Home  »  Collected Poems by Robinson, Edwin Arlington  »  18. The Dark House

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

I. The Man Against the Sky

18. The Dark House

WHERE a faint light shines alone,

Dwells a Demon I have known.

Most of you had better say

“The Dark House,” and go your way.

Do not wonder if I stay.

For I know the Demon’s eyes,

And their lure that never dies.

Banish all your fond alarms,

For I know the foiling charms

Of her eyes and of her arms,

And I know that in one room

Burns a lamp as in a tomb;

And I see the shadow glide,

Back and forth, of one denied

Power to find himself outside.

There he is who is my friend,

Damned, he fancies, to the end—

Vanquished, ever since a door

Closed, he thought, for evermore

On the life that was before.

And the friend who knows him best

Sees him as he sees the rest

Who are striving to be wise

While a Demon’s arms and eyes

Hold them as a web would flies.

All the words of all the world,

Aimed together and then hurled,

Would be stiller in his ears

Than a closing of still shears

On a thread made out of years.

But there lives another sound,

More compelling, more profound;

There’s a music, so it seems,

That assuages and redeems,

More than reason, more than dreams.

There’s a music yet unheard

By the creature of the word,

Though it matters little more

Than a wave-wash on a shore—

Till a Demon shuts a door.

So, if he be very still

With his Demon, and one will,

Murmurs of it may be blown

To my friend who is alone

In a room that I have known.

After that from everywhere

Singing life will find him there;

Then the door will open wide,

And my friend, again outside,

Will be living, having died.