Home  »  Collected Poems by Robinson, Edwin Arlington  »  1. Captain Craig: III.

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935). Collected Poems. 1921.

III. Captain Craig, Etc.

1. Captain Craig: III.


I FOUND the old man sitting in his bed,

Propped up and uncomplaining. On a chair

Beside him was a dreary bowl of broth,

A magazine, some glasses, and a pipe.

“I do not light it nowadays,” he said,

“But keep it for an antique influence

That it exerts, an aura that it sheds—

Like hautboys, or Provence. You understand:

The charred memorial defeats us yet,

But think you not for always. We are young,

And we are friends of time. Time that made smoke

Will drive away the smoke, and we shall know

The work that we are doing. We shall build

With embers of all shrines one pyramid,

And we shall have the most resplendent flame

From earth to heaven, as the old words go,

And we shall need no smoke … Why don’t you laugh?”

I gazed into those calm, half-lighted eyes

And smiled at them with grim obedience.

He told me that I did it very well,

But added that I should undoubtedly

Do better in the future: “There is nothing,”

He said, “so beneficial in a sick-room

As a well-bred spontaneity of manner.

Your sympathetic scowl obtrudes itself,

And is indeed surprising. After death,

Were you to take it with you to your coffin

An unimaginative man might think

That you had lost your life in worrying

To find out what it was that worried you.

The ways of unimaginative men

Are singularly fierce … Why do you stand?

Sit here and watch me while I take this soup.

The doctor likes it, therefore it is good.

“The man who wrote the decalogue,” pursued

The Captain, having swallowed four or five

Heroic spoonfuls of his lukewarm broth,

“Forgot the doctors. And I think sometimes

The man of Galilee (or, if you choose,

The men who made the sayings of the man)

Like Buddha, and the others who have seen,

Was to men’s loss the Poet—though it be

The Poet only of him we revere,

The Poet we remember. We have put

The prose of him so far away from us,

The fear of him so crudely over us,

That I have wondered—wondered.”—Cautiously,

But yet as one were cautious in a dream,

He set the bowl down on the chair again,

Crossed his thin fingers, looked me in the face,

And looking smiled a little. “Go away,”

He said at last, “and let me go to sleep.

I told you I should eat, but I shall not.

To-morrow I shall eat; and I shall read

Some clauses of a jocund instrument

That I have been preparing here of late

For you and for the rest, assuredly.

‘Attend the testament of Captain Craig:

Good citizens, good fathers and your sons,

Good mothers and your daughters.’ I should say so.

Now go away and let me go to sleep.”

I stood before him and held out my hand,

He took it, pressed it; and I felt again

The sick soft closing on it. He would not

Let go, but lay there, looking up to me

With eyes that had a sheen of water on them

And a faint wet spark within them. So he clung,

Tenaciously, with fingers icy warm,

And eyes too full to keep the sheen unbroken.

I looked at him. The fingers closed hard once,

And then fell down.—I should have left him then.

But when we found him the next afternoon,

My first thought was that he had made his eyes

Miraculously smaller. They were sharp

And hard and dry, and the spark in them was dry.

For a glance it all but seemed as if the man

Had artfully forsworn the brimming gaze

Of yesterday, and with a wizard strength

Inveigled in, reduced, and vitalized

The straw-shine of October; and had that

Been truth, we should have humored him no less,

Albeit he had fooled us,—for he said

That we had made him glad by coming to him.

And he was glad: the manner of his words

Revealed the source of them; and the gray smile

Which lingered like a twilight on his face

Told of its own slow fading that it held

The promise of the sun. Cadaverous,

God knows it was; and we knew it was honest.

“So you have come to hear the old man read

To you from his last will and testament:

Well, it will not be long—not very long—

So listen.” He brought out from underneath

His pillow a new manuscript, and said,

“You have done well to come and hear me read

My testament. There are men in the world

Who say of me, if they remember me,

That I am poor;—and I believe the ways

Of certain men who never find things out

Are stranger than the way Lord Bacon wrote

Leviticus, and Faust.” He fixed his eyes

Abstractedly on something far from us,

And with a look that I remembered well

Gazed hard the while we waited. But at length

He found himself and soon began to chant,

With a fitful shift at thin sonorousness

The jocund instrument; and had he been

Definitively parceling to us

All Kimberley and half of Ballarat,

The lordly quaver of his poor old words

Could not have been the more magniloquent.

