Verse > Edwin A. Robinson > Collected Poems > III. Captain Craig, Etc. > 1. Captain Craig: III
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935).  Collected Poems. 1921.
  
III. Captain Craig, Etc.
1. Captain Craig: III.
  
III

I FOUND the old man sitting in his bed,
Propped up and uncomplaining. On a chair
Beside him was a dreary bowl of broth,
A magazine, some glasses, and a pipe.
“I do not light it nowadays,” he said,      1105
“But keep it for an antique influence
That it exerts, an aura that it sheds—
Like hautboys, or Provence. You understand:
The charred memorial defeats us yet,
But think you not for always. We are young,      1110
And we are friends of time. Time that made smoke
Will drive away the smoke, and we shall know
The work that we are doing. We shall build
With embers of all shrines one pyramid,
And we shall have the most resplendent flame      1115
From earth to heaven, as the old words go,
And we shall need no smoke … Why don’t you laugh?”
 
I gazed into those calm, half-lighted eyes
And smiled at them with grim obedience.
He told me that I did it very well,      1120
But added that I should undoubtedly
Do better in the future: “There is nothing,”
He said, “so beneficial in a sick-room
As a well-bred spontaneity of manner.
Your sympathetic scowl obtrudes itself,      1125
And is indeed surprising. After death,
Were you to take it with you to your coffin
An unimaginative man might think
That you had lost your life in worrying
To find out what it was that worried you.      1130
The ways of unimaginative men
Are singularly fierce … Why do you stand?
Sit here and watch me while I take this soup.
The doctor likes it, therefore it is good.
 
“The man who wrote the decalogue,” pursued      1135
The Captain, having swallowed four or five
Heroic spoonfuls of his lukewarm broth,
“Forgot the doctors. And I think sometimes
The man of Galilee (or, if you choose,
The men who made the sayings of the man)      1140
Like Buddha, and the others who have seen,
Was to men’s loss the Poet—though it be
The Poet only of him we revere,
The Poet we remember. We have put
The prose of him so far away from us,      1145
The fear of him so crudely over us,
That I have wondered—wondered.”—Cautiously,
But yet as one were cautious in a dream,
He set the bowl down on the chair again,
Crossed his thin fingers, looked me in the face,      1150
And looking smiled a little. “Go away,”
He said at last, “and let me go to sleep.
I told you I should eat, but I shall not.
To-morrow I shall eat; and I shall read
Some clauses of a jocund instrument      1155
That I have been preparing here of late
For you and for the rest, assuredly.
‘Attend the testament of Captain Craig:
Good citizens, good fathers and your sons,
Good mothers and your daughters.’ I should say so.      1160
Now go away and let me go to sleep.”
 
I stood before him and held out my hand,
He took it, pressed it; and I felt again
The sick soft closing on it. He would not
Let go, but lay there, looking up to me      1165
With eyes that had a sheen of water on them
And a faint wet spark within them. So he clung,
Tenaciously, with fingers icy warm,
And eyes too full to keep the sheen unbroken.
I looked at him. The fingers closed hard once,      1170
And then fell down.—I should have left him then.
 
But when we found him the next afternoon,
My first thought was that he had made his eyes
Miraculously smaller. They were sharp
And hard and dry, and the spark in them was dry.      1175
For a glance it all but seemed as if the man
Had artfully forsworn the brimming gaze
Of yesterday, and with a wizard strength
Inveigled in, reduced, and vitalized
The straw-shine of October; and had that      1180
Been truth, we should have humored him no less,
Albeit he had fooled us,—for he said
That we had made him glad by coming to him.
And he was glad: the manner of his words
Revealed the source of them; and the gray smile      1185
Which lingered like a twilight on his face
Told of its own slow fading that it held
The promise of the sun. Cadaverous,
God knows it was; and we knew it was honest.
“So you have come to hear the old man read      1190
To you from his last will and testament:
Well, it will not be long—not very long—
So listen.” He brought out from underneath
His pillow a new manuscript, and said,
“You have done well to come and hear me read      1195
My testament. There are men in the world
Who say of me, if they remember me,
That I am poor;—and I believe the ways
Of certain men who never find things out
Are stranger than the way Lord Bacon wrote      1200
Leviticus, and Faust.” He fixed his eyes
Abstractedly on something far from us,
And with a look that I remembered well
Gazed hard the while we waited. But at length
He found himself and soon began to chant,      1205
With a fitful shift at thin sonorousness
The jocund instrument; and had he been
Definitively parceling to us
All Kimberley and half of Ballarat,
The lordly quaver of his poor old words      1210
Could not have been the more magniloquent.
No promise of dead carbon or of gold,
However, flashed in ambush to corrupt us:
 
