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

I. The Man Against the Sky

17. The Voice of Age

SHE’D look upon us, if she could,

As hard as Rhadamanthus would;

Yet one may see,—who sees her face,

Her crown of silver and of lace,

Her mystical serene address

Of age alloyed with loveliness,—

That she would not annihilate

The frailest of things animate.

She has opinions of our ways,

And if we’re not all mad, she says,—

If our ways are not wholly worse

Than others, for not being hers,—

There might somehow be found a few

Less insane things for us to do,

And we might have a little heed

Of what Belshazzar couldn’t read.

She feels, with all our furniture,

Room yet for something more secure

Than our self-kindled aureoles

To guide our poor forgotten souls;

But when we have explained that grace

Dwells now in doing for the race,

She nods—as if she were relieved;

Almost as if she were deceived.

She frowns at much of what she hears,

And shakes her head, and has her fears;

Though none may know, by any chance,

What rose-leaf ashes of romance

Are faintly stirred by later days

That would be well enough, she says,

If only people were more wise,

And grown-up children used their eyes.