No promise of dead carbon or of gold,

However, flashed in ambush to corrupt us:

“I, Captain Craig, abhorred iconoclast,

Sage-errant, favored of the Mysteries,

And self-reputed humorist at large,

Do now, confessed of my world-worshiping,

Time-questioning, sun-fearing, and heart-yielding,

Approve and unreservedly devise

To you and your assigns for evermore,

God’s universe and yours. If I had won

What first I sought, I might have made you beam

By giving less; but now I make you laugh

By giving more than what had made you beam,

And it is well. No man has ever done

The deed of humor that God promises,

But now and then we know tragedians

Reform, and in denial too divine

For sacrifice, too firm for ecstasy,

Record in letters, or in books they write,

What fragment of God’s humor they have caught,

What earnest of its rhythm; and I believe

That I, in having somewhat recognized

The formal measure of it, have endured

The discord of infirmity no less

Through fortune than by failure. What men lose,

Man gains; and what man gains reports itself

In losses we but vaguely deprecate,

So they be not for us;—and this is right,

Except that when the devil in the sun

Misguides us we go darkly where the shine

Misleads us, and we know not what we see:

We know not if we climb or if we fall;

And if we fly, we know not where we fly.

“And here do I insert an urging clause

For climbers and up-fliers of all sorts,

Cliff-climbers and high-fliers: Phaethon,

Bellerophon, and Icarus did each

Go gloriously up, and each in turn

Did famously come down—as you have read

In poems and elsewhere; but other men

Have mounted where no fame has followed them,

And we have had no sight, no news of them,

And we have heard no crash. The crash may count,

Undoubtedly, and earth be fairer for it;

Yet none save creatures out of harmony

Have ever, in their fealty to the flesh,

Made crashing an ideal. It is the flesh

That ails us, for the spirit knows no qualm,

No failure, no down-falling: so climb high,

And having set your steps regard not much

The downward laughter clinging at your feet,

Nor overmuch the warning; only know,

As well as you know dawn from lantern-light,

That far above you, for you, and within you,

There burns and shines and lives, unwavering

And always yours, the truth. Take on yourself

But your sincerity, and you take on

Good promise for all climbing: fly for truth,

And hell shall have no storm to crush your flight,

No laughter to vex down your loyalty.

“I think you may be smiling at me now—

And if I make you smile, so much the better;

For I would have you know that I rejoice

Always to see the thing that I would see—

The righteous thing, the wise thing. I rejoice

Always to think that any thought of mine,

Or any word or any deed of mine,

May grant sufficient of what fortifies

Good feeling and the courage of calm joy

To make the joke worth while. Contrariwise,

When I review some faces I have known—

Sad faces, hungry faces—and reflect

On thoughts I might have moulded, human words

I might have said, straightway it saddens me

To feel perforce that had I not been mute

And actionless, I might have made them bright

Somehow, though only for the moment. Yes,

Howbeit I may confess the vanities,

It saddens me; and sadness, of all things

Miscounted wisdom, and the most of all

When warmed with old illusions and regrets,

I mark the selfishest, and on like lines

The shrewdest. For your sadness makes you climb

With dragging footsteps, and it makes you groan;

It hinders you when most you would be free,

And there are many days it wearies you

Beyond the toil itself. And if the load

It lays on you may not be shaken off

Till you have known what now you do not know—

Meanwhile you climb; and he climbs best who sees

Above him truth burn faithfulest, and feels

Within him truth burn purest. Climb or fall,

One road remains and one firm guidance always;

One way that shall be taken, climb or fall.

“But ‘falling, falling, falling.’ There’s your song,

The cradle-song that sings you to the grave.

What is it your bewildered poet says?—

“‘The toiling ocean thunders of unrest

And aching desolation; the still sea

Paints but an outward calm that mocks itself

To the final and irrefragable sleep

That owns no shifting fury; and the shoals

Of ages are but records of regret

Where Time, the sun’s arch-phantom, writes on sand

The prelude of his ancient nothingness.’

