  
All things to Man’s delightful use. The roof  
Of thickest covert was inwoven shade,  
Laurel and myrtle, and what higher grew  
Of firm and fragrant leaf; on either side             
Acanthus, and each odorous bushy shrub,  
Fenced up the verdant wall; each beauteous flower,  
Iris all hues, roses, and gessamin,  
Reared high their flourished heads between, and wrought  
Mosaic; under foot the violet,             
Crocus, and hyacinth, with rich inlay  
Broidered the ground, more coloured than with stone  
Of costliest emblem. Other creature here,  
Beast, bird, insect, or worm, durst enter none;  
Such was their awe of Man. In shadier bower             
More sacred and sequestered, though but feigned,  
Pan or Sylvanus never slept, nor Nymph  
For Faunus haunted. Here, in close recess,  
With flowers, garlands, and sweet—smelling hearbs  
Espousèd Eve decked first her nuptial bed,             
And heavenly choirs the hymenæan sung,  
What day the genial Angel to our Sire  
Brought her, in naked beauty more adorned,  
More lovely, than Pandora, whom the gods  
Endowed with all their gifts; and, O! too like             
In sad event, when, to the unwiser son  
Of Japhet brought by Hermes, she ensnared  
Mankind with her fair looks, to be avenged  
On him who had stole Jove’s authentic fire.  
  Thus at their shady lodge arrived, both stood,             
Both turned, and under open sky adored  
The God that made both Sky, Air, Earth, and Heaven,  
Which they beheld, the Moon’s resplendent globe,  
And starry Pole:—"Thou also madest the Night,  
Maker Omnipotent; and thou the Day,             
Which we, in our appointed work imployed,  
Have finished, happy in our mutual help  
And mutual love, the crown of all our bliss  
Ordained by thee; and this delicious place,  
For us too large, where thy abundance wants             
Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground.  
But thou hast promised from us two a race  
To fill the Earth, who shall with us extol  
Thy goodness infinite, both when we wake,  
And when we seek, as now, thy gift of sleep."             
  This said unanimous, and other rites  
Observing none, but adoration pure,  
Which God likes best, into their inmost bower  
Handed they went, and, eased the putting-off  
These troublesome disguises which we wear,             
Straight side by side were laid; nor turned, I ween,  
Adam from his fair spouse, nor Eve the rites  
Mysterious of connubial love refused:  
Whatever hypocrites austerely talk  
Of purity, and place, and innocence,             
Defaming as impure what God declares  
Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all.  
Our Maker bids increase; who bids abstain  
But our destroyer, foe to God and Man?  
Hail, wedded Love, mysterious law, true source             
Of human offspring, sole propriety  
In Paradise of all things common else!  
By thee adulterous lust was driven from men  
Among the bestial herds to raunge; by thee,  
Founded in reason, loyal, just, and pure,             
Relations dear, and all the charities  
Of father, son, and brother, first were known.  
Far be it that I should write thee sin or blame,  
Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,  
Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets,             
Whose bed is undefiled and chaste pronounced,  
Present, or past, as saints and patriarchs used.  
Here Love his golden shafts imploys, here lights  
His constant lamp, and waves his purple wings,  
Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile             
Of harlots—loveless, joyless, unindeared,  
Casual fruition; nor in court amours,  
Mixed dance, or wanton mask, or midnight bal,  
Or serenate, which the starved lover sings  
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain.             
These, lulled by nightingales, imbracing slept,  
And on their naked limbs the flowery roof  
Showered roses, which the morn repaired. Sleep on,  
Blest pair! and, O! yet happiest, if ye seek  
No happier state, and know to know no more!             
  Now had Night measured with her shadowy cone  
Half-way up-hill this vast sublunar vault,  
And from their ivory port the Cherubim  
Forth issuing, at the accustomed hour, stood armed  
To their night-watches in warlike parade;             
When Gabriel to his next in power thus spake:—  
  "Uzziel, half these draw off, and coast the south  
With strictest watch; these other wheel the north:  
Our circuit meets full west." As flame they part,  
Half wheeling to the shield, half to the spear.             
From these, two strong and subtle Spirits he called  
That near him stood, and gave them thus in charge:—  
  "Ithuriel and Zephon, with winged speed  
Search through this Garden; leave unsearched no nook;  
But chiefly where those two fair creatures lodge,             
Now laid perhaps asleep, secure of harm.  
This evening from the Sun’s decline arrived  
Who tells of some infernal Spirit seen  
Hitherward bent (who could have thought?), escaped  
The bars of Hell, on errand bad, no doubt:             
Such, where ye find, seize fast, and hither bring."  
  So saying, on he led his radiant files,  
Dazzling the moon; these to the bower direct  
In search of whom they sought. Him there they found  
