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Unformatted text preview: also for his understanding." Ferguson sighed, and then talked on again: "You have an overgrown alacrity For saying nothing much and hearing less; And I've a thankless wonder, at the start, How much it is to you that I shall tell What I have now to say of Tasker Norcross, And how much to the air that is around you. But given a patience that is not averse To the slow tragedies of haunted men -- Horrors, in fact, if you've a skilful eye To know them at their firesides, or out walking, --" "Horrors," I said, "are my necessity; And I would have them, for their best effect, Always out walking." Ferguson frowned at me: "The wisest of us are not those who laugh Before they know. Most of us never know -- Or the long toil of our mortality Would not be done. Most of us never know -- And there you have a reason to believe In God, if you may have no other. Norcross, Or so I gather of his infirmity, Was given to know more than he should have known, And only God knows why. See for yourself An old house full of ghosts of ancestors, Who did their best, or worst, and having done it, Died honorably; and each with a distinction That hardly would have been for him that had it, Had honor failed him wholly as a friend. Honor that is a friend begets a friend. Whether or not we love him, still we have him; And we must live somehow by what we have, Or then we die. If you say
39 The Three Taverns A Book of Poems By Edwin Arlington Robinson chemistry, Then you must have your molecules in motion, And in their right abundance. Failing either, You have not long to dance. Failing a friend, A genius, or a madness, or a faith Larger than desperation, you are here For as much longer than you like as may be. Imagining now, by way of an example, Myself a more or less remembered phantom -- Again, I should say less -- how many times A day should I come back to you? No answer. Forgive me when I seem a little careless, But we must have examples, or be lucid Without them; and I question your adherence To such an undramatic narrative As this of mine, without the personal hook." "A time is given in Ecclesiastes For divers works," I told him. "Is there one For saying nothing in return for nothing? If not, there should be." I could feel his eyes, And they were like two cold inquiring points Of a sharp metal. When I looked again, To see them shine, the cold that I had felt Was gone to make way for a smouldering Of lonely fire that I, as I knew then, Could never quench with kindness or with lies. I should have done whatever there was to do For Ferguson, yet I could not have mourned In honesty for once around the clock The loss of him, for my sake or for his, Try as I might; nor would his ghost approve, Had I the power and the unthinking will To make him tread again without an aim The road that was behind him -- and without The faith, or friend, or genius, or the madness That he contended was imperative. After a silence that had been too long, &quo...
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