“’T is easy to compound a dirge like that,

And it is easy to be deceived

And alienated by the fleshless note

Of half-world yearning in it; but the truth

To which we all are tending,—charlatans

And architects alike, artificers

In tinsel as in gold, evangelists

Of ruin and redemption, all alike,—

The truth we seek and equally the truth

We do not seek, but yet may not escape,

Was never found alone through flesh contempt

Or through flesh reverence. Look east and west

And we may read the story: where the light

Shone first the shade now darkens; where the shade

Clung first, the light fights westward—though the shade

Still feeds, and there is yet the Orient.

“But there is this to be remembered always:

Whatever be the altitude you reach,

You do not rise alone; nor do you fall

But you drag others down to more or less

Than your preferred abasement. God forbid

That ever I should preach, and in my zeal

Forget that I was born an humorist;

But now, for once, before I go away,

I beg of you to be magnanimous

A moment, while I speak to please myself:

“Though I have heard it variously sung

That even in the fury and the clash

Of battles, and the closer fights of men

When silence gives the knowing world no sign,

One flower there is, though crushed and cursed it be,

Keeps rooted through all tumult and all scorn,—

Still do I find, when I look sharply down,

There’s yet another flower that grows well

And has the most unconscionable roots

Of any weed on earth. Perennial

It grows, and has the name of Selfishness;

No doubt you call it Love. In either case,

You propagate it with a diligence

That hardly were outmeasured had its leaf

The very juice in it of that famed herb

Which gave back breath to Glaucus; and I know

That in the twilight, after the day’s work,

You take your little children in your arms,

Or lead them by their credulous frail hands

Benignly out and through the garden-gate

And show them there the things that you have raised;

Not everything, perchance, but always one

Miraculously rooted flower plot

Which is your pride, their pattern. Socrates,

Could he be with you there at such a time,

Would have some unsolicited shrewd words

To say that you might hearken to; but I

Say nothing, for I am not Socrates.—

So much, good friends, for flowers; and I thank you.

“There was a poet once who would have roared

Away the world and had an end of stars.

Where was he when I quoted him?—oh, yes:

’T is easy for a man to link loud words

With woeful pomp and unschooled emphasis

And add one thundered contribution more

To the dirges of all-hollowness, I said;

But here again I find the question set

Before me, after turning books on books

And looking soulward through man after man,

If there indeed be more determining

Play-service in remotely sounding down

The world’s one-sidedness. If I judge right,

Your pounding protestations, echoing

Their burden of unfraught futility,

Surge back to mute forgetfulness at last

And have a kind of sunny, sullen end,

Like any cold north storm.—But there are few

Still seas that have no life to profit them,

And even in such currents of the mind

As have no tide-rush in them, but are drowsed,

Crude thoughts may dart in armor and upspring

With waking sound, when all is dim with peace,

Like sturgeons in the twilight out of Lethe;

And though they be discordant, hard, grotesque,

And all unwelcome to the lethargy

That you think means repose, you know as well

As if your names were shouted when they leap,

And when they leap you listen.—Ah! friends, friends,

There are these things we do not like to know:

They trouble us, they make us hesitate,

They touch us, and we try to put them off.

We banish one another and then say

That we are left alone: the midnight leaf

That rattles where it hangs above the snow—

Gaunt, fluttering, forlorn—scarcely may seem

So cold in all its palsied loneliness

As we, we frozen brothers, who have yet

Profoundly and severely to find out

That there is more of unpermitted love

In most men’s reticence than most men think.

“Once, when I made it out fond-headedness

To say that we should ever be apprised

Of our deserts and their emolument

At all but in the specious way of words,

The wisdom of a warm thought woke within me

And I could read the sun. Then did I turn

My long-defeated face full to the world,

And through the clouded warfare of it all

Discern the light. Through dusk that hindered it,

I found the truth, and for the first whole time

Knew then that we were climbing. Not as one

Who mounts along with his experience

Bound on him like an Old Man of the Sea—

Not as a moral pedant who drags chains

Of his unearned ideals after him

And always to the lead-like thud they make

Attunes a cold inhospitable chant

Of All Things Easy to the Non-Attached,—

But as a man, a scarred man among men,

I knew it, and I felt the strings of thought

Between us to pull tight the while I strove;

And if a curse came ringing now and then

To my defended ears, how could I know

The light that burned above me and within me,

And at the same time put on cap-and-bells

For such as yet were groping?”


