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

I. The Man Against the Sky

7. Hillcrest

(To Mrs. Edward MacDowell)

NO sound of any storm that shakes

Old island walls with older seas

Comes here where now September makes

An island in a sea of trees.

Between the sunlight and the shade

A man may learn till he forgets

The roaring of a world remade,

And all his ruins and regrets;

And if he still remembers here

Poor fights he may have won or lost,—

If he be ridden with the fear

Of what some other fight may cost,—

If, eager to confuse too soon,

What he has known with what may be,

He reads a planet out of tune

For cause of his jarred harmony,—

If here he venture to unroll

His index of adagios,

And he be given to console

Humanity with what he knows,—

He may by contemplation learn

A little more than what he knew,

And even see great oaks return

To acorns out of which they grew.

He may, if he but listen well,

Through twilight and the silence here,

Be told what there are none may tell

To vanity’s impatient ear;

And he may never dare again

Say what awaits him, or be sure

What sunlit labyrinth of pain

He may not enter and endure.

Who knows to-day from yesterday

May learn to count no thing too strange:

Love builds of what Time takes away,

Till Death itself is less than Change.

Who sees enough in his duress

May go as far as dreams have gone;

Who sees a little may do less

Than many who are blind have done;

Who sees unchastened here the soul

Triumphant has no other sight

Than has a child who sees the whole

World radiant with his own delight.

Far journeys and hard wandering

Await him in whose crude surmise

Peace, like a mask, hides everything

That is and has been from his eyes;

And all his wisdom is unfound,

Or like a web that error weaves

On airy looms that have a sound

No louder now than falling leaves.