Squat like a toad, close at the ear of Eve,             
Assaying by his devilish art to reach  
The organs of her fancy, and with them forge  
Illusions as he list, phantasms and dreams;  
Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint  
The animal spirits, that from pure blood arise             
Like gentle breaths from rivers pure, thence raise,  
At least distempered, discontented thoughts,  
Vain hopes, vain aims, inordinate desires,  
Blown up with high conceits ingendering pride.  
Him thus intent Ithuriel with his spear             
Touched lightly; for no falsehood can endure  
Touch of celestial temper, but returns  
Of force to its own likeness. Up he starts,  
Discovered and surprised. As, when a spark  
Lights on a heap of nitrous powder, laid             
Fit for the tun, some magazine to store  
Against a rumoured war, the smutty grain,  
With sudden blaze diffused, inflames the air;  
So started up, in his own shape, the Fiend.  
Back stept those two fair Angels, half amazed             
So sudden to behold the griesly King;  
Yet thus, unmoved with fear, accost him soon:—  
  "Which of those rebel Spirits adjudged to Hell  
Com’st thou, escaped thy prison? and, transformed,  
Why satt’st thou like an enemy in wait,             
Here watching at the head of these that sleep?"  
  "Know ye not, then," said Satan, filled with scorn,  
"Know ye not me? Ye knew me once no mate  
For you, there sitting where ye durst not soar!  
Not to know me argues yourselves unknown,             
The lowest of your throng; or, if ye know,  
Why ask ye, and superfluous begin  
Your message, like to end as much in vain?"  
  To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with scorn:—  
"Think not, revolted Spirit, thy shape the same,             
Or undiminished brightness, to be known  
As when thou stood’st in Heaven upright and pure.  
That glory then, when thou no more wast good,  
Departed from thee; and thou resemblest now  
Thy sin and place of doom obscure and foul.             
But come; for thou, be sure, shalt give account  
To him who sent us, whose charge is to keep  
This place inviolable, and these from harm."  
  So spake the Cherub; and his grave rebuke,  
Severe in youthful beauty, added grace             
Invincible. Abashed the Devil stood,  
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw  
Virtue in her shape how lovely—saw, and pined  
His loss; but chiefly to find here observed  
His lustre visibly impaired; yet seemed             
Undaunted. "If I must contend," said he,  
"Best with the best—the sender, not the sent;  
Or all at once: more glory will be won,  
Or less be lost." "Thy fear," said Zephon bold,  
"Will save us trial what the least can do             
Single against thee wicked, and thence weak."  
  The Fiend replied not, overcome with rage;  
But, like a proud steed reined, went haughty on,  
Chaumping his iron curb. To strive or fly  
He held it vain; awe from above had quelled             
His heart, not else dismayed. Now drew they nigh  
The western point, where those half—rounding guards  
Just met, and, closing, stood in squadron joined,  
Awaiting next command. To whom their chief,  
Gabriel, from the front thus called aloud:—             
  "O friends, I hear the tread of nimble feet  
Hasting this way, and now by glimpse discern  
Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade;  
And with them comes a third, of regal port,  
But faded splendour wan, who by his gait             
And fierce demeanour seems the Prince of Hell—  
Not likely to part hence without contest’.  
Stand firm, for in his look defiance lours."  
  He scarce had ended, when those two approached,  
And brief related whom they brought, where found,             
How busied, in what form and posture couched.  
To whom, with stern regard, thus Gabriel spake:—  
"Why hast thou, Satan, broke the bounds prescribed  
To thy transgressions, and disturbed the charge  
Of others, who approve not to transgress             
By thy example, but have power and right  
To question thy bold entrance on this place;  
Imployed, it seems to violate sleep, and those  
Whose dwelling God hath planted here in bliss?"  
  To whom thus Satan, with contemptuous brow:—             
"Gabriel, thou hadst in Heaven the esteem of wise;  
And such I held thee; but this question asked  
Puts me in doubt. Lives there who loves his pain?  
Who would not, finding way, break loose from Hell,  
Though thither doomed? Thou wouldst thyself, no doubt,             
And boldly venture to whatever place  
Farthest from pain, where thou mightst hope to change  
Torment with ease, and soonest recompense  
Dole with delight; which in this place I sought:  
To thee no reason, who know’st only good,             
But evil hast not tried. And wilt object  
His will who bound us? Let him surer bar  
His iron gates, if he intends our stay  
In that dark durance. Thus much what was asked:  
The rest is true; they found me where they say;             
But that implies not violence or harm."  
  Thus he in scorn. The warlike Angel moved,  
Disdainfully half smiling, thus replied:—  
"O loss of one in Heaven to judge of wise,  
Since Satan fell, whom folly overthrew,             
And now returns him from his prison scaped,  