Made there as if to stifle a small cough.

I might have kicked him, but regret forbade

The subtle admonition; and indeed

When afterwards I reprimanded him,

The fellow never knew quite what I meant.

I may have been unjust.—The Captain read

Right on, without a chuckle or a pause,

As if he had heard nothing:

“How, forsooth,

Shall any man, by curses or by groans,

Or by the laugh-jarred stillness of all hell,

Be so drawn down to servitude again

That on some backward level of lost laws

And undivined relations, he may know

No longer Love’s imperative resource,

Firm once and his, well treasured then, but now

Too fondly thrown away? And if there come

But once on all his journey, singing down

To find him, the gold-throated forward call,

What way but one, what but the forward way,

Shall after that call guide him? When his ears

Have earned an inward skill to methodize

The clash of all crossed voices and all noises,

How shall he grope to be confused again,

As he has been, by discord? When his eyes

Have read the book of wisdom in the sun,

And after dark deciphered it on earth,

How shall he turn them back to scan some huge

Blood-lettered protest of bewildered men

That hunger while he feeds where they would starve

And all absurdly perish?”


Looked hard for a subtile object on the wall,

And, having found it, sighed. The Captain paused:

If he grew tedious, most assuredly

Did he crave pardon of us; he had feared

Beforehand that he might be wearisome,

But there was not much more of it, he said,—

No more than just enough. And we rejoiced

That he should look so kindly on us then.

(“Commend me to a dying man’s grimace

For absolute humor, always,” Killigrew

Maintains; but I know better.)

“Work for them,

You tell me? Work the folly out of them?

Go back to them and teach them how to climb;

While you teach caterpillars how to fly?

You tell me that Alnaschar is a fool

Because he dreams? And what is this you ask?

I make him wise? I teach him to be still?

While you go polishing the Pyramids,

I hold Alnaschar’s feet? And while you have

The ghost of Memnon’s image all day singing,

I sit with aching arms and hardly catch

A few spilled echoes of the song of songs—

The song that I should have as utterly

For mine as other men should once have had

The sweetest a glad shepherd ever trilled

In Sharon, long ago? Is this the way

For me to do good climbing any more

Than Phaethon’s? Do you think the golden tone

Of that far-singing call you all have heard

Means any more for you than you should be

Wise-heartedly, glad-heartedly yourselves?

Do this, there is no more for you to do;

And you have no dread left, no shame, no scorn.

And while you have your wisdom and your gold,

Songs calling, and the Princess in your arms,

Remember, if you like, from time to time,

Down yonder where the clouded millions go,

Your bloody-knuckled scullions are not slaves,

Your children of Alnaschar are not fools.

“Nor are they quite so foreign or far down

As you may think to see them. What you take

To be the cursedest mean thing that crawls

On earth is nearer to you than you know:

You may not ever crush him but you lose,

You may not ever shield him but you gain—

As he, with all his crookedness, gains with you.

Your preaching and your teaching, your achieving,

Your lifting up and your discovering,

Are more than often—more than you have dreamed—

The world-refracted evidence of what

Your dream denies. You cannot hide yourselves

In any multitude or solitude,

Or mask yourselves in any studied guise

Of hardness or of old humility,

But soon by some discriminating man—

Some humorist at large, like Socrates—

You get yourselves found out.—Now I should be

Found out without an effort. For example:

When I go riding, trimmed and shaved again,

Consistent, adequate, respectable,—

Some citizen, for curiosity,

Will ask of a good neighbor, ‘What is this?’—

‘It is the funeral of Captain Craig,’

Will be the neighbor’s word.—‘And who, good man,

Was Captain Craig?’—‘He was an humorist;

And we are told that there is nothing more

For any man alive to say of him.’—

‘There is nothing very strange in that,’ says A;

‘But the brass band? What has he done to be

Blown through like this by cornets and trombones?

And here you have this incompatible dirge—

Where are the jokes in that?’—Then B should say:

‘Maintained his humor: nothing more or less.

