Verse > Edwin A. Robinson > Collected Poems > I. The Man Against the Sky > 23. Llewellyn and the Tree
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Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935).  Collected Poems. 1921.
  
I. The Man Against the Sky
23. Llewellyn and the Tree
  
COULD he have made Priscilla share
  The paradise that he had planned,
Llewellyn would have loved his wife
  As well as any in the land.
 
Could he have made Priscilla cease        5
  To goad him for what God left out,
Llewellyn would have been as mild
  As any we have read about.
 
Could all have been as all was not,
  Llewellyn would have had no story;       10
He would have stayed a quiet man
  And gone his quiet way to glory.
 
But howsoever mild he was
  Priscilla was implacable;
And whatsoever timid hopes       15
  He built—she found them, and they fell.
 
And this went on, with intervals
  Of labored harmony between
Resounding discords, till at last
  Llewellyn turned—as will be seen.       20
 
Priscilla, warmer than her name,
  And shriller than the sound of saws,
Pursued Llewellyn once too far,
  Not knowing quite the man he was.
 
The more she said, the fiercer clung       25
  The stinging garment of his wrath;
And this was all before the day
  When Time tossed roses in his path.
 
Before the roses ever came
  Llewellyn had already risen.       30
The roses may have ruined him,
  They may have kept him out of prison.
 
And she who brought them, being Fate,
  Made roses do the work of spears,—
Though many made no more of her       35
  Than civet, coral, rouge, and years.
 
You ask us what Llewellyn saw,
  But why ask what may not be given?
To some will come a time when change
  Itself is beauty, if not heaven.       40
 
One afternoon Priscilla spoke,
  And her shrill history was done;
At any rate, she never spoke
  Like that again to anyone.
 
One gold October afternoon       45
  Great fury smote the silent air;
And then Llewellyn leapt and fled
  Like one with hornets in his hair.
 
Llewellyn left us, and he said
  Forever, leaving few to doubt him;       50
And so, through frost and clicking leaves,
  The Tilbury way went on without him.
 
And slowly, through the Tilbury mist,
  The stillness of October gold
Went out like beauty from a face.       55
  Priscilla watched it, and grew old.
 
He fled, still clutching in his flight
  The roses that had been his fall;
The Scarlet One, as you surmise,
  Fled with him, coral, rouge, and all.       60
 
Priscilla, waiting, saw the change
  Of twenty slow October moons;
And then she vanished, in her turn
  To be forgotten, like old tunes.
 
So they were gone—all three of them,       65
  I should have said, and said no more,
Had not a face once on Broadway
  Been one that I had seen before.
 
The face and hands and hair were old,
  But neither time nor penury       70
Could quench within Llewellyn’s eyes
  The shine of his one victory.
 
The roses, faded and gone by,
  Left ruin where they once had reigned;
But on the wreck, as on old shells,       75
  The color of the rose remained.
 
His fictive merchandise I bought
  For him to keep and show again,
Then led him slowly from the crush
  Of his cold-shouldered fellow men.       80
 
“And so, Llewellyn,” I began—
  “Not so,” he said; “not so at all:
I’ve tried the world, and found it good,
  For more than twenty years this fall.
 
“And what the world has left of me       85
  Will go now in a little while.”
And what the world had left of him
  Was partly an unholy guile.
 
“That I have paid for being calm
  Is what you see, if you have eyes;       90
For let a man be calm too long,
  He pays for much before he dies.
 
“Be calm when you are growing old
  And you have nothing else to do;
Pour not the wine of life too thin       95
  If water means the death of you.
 
“You say I might have learned at home
  The truth in season to be strong?
Not so; I took the wine of life
  Too thin, and I was calm too long.      100
 
“Like others who are strong too late,
  For me there was no going back;
For I had found another speed,
  And I was on the other track.
 
“God knows how far I might have gone      105
  Or what there might have been to see;
But my speed had a sudden end,
  And here you have the end of me.”
 
The end or not, it may be now
  But little farther from the truth      110
To say those worn satiric eyes
  Had something of immortal youth.
 
He may among the millions here
  Be one; or he may, quite as well,
Be gone to find again the Tree      115
  Of Knowledge, out of which he fell.
 
He may be near us, dreaming yet
  Of unrepented rouge and coral;
Or in a grave without a name
  May be as far off as a moral.      120

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