Gravely in doubt whether to hold them wise  
Or not who ask what boldness brought him hither  
Unlicensed from his bounds in Hell prescribed!  
So wise he judges it to fly from pain             
However, and to scape his punishment!  
So judge thou still, presumptuous, till the wrauth,  
Which thou incurr’st by flying, meet thy flight  
Sevenfold, and scourge that wisdom back to Hell,  
Which taught thee yet no better that no pain             
Can equal anger infinite provoked.  
But wherefore thou alone? Wherefore with thee  
Came not all Hell broke loose? Is pain to them  
Less pain, less to be fled? or thou than they  
Less hardy to endure? Courageous chief,             
The first in flight from pain, hadst thou alleged  
To thy deserted host this cause of flight,  
Thou surely hadst not come sole fugitive."  
  To which the Fiend thus answered, frowning stern:—  
"Not that I less endure, or shrink from pain,             
Insulting Angel! well thou know’st I stood  
Thy fiercest, when in battle to thy aid  
The blasting volleyed thunder made all speed  
And seconded thy else not dreaded spear.  
But still thy words at random, as before,             
Argue thy inexperience what behoves,  
From hard assays and ill successes past,  
A faithful leader—not to hazard all  
Through ways of danger by himself untried.  
I, therefore, I alone, first undertook             
To wing the desolate Abyss, and spy  
This new-created World, whereof in Hell  
Fame is not silent, here in hope to find  
Better abode, and my afflicted Powers  
To settle here on Earth, or in mid Air;             
Though for possession put to try once more  
What thou and thy gay legions dare against;  
Whose easier business where to serve their Lord  
High up in Heaven, with songs to hymn his throne,  
And practiced distances to cringe, not fight."             
  To whom the Warrior-Angel soon replied:—  
"To say and straight unsay, pretending first  
Wise to fly pain, professing next to spy,  
Argues no leader, but a liar traced,  
Satan; and couldst thou ‘faithful’ add? O name,             
O sacred name of faithfulness profaned!  
Faithful to whom? to thy rebellious crew?  
Army of fiends, fit body to fit head!  
Was this your discipline and faith ingaged,  
Your military obedience, to dissolve             
Allegiance to the acknowledged Power Supreme?  
And thou, sly hypocrite, who now wouldst seem  
Patron of liberty, who more than thou  
Once fawned, and cringed, and servilely adored  
Heaven’s awful Monarch? wherefore, but in hope             
To dispossess him, and thyself to reign?  
But mark what I areed thee now: Avaunt!  
Fly thither whence thou fledd’st. If from this hour  
Within these hallowed limits thou appear,  
Back to the Infernal Pit I drag thee chained,             
And seal thee so as henceforth not to scorn  
The facile gates of Hell too slightly barred."  
  So threatened he; but Satan to no threats  
Gave heed, but waxing more in rage, replied:—  
  "Then, when I am thy captive, talk of chains,             
Proud limitary Cherub! but ere then  
Far heavier load thyself expect to feel  
From my prevailing arm, though Heaven’s King  
Ride on thy wings, and thou with thy Compeers,  
Used to the yoke, draw’st his triumphant wheels             
In progress through the road of Heaven star—paved."  
  While thus he spake, the angelic squadron bright  
Turned fiery red, sharpening in mooned horns  
Their phalanx and began to hem him round  
With ported spears, as thick as when a field             
Of Ceres ripe for harvest waving bends  
Her bearded grove of ears which way the wind  
Sways them; the careful ploughman doubting stands  
Lest on the threshing-floor his hopeful sheaves  
Prove chaff. On the other side, Satan, alarmed,             
Collecting all his might, dilated stood,  
Like Teneriff or Atlas, unremoved:  
His stature reached the sky, and on his crest  
Sat Horror plumed; nor wanted in his grasp  
What seemed both spear and shield. Now dreadful deeds             
Might have ensued; nor only Paradise,  
In this commotion, but the starry cope  
Of Heaven perhaps, or all the Elements  
At least, had gone to wrack, disturbed and torn  
With violence of this conflict, had not soon             
The Eternal, to prevent such horrid fray,  
Hung forth in Heaven his golden scales, yet seen  
Betwixt Astræa and the Scorpion sign,  
Wherein all things created first he weighed,  
The pendulous round Earth with balanced air              
In counterpoise, now ponders all events,  
Battles and realms. In these he put two weights,  
The sequel each of parting and of fight:  
The latter quick up flew, and kicked the beam;  
Which Gabriel spying thus bespake the Fiend:              
  "Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know’st mine,  
Neither our own, but given; what folly then  
To boast what arms can do! since thine no more  
Than Heaven permits, nor mine, though doubled now  
To trample thee as mire. For proof look up,              
And read thy lot in yon celestial sign,  
Where thou art weighed, and shown how light, how weak  
If thou resist." The Fiend looked up, and knew  
His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled  
Murmuring; and with him fled the shades of Night.