The story goes that on the day before

He died—some say a week, but that’s a trifle—

He said, with a subdued facetiousness,

“Play Handel, not Chopin; assuredly not

Chopin.”’—He was indeed an humorist.”

He made the paper fall down at arm’s length;

And with a tension of half-quizzical

Benignity that made it hard for us,

He looked up—first at Morgan, then at me—

Almost, I thought, as if his eyes would ask

If we were satisfied; and as he looked,

The tremor of an old heart’s weariness

Was on his mouth. He gazed at each of us,

But spoke no further word that afternoon.

He put away the paper, closed his eyes,

And went to sleep with his lips flickering;

And after that we left him.—At midnight

Plunket and I looked in; but he still slept,

And everything was going as it should.

The watchman yawned, rattled his newspaper,

And wondered what it was that ailed his lamp.

Next day we found the Captain wide awake,

Propped up, and searching dimly with a spoon

Through another dreary dish of chicken-broth,

Which he raised up to me, at my approach,

So fervently and so unconsciously,

That one could only laugh. He looked again

At each of us, and as he looked he frowned;

And there was something in that frown of his

That none of us had ever seen before.

“Kind friends,” he said, “be sure that I rejoice

To know that you have come to visit me;

Be sure I speak with undisguised words

And earnest, when I say that I rejoice.”—

“But what the devil!” whispered Killigrew.

I kicked him, for I thought I understood.

The old man’s eyes had glimmered wearily

At first, but now they glittered like to those

Of a glad fish. “Beyond a doubt,” said he,

“My dream this morning was more singular

Than any other I have ever known.

Give me that I might live ten thousand years,

And all those years do nothing but have dreams,

I doubt me much if any one of them

Could be so quaint or so fantastical,

So pregnant, as a dream of mine this morning.

You may not think it any more than odd;

You may not feel—you cannot wholly feel—

How droll it was:—I dreamed that I found Hamlet—

Found him at work, drenched with an angry sweat,

Predestined, he declared with emphasis,

To root out a large weed on Lethe wharf;

And after I had watched him for some time,

I laughed at him and told him that no root

Would ever come the while he talked like that:

The power was not in him, I explained,

For such compound accomplishment. He glared

At me, of course,—next moment laughed at me,

And finally laughed with me. I was right,

And we had eisel on the strength of it:—

‘They tell me that this water is not good,’

Said Hamlet, and you should have seen him smile.

Conceited? Pelion and Ossa?—pah …

“But anon comes in a crocodile. We stepped

Adroitly down upon the back of him,

And away we went to an undiscovered country—

A fertile place, but in more ways than one

So like the region we had started from,

That Hamlet straightway found another weed

And there began to tug. I laughed again,

Till he cried out on me and on my mirth,

Protesting all he knew: ‘The Fates,’ he said,

‘Have ordered it that I shall have these roots.’

But all at once a dreadful hunger seized him,

And it was then we killed the crocodile—

Killed him and ate him. Washed with eisel down

That luckless reptile was, to the last morsel;

And there we were with flag-fens all around us,—

And there was Hamlet, at his task again,

Ridiculous. And while I watched his work,

The drollest of all changes came to pass.

The weed had snapped off just above the root,

Not warning him, and I was left alone.

The bubbles rose, and I laughed heartily

To think of him; I laughed when I woke up;

And when my soup came in I laughed again;

I think I may have laughed a little—no?—

Not when you came? … Why do you look like that?

You don’t believe me? Crocodiles—why not?

Who knows what he has eaten in his life?

Who knows but I have eaten Atropos?…

‘Briar and oak for a soldier’s crown,’ you say?

Provence? Oh, no … Had I been Socrates,

Count Pretzel would have been the King of Spain.”

Now of all casual things we might have said

To make the matter smooth at such a time,

There may have been a few that we had found

Sufficient. Recollection fails, however,

To say that we said anything. We looked.

Had he been Carmichael, we might have stood

Like faithful hypocrites and laughed at him;

But the Captain was not Carmichael at all,

For the Captain had no frogs: he had the sun.

So there we waited, hungry for the word,—

Tormented, unsophisticated, stretched—

Till, with a drawl, to save us, Killigrew

Good-humoredly spoke out. The Captain fixed

His eyes on him with some severity.

