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

V. The Town Down the River

6. Clavering

I SAY no more for Clavering

Than I should say of him who fails

To bring his wounded vessel home

When reft of rudder and of sails;

I say no more than I should say

Of any other one who sees

Too far for guidance of to-day,

Too near for the eternities.

I think of him as I should think

Of one who for scant wages played,

And faintly, a flawed instrument

That fell while it was being made;

I think of him as one who fared,

Unfaltering and undeceived,

Amid mirages of renown

And urgings of the unachieved;

I think of him as one who gave

To Lingard leave to be amused,

And listened with a patient grace

That we, the wise ones, had refused;

I think of metres that he wrote

For Cubit, the ophidian guest:

“What Lilith, or Dark Lady”… Well,

Time swallows Cubit with the rest.

I think of last words that he said

One midnight over Calverly:

“Good-by—good man.” He was not good;

So Clavering was wrong, you see.

I wonder what had come to pass

Could he have borrowed for a spell

The fiery-frantic indolence

That made a ghost of Leffingwell;

I wonder if he pitied us

Who cautioned him till he was gray

To build his house with ours on earth

And have an end of yesterday;

I wonder what it was we saw

To make us think that we were strong;

I wonder if he saw too much,

Or if he looked one way too long.

But when were thoughts or wonderings

To ferret out the man within?

Why prate of what he seemed to be,

And all that he might not have been?

He clung to phantoms and to friends,

And never came to anything.

He left a wreath on Cubit’s grave.

I say no more for Clavering.