An Attic Poet

HE lived in what we call the golden time,
When Athens, violet-crowned, was in her prime;
When her slim war-ships slit the sky-hued seas,
And wallowing in their wakes huge argosies
Brought in the grain and stuffs of all the East
To where the marbled city made her feast.
The echoes of bronze Marathon yet rang,
And to their tune great-hearted lives still sang.
Around him men were born and lived and throve
Whose words and gestures Sophokles enwove
For the live flesh wherein his hand arrayed
The gods and heroes whom his soul had made.
He brushed against veiled women in the streets
Whose secret speech of smothered grief yet greets
The world’s great souls whenever any lend
A hearkening ear to him who was the friend
Of those same smileless widows overseas,
Great-hearted, mirthless, cowed Euripides.
He ate and drank and slept through the same days
That saw his city’s one still-gleaming blaze ;
And he wrote ditties of his own dry heart,
Of its small pettiness and bloodless smart.
With Aristophanes he laughed at all
The great, but in his laughter thought them small.
The days were gone, he said, when heroes reft
Undying fame from fate : not much was left
For latter generations to achieve.
What bygone peoples had seen fit to leave
Undone might still be done ; but was it worth
The effort, was there true reward on earth ?
All the great poets long were dead and gone:
It was broad day now, and the fresh, cool dawn
Of human feeling had been left behind
Long since ; a paler laurel leaf entwined
Still, on some favored brows, but thin and sere ;
Poetry had all been written, and its year
Turned, after harvest, to its wintry chime.
And thus he wrote and talked. In after time
We do not speak of him to praise or blame.
He is forgotten, even to his name.
Edward Lucas White.