“That was a funny dream, beyond a doubt,”

Said Killigrew;—“too funny to be laughed at;

Too humorous, we mean.”—“Too humorous?”

The Captain answered; “I approve of that.

Proceed.”—We were not glad for Killigrew.

“Well,” he went on, “’t was only this. You see

My dream this morning was a droll one too:

I dreamed that a sad man was in my room,

Sitting, as I do now, beside the bed.

I questioned him, but he made no reply,—

Said not a word, but sang.”—“Said not a word,

But sang,” the Captain echoed. “Very good.

Now tell me what it was the sad man sang.”

“Now that,” said Killigrew, constrainedly,

And with a laugh that might have been left out,

“Is why I know it must have been a dream.

But there he was, and I lay in the bed

Like you; and I could see him just as well

As you see my right hand. And for the songs

He sang to me—there’s where the dream part comes.”

“You don’t remember them?” the Captain said,

With a weary little chuckle; “very well,

I might have guessed it. Never mind your dream,

But let me go to sleep.”—For a moment then

There was a frown on Killigrew’s good face,

And then there was a smile. “Not quite,” said he;

“The songs that he sang first were sorrowful,

And they were stranger than the man himself—

And he was very strange; but I found out,

Through all the gloom of him and of his music,

That a—say, well, say mystic cheerfulness,

Pervaded him; for slowly, as he sang,

There came a change, and I began to know

The method of it all. Song after song

Was ended; and when I had listened there

For hours—I mean for dream-hours—hearing him,

And always glad that I was hearing him,

There came another change—a great one. Tears

Rolled out at last like bullets from his eyes,

And I could hear them fall down on the floor

Like shoes; and they were always marking time

For the song that he was singing. I have lost

The greater number of his verses now,

But there are some, like these, that I remember:

“‘Ten men from Zanzibar,

Black as iron hammers are,

Riding on a cable-car

Down to Crowley’s theatre.’ …

“Ten men?” the Captain interrupted there—

“Ten men, my Euthyphron? That is beautiful.

But never mind, I wish to go to sleep:

Tell Cebes that I wish to go to sleep.…

O ye of little faith, your golden plumes

Are like to drag … par-dee!”—We may have smiled

In after days to think how Killigrew

Had sacrificed himself to fight that silence,

But we were grateful to him, none the less;

And if we smiled, that may have been the reason.

But the good Captain for a long time then

Said nothing: he lay quiet—fast asleep,

For all that we could see. We waited there

Till each of us, I fancy, must have made

The paper on the wall begin to squirm,

And then got up to leave. My friends went out,

And I was going, when the old man cried:

“You leave me now—now it has come to this?

What have I done to make you go? Come back!

Come back!”

There was a quaver in his cry

That we shall not forget—reproachful, kind,

Indignant, piteous. It seemed as one

Marooned on treacherous tide-feeding sand

Were darkly calling over the still straits

Between him and irrevocable shores

Where now there was no lamp to fade for him,

No call to give him answer. We were there

Before him, but his eyes were not much turned

On us; nor was it very much to us

That he began to speak the broken words,

The scattered words, that he had left in him.

“So it has come to this? And what is this?

Death, do you call it? Death? And what is death?

Why do you look like that at me again?

Why do you shrink your brows and shut your lips?

If it be fear, then I can do no more

Than hope for all of you that you may find

Your promise of the sun; if it be grief

You feel, to think that this old face of mine

May never look at you and laugh again,

Then tell me why it is that you have gone

So long with me, and followed me so far,

And had me to believe you took my words

For more than ever misers did their gold?”

He listened, but his eyes were far from us—

Too far to make us turn to Killigrew,

Or search the futile shelves of our own thoughts

For golden-labeled insincerities

To make placebos of. The marrowy sense

Of slow November rain that splashed against

The shingles and the glass reminded us

That we had brought umbrellas. He continued:

“Oh, can it be that I, too credulous,

Have made myself believe that you believe

Yourselves to be the men that you are not?

