Babylon

- 1895-1985
The child alone a poet is:
Spring and Fairyland are his.
Truth and Reason show but dim,
And all's poetry with him.
Rhyme and music flow in plenty
For the lad of one-and-twenty,
But Spring for him is no more now
Than daisies to a munching cow;
Just a cheery pleasant season,
Daisy buds to live at ease on.
He's forgotten how he smiled
And shrieked at snowdrops when a child,
Or wept one evening secretly
For April's glorious misery.
Wisdom made him old and wary
Banishing the Lords of Faery.
Wisdom made a breach and battered
Babylon to bits: she scattered
To the hedges and ditches
All our nursery gnomes and witches.
Lob and Puck, poor frantic elves,
Drag their treasures from the shelves.
Jack the Giant-killer's gone,
Mother Goose and Oberon,
Bluebeard and King Solomon.
Robin, and Red Riding Hood
Take together to the wood,
And Sir Galahad lies hid
In a cave with Captain Kidd.
None of all the magic hosts,
None remain but a few ghosts
Of timorous heart, to linger on
Weeping for lost Babylon.

More by Robert Graves

The Shivering Beggar

Near Clapham village, where fields began,  
Saint Edward met a beggar man.  
It was Christmas morning, the church bells tolled,  
The old man trembled for the fierce cold.  
  
Saint Edward cried, "It is monstrous sin
A beggar to lie in rags so thin!  
An old gray-beard and the frost so keen:  
I shall give him my fur-lined gaberdine."  
  
He stripped off his gaberdine of scarlet  
And wrapped it round the aged varlet,  
Who clutched at the folds with a muttered curse,  
Quaking and chattering seven times worse.  
  
Said Edward, "Sir, it would seem you freeze  
Most bitter at your extremities.  
Here are gloves and shoes and stockings also,
That warm upon your way you may go."  
  
The man took stocking and shoe and glove,  
Blaspheming Christ our Saviour’s love,  
Yet seemed to find but little relief,  
Shaking and shivering like a leaf.  
  
Said the saint again, "I have no great riches,  
Yet take this tunic, take these breeches,  
My shirt and my vest, take everything,  
And give due thanks to Jesus the King."  
  
The saint stood naked upon the snow  
Long miles from where he was lodged at Bowe,  
Praying, "O God! my faith, it grows faint!  
This would try the temper of any saint.  
  
"Make clean my heart, Almighty, I pray,  
And drive these sinful thoughts away.    
Make clean my heart if it be Thy will,  
This damned old rascal’s shivering still!"  
  
He stooped, he touched the beggar man’s shoulder;  
He asked him did the frost nip colder?  
"Frost!" said the beggar, "no, stupid lad!
’Tis the palsy makes me shiver so bad."