Edwin Arlington Robinson's Poems

by JAMES NORMAN HALL

EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON’S POEMS

HE rarely saw, on any day, on all his lonely way,
A brighter sky than gray.
Autumn he loved and knew,
But not its gold and blue.
He found the wintry end of autumn best
For body and spirit dressed as his were dressed,
Where, however far he had to go,
The friendliness of gently falling snow
Would give, with stillness, all the warmth required
For downward-sloping landscape, not too bleak;
Revealing no sharp peak
Of anguish, fanged and spired,
Yet to be climbed before his journey’s end.
Never did he pretend
That any young lambs bounded
When his tabor sounded;
And when he piped, ‘twas not for lambs, or springs
With blossoms on the bough,
But all for summers gone — that never were, somehow.
One listens, tranced and mute,
To that lonely flute
That always seems to say:
“Joy? Not here today
And surely not tomorrow.
Where, then? I have not learned,
To my profoundest sorrow.
But, after all, what difference does it make?
Hearts grow old and cold but seldom break;
For they are sheathed with stuff
Pliant, as oxhide and ten times as tough.
They may have broken long ago
When mountains were as high as these are low.
Now . . . there are no mountains any more
For men to fail to climb;
But weathered hills bid fair to last our time.
“Evening, be thou my dawn.
Man has lived long enough to find him reasons
For making sober choice of hours and seasons.
Winter dusk may be depended on.
And if it can — and well we know it can —
We needn’t let it grieve us overmuch.
Our winter is, at least, our own.
What comfort the assurance brings
Is ours to cherish,
With wise distrust of springs.
Plod on, my soul, or perish.
Plod on, plod on and perish . . . and alone.”