I prove and I prize well your friendliness,

But I would have that your last look at me

Be not like this; for I would scan today

Strong thoughts on all your faces—no regret,

No still commiseration—oh, not that!—

No doubt, no fear. A man may be as brave

As Ajax in the fury of his arms,

And in the midmost warfare of his thoughts

Be frail as Paris … For the love, therefore,

That brothered us when we stood back that day

From Delium—the love that holds us now

More than it held us at Amphipolis—

Forget you not that he who in his work

Would mount from these low roads of measured shame

To tread the leagueless highway must fling first

And fling forevermore beyond his reach

The shackles of a slave who doubts the sun.

There is no servitude so fraudulent

As of a sun-shut mind; for ’t is the mind

That makes you craven or invincible,

Diseased or puissant. The mind will pay

Ten thousand fold and be the richer then

To grant new service; but the world pays hard,

And accurately sickens till in years

The dole has eked its end and there is left

What all of you are noting on all days

In these Athenian streets, where squandered men

Drag ruins of half-warriors to the grave—

Or to Hippocrates.”

His head fell back,

And he lay still with wearied eyes half-closed.

We waited, but a few faint words yet stayed:

“Kind friends,” he said, “friends I have known so long,

Though I have jested with you in time past,

Though I have stung your pride with epithets

Not all forbearing,—still, when I am gone,

Say Socrates wrought always for the best

And for the wisest end … Give me the cup!

The truth is yours, God’s universe is yours …

Good-by … good citizens … give me the cup” …

Again we waited; and this time we knew

Those lips of his that would not flicker down

Had yet some fettered message for us there.

We waited, and we watched him. All at once,

With a faint flash, the clouded eyes grew clear,

And then we knew the man was coming back.

We watched him, and I listened. The man smiled

And looked about him—not regretfully,

Not anxiously; and when at last he spoke,

Before the long drowse came to give him peace,

One word was all he said. “Trombones,” he said.

That evening, at “The Chrysalis” again,

We smoked and looked at one another’s eyes,

And we were glad. The world had scattered ways

For us to take, we knew; but for the time

That one snug room where big beech logs roared smooth

Defiance to the cold rough rain outside

Sufficed. There were no scattered ways for us

That we could see just then, and we were glad:

We were glad to be on earth, and we rejoiced

No less for Captain Craig that he was gone.

We might, for his dead benefit, have run

The gamut of all human weaknesses

And uttered after-platitudes enough—

Wrecked on his own abstractions, and all such—

To drive away Gambrinus and the bead

From Bernard’s ale; and I suppose we might

Have praised, accordingly, the Lord of Hosts

For letting us believe that we were not

The least and idlest of His handiwork.

So Plunket, who had knowledge of all sorts,

Yet hardly ever spoke, began to plink

O tu, Palermo!—quaintly, with his nails,—

On Morgan’s fiddle, and at once got seized,

As if he were some small thing, by the neck.

Then the consummate Morgan, having told

Explicitly what hardship might accrue

To Plunket if he did that any more,

Made roaring chords and acrobatic runs—

And then, with his kind eyes on Killigrew,

Struck up the schoolgirls’ march in Lohengrin,

So Killigrew might smile and stretch himself

And have to light his pipe. When that was done

We knew that Morgan, by the looks of him,

Was in the mood for almost anything

From Bach to Offenbach; and of all times

That he has ever played, that one somehow—

That evening of the day the Captain died—

Stands out like one great verse of a good song,

One strain that sings itself beyond the rest

For magic and a glamour that it has.

The ways have scattered for us, and all things

Have changed; and we have wisdom, I doubt not,

More fit for the world’s work than we had then;

But neither parted roads nor cent per cent

May starve quite out the child that lives in us—

The Child that is the Man, the Mystery,

The Phœnix of the World. So, now and then,

That evening of the day the Captain died

Returns to us; and there comes always with it

The storm, the warm restraint, the fellowship,

The friendship and the firelight, and the fiddle.

So too there comes a day that followed it—

A windy, dreary day with a cold white shine,

Which only gummed the tumbled frozen ruts

That made us ache. The road was hard and long,

But we had what we knew to comfort us,

And we had the large humor of the thing

To make it advantageous; for men stopped

And eyed us on that road from time to time,

And on that road the children followed us;

And all along that road the Tilbury Band

Blared indiscreetly the Dead March in Saul.