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Siegfried Sassoon (1886–1967).  Picture-Show.  1920.

11. To a Very Wise Man


I

FIRES in the dark you build; tall quivering flames
 
In the huge midnight forest of the unknown. 
Your soul is full of cities with dead names, 
And blind-faced, earth-bound gods of bronze and stone 
Whose priests and kings and lust-begotten lords         5
Watch the procession of their thundering hosts, 
Or guard relentless fanes with flickering swords 
And wizardry of ghosts. 
  
II

In a strange house I woke; heard overhead
 
Hastily-thudding feet and a muffled scream...  10
(Is death like that?) ... I quaked uncomforted, 
Striving to frame to-morrow in a dream 
Of woods and sliding pools and cloudless day. 
(You know how bees come into a twilight room 
From dazzling afternoon, then sail away  15
Out of the curtained gloom.) 
  
III

You understand my thoughts; though, when you think,
 
You’re out beyond the boundaries of my brain. 
I’m but a bird at dawn that cries ‘chink, chink’— 
A garden-bird that warbles in the rain.  20
And you’re the flying-man, the speck that steers 
A careful course far down the verge of day, 
Half-way across the world. Above the years 
You soar ... Is death so bad? ... I wish you’d say. 


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