This poem is in the public domain.

Marcellus to Horatio and Bernardo, after seeing the Ghost,

Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

This poem is in the public domain.

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask.  No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard.
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this?  we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone.  But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
                      It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang.  And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker.  Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh!  Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

From Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens by Wallace Stevens. Copyright © 1954 by Wallace Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down,
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again.  He spoke
Advancing toward her: ‘What is it you see
From up there always—for I want to know.’
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that,
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: ‘What is it you see,’
Mounting until she cowered under him.
‘I will find out now—you must tell me, dear.’
She, in her place, refused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him look, sure that he wouldn’t see,
Blind creature; and awhile he didn't see.
But at last he murmured, ‘Oh,’ and again, ‘Oh.’

‘What is it—what?’ she said.
					‘Just that I see.’

‘You don't,’ she challenged. ‘Tell me what it is.’

‘The wonder is I didn’t see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it—that’s the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble,
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We haven’t to mind those.
But I understand: it is not the stones,
But the child’s mound—’

				‘Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,’ she cried.

She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the bannister, and slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look,
He said twice over before he knew himself:
‘Can’t a man speak of his own child he’s lost?’

‘Not you!  Oh, where’s my hat? Oh, I don’t need it!
I must get out of here. I must get air.
I don’t know rightly whether any man can.’

‘Amy! Don’t go to someone else this time.
Listen to me. I won’t come down the stairs.’
He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
‘There’s something I should like to ask you, dear.’

‘You don’t know how to ask it.’

					‘Help me, then.’

Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.

‘My words are nearly always an offense.
I don’t know how to speak of anything
So as to please you. But I might be taught
I should suppose. I can’t say I see how.
A man must partly give up being a man
With women-folk. We could have some arrangement
By which I’d bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special you’re a-mind to name.
Though I don’t like such things ’twixt those that love.
Two that don’t love can’t live together without them.
But two that do can’t live together with them.’
She moved the latch a little. ‘Don’t—don’t go.
Don’t carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if it’s something human.
Let me into your grief. I’m not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
I do think, though, you overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing
To take your mother—loss of a first child
So inconsolably—in the face of love.
You’d think his memory might be satisfied—’

‘There you go sneering now!’

					‘I’m not, I’m not!
You make me angry. I’ll come down to you.
God, what a woman! And it’s come to this,
A man can’t speak of his own child that’s dead.’

‘You can’t because you don’t know how to speak.
If you had any feelings, you that dug
With your own hand—how could you?—his little grave;
I saw you from that very window there,
Making the gravel leap and leap in air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought, Who is that man? I didn’t know you.
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look again, and still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchen, and I don’t know why,
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own baby’s grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.
You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entry, for I saw it.’

‘I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
I’m cursed. God, if I don’t believe I’m cursed.’

‘I can repeat the very words you were saying.
“Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.”
Think of it, talk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlor.
You couldn’t care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to death, comes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone.
Friends make pretense of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people, and things they understand.
But the world's evil. I won’t have grief so
If I can change it. Oh, I won’t, I won’t!’

‘There, you have said it all and you feel better.
You won’t go now. You’re crying. Close the door.
The heart’s gone out of it: why keep it up.
Amy! There’s someone coming down the road!’

‘You—oh, you think the talk is all. I must go—
Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you—’

‘If—you—do!’ She was opening the door wider.
‘Where do you mean to go? First tell me that.
I’ll follow and bring you back by force. I will!—’

From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.