The Enduring

YEATS, the newspaper said, tall, white-haired,
Arrived in Boston today remembering the past.
‘His words tumbled. He wore a light-brown suit.’
He is dead now, and the days are running fast.
I saw the poet Robinson, a tall too,
Who spoke few words, although they were his last.
His train left, we five went home. A great man.
He is dead now, and the days are running fast.
The days run fast, and suddenly great men die.
Their deaths are news but not good news to read.
It was hard, when Bach was gone, to match his kind,
His work and theirs being always new for our need:
An enormous structure of sound and meaning built
Out of a cool and ruthless memory and mind:
The pity, the care, the calmly savage truth
Told in the peace they fought their wars to find.
And the small men also die, who listen and read,
Whose names we do not know for what they gave us,
Who living thought, as some alive think now,
That great names and their great works only save us.
The days are running fast, and we shall die,
Even we who never liked the news of death.
But the words of tall men, with the small men’s love,
Sweeten a thousand years of air for breath.
JOHN HOLMES