To see them listening was itself enough to make him

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Unformatted text preview: led. If there you meet a picture That holds you near it for a longer time Than you are sorry, you may call it yours, And hang it in the dark of your remembrance, Where Norcross never sees. How can he see That has no eyes to see? And as for music, He paid with empty wonder for the pangs Of his infrequent forced endurance of it; And having had no pleasure, paid no more For needless immolation, or for the sight Of those who heard what he was never to hear. To see them listening was itself enough To make him suffer; and to watch worn eyes, On other days, of strangers who forgot Their sorrows and their failures and themselves Before a few mysterious odds and ends Of marble carted from the Parthenon -- And all for seeing what he was never to see, Because it was alive and he was dead -- Here was a wonder that was more profound Than any that was in fiddles and brass horns. "He knew, and in his knowledge there was death. He knew there was a region all around him That lay outside man's havoc and affairs, And yet was not all hostile to their tumult, Where poets would have served and honored him, And saved him, had there been anything to save. But there was nothing, and his tethered range Was only a small desert. Kings of song Are not for thrones in deserts. Towers of sound And flowers of sense are but a waste of heaven Where there is none to know them from the rocks And sand-grass of his own monotony That makes earth less than earth. He could see that, And he could see no more. The captured light That may have been or not, for all he cared, The song that is in sculpture was not his, But only, to his God-forgotten eyes, One more immortal nonsense in a world Where all was mortal, or had best be so, And so be done with. `Art,' he would have said, `Is not life, and must therefore be a lie;' And with a few profundities like that He would have controverted and dismissed The benefit of the Greeks. He had heard of them, As he had heard of his aspiring soul -- Never to the perceptible advantage, In his esteem, of either. `Faith,' he said, Or would have said if he had thought of it, `Lives in the same house with Philosophy, Where the two feed on scraps and are forlorn As orphans after war. He could see stars, On a clear night, but he had not 43 The Three Taverns A Book of Poems By Edwin Arlington Robinson an eye To see beyond them. He could hear spoken words, But had no ear for silence when alone. He could eat food of which he knew the savor, But had no palate for the Bread of Life, That human desperation, to his thinking, Made famous long ago, having no other. Now do you see? Do you begin to see?" I told him that I did begin to see; And I was nearer than I should have been To laughing at his malign inclusiveness, When I considered that, with all our speed, We are not laughing yet at funerals. I see him now as I could see him then, And I see now that it was good for me, As it was good for him, that I was quiet; For Time's eye was on Ferguson, and the shaft Of its inquiring hesitancy had touched him, Or so I chose to fancy more than once Before he told of Norcross. When the word Of his release (he would have called it so) Made half an inch of news, there were no tears That are...
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