Text of the Poem
Such places are too still for history, Which slows, shudders, and shifts as the trucks do, In hearing-distances, on the highway hill, And staggers onward elsewhere with its load Of statues, candelabra, buttons, gold; 5 But here the heart, racing strangely as though Ready to stop, reaches a kind of rest; The mind uneasily rests, as if a beast, Being hunted down, made tiredness and terror Its camouflage and fell asleep, and dreamed, 10 At the terrible, smooth pace of the running dogs, A dream of being lost, covered with leaves And hidden in a death like any sleep So deep the bitter world must let it be And go bay elsewhere after better game. 15 Even the restless eye, racing upon Reticulated branch and vine which go Nowhere, at last returns upon itself And comes into a flickering kind of rest, Being lost in the insanity of line. 20 Line, leaf, and light; darkness invades our day; No meaning in it, but indifference Which does not flatter with profundity. Nor is it drama. Even the giant oak, Stricken a hundred years or yesterday, 25 Has not found room to fall as heroes should But crookedly leans on an awkward-squad of birch, The tragic image and the mighty crash Indefinitely delayed in favor of Fresh weaving of vines, rooting of outer branches, 30 Beginning again, in spaces still more cramped, A wandering calligraphy which seems Enthralled to a magic constantly misspelled. It is the same, they say, everywhere. But that’s not so. These here are the deep woods 35 Of now, New England, this October, when Dry gold has little left to change, and half The leaves are gone to ground, and half of those Rained into the leaf-mold which tenses in The fastenings of frost; where the white branches 40 Of birch are dry bones airborne in assaults Which haven’t worked yet. This unlegended land Is no Black Forest where the wizard lived Under a bent chimney and a thatch of straw; Nor the hot swamp theatrical with snakes 45 And tigers; nor the Chinese forest on The mountainside, with bridge, pagoda, fog, Three poets in the foreground, drinking tea (there is no tea, and not so many as three)— But this land, this, unmitigated by myth 50 And whose common splendors are comparable only to Themselves; this leaf, line, light, are scrawled alone In solar definitions on a lump Of hill like nothing known since Nature was Invented by Watteau or Fragonard 55 In the Old Kingdom or the time of Set Or before the Flood of Yao (or someone else Of the same name) in the Fourth, or Disney, Dimension. And this is yours to work; plant it to salt Or men in armor who destroy each other, 60 Sprinkle with dragon’s blood early in spring And see what happens, epic or pastoral: A sword in every stone, small minotaurs Looking for thread, and unicorns for girls, And Glastonbury thorns to make December 65 Bleed for the Saviour; the nightingale of Sarras Enchants the traveler here three hundred years And a day which seem but as a single day. More probably nothing will happen. This Place is too old for history to know 70 Beans about; these trees were here, are here, Before king Hannibal had elephants Or Frederick grew his red beard through the table Or Mordecai hung Haman at the gate. The other Ahasuerus has not spat 75 Nor walked nor cobbled any shoe, nor Joseph So much as dreamed that he will found the Corn Exchange Bank in the baked country of Egypt. Not even those burnt beauties are hawked out, By the angry Beginner, on Chaos floor 80 Where they build Pandemonium the Palace Back in the high old times. Most probably Nothing will happen. Even the Fall of Man Is waiting, here, for someone to grow apples; And the snake, speckled as sunlight on the rock 85 In the deep woods, still sleeps with a whole head And has not begun to grow a manly smile.