“I, Captain Craig, abhorred iconoclast,
Sage-errant, favored of the Mysteries,      1215
And self-reputed humorist at large,
Do now, confessed of my world-worshiping,
Time-questioning, sun-fearing, and heart-yielding,
Approve and unreservedly devise
To you and your assigns for evermore,      1220
God’s universe and yours. If I had won
What first I sought, I might have made you beam
By giving less; but now I make you laugh
By giving more than what had made you beam,
And it is well. No man has ever done      1225
The deed of humor that God promises,
But now and then we know tragedians
Reform, and in denial too divine
For sacrifice, too firm for ecstasy,
Record in letters, or in books they write,      1230
What fragment of God’s humor they have caught,
What earnest of its rhythm; and I believe
That I, in having somewhat recognized
The formal measure of it, have endured
The discord of infirmity no less      1235
Through fortune than by failure. What men lose,
Man gains; and what man gains reports itself
In losses we but vaguely deprecate,
So they be not for us;—and this is right,
Except that when the devil in the sun      1240
Misguides us we go darkly where the shine
Misleads us, and we know not what we see:
We know not if we climb or if we fall;
And if we fly, we know not where we fly.
 
“And here do I insert an urging clause      1245
For climbers and up-fliers of all sorts,
Cliff-climbers and high-fliers: Phaethon,
Bellerophon, and Icarus did each
Go gloriously up, and each in turn
Did famously come down—as you have read      1250
In poems and elsewhere; but other men
Have mounted where no fame has followed them,
And we have had no sight, no news of them,
And we have heard no crash. The crash may count,
Undoubtedly, and earth be fairer for it;      1255
Yet none save creatures out of harmony
Have ever, in their fealty to the flesh,
Made crashing an ideal. It is the flesh
That ails us, for the spirit knows no qualm,
No failure, no down-falling: so climb high,      1260
And having set your steps regard not much
The downward laughter clinging at your feet,
Nor overmuch the warning; only know,
As well as you know dawn from lantern-light,
That far above you, for you, and within you,      1265
There burns and shines and lives, unwavering
And always yours, the truth. Take on yourself
But your sincerity, and you take on
Good promise for all climbing: fly for truth,
And hell shall have no storm to crush your flight,      1270
No laughter to vex down your loyalty.
 
“I think you may be smiling at me now—
And if I make you smile, so much the better;
For I would have you know that I rejoice
Always to see the thing that I would see—      1275
The righteous thing, the wise thing. I rejoice
Always to think that any thought of mine,
Or any word or any deed of mine,
May grant sufficient of what fortifies
Good feeling and the courage of calm joy      1280
To make the joke worth while. Contrariwise,
When I review some faces I have known—
Sad faces, hungry faces—and reflect
On thoughts I might have moulded, human words
I might have said, straightway it saddens me      1285
To feel perforce that had I not been mute
And actionless, I might have made them bright
Somehow, though only for the moment. Yes,
Howbeit I may confess the vanities,
It saddens me; and sadness, of all things      1290
Miscounted wisdom, and the most of all
When warmed with old illusions and regrets,
I mark the selfishest, and on like lines
The shrewdest. For your sadness makes you climb
With dragging footsteps, and it makes you groan;      1295
It hinders you when most you would be free,
And there are many days it wearies you
Beyond the toil itself. And if the load
It lays on you may not be shaken off
Till you have known what now you do not know—      1300
Meanwhile you climb; and he climbs best who sees
Above him truth burn faithfulest, and feels
Within him truth burn purest. Climb or fall,
One road remains and one firm guidance always;
One way that shall be taken, climb or fall.      1305
 
“But ‘falling, falling, falling.’ There’s your song,
The cradle-song that sings you to the grave.
What is it your bewildered poet says?—
 
“‘The toiling ocean thunders of unrest
And aching desolation; the still sea      1310
Paints but an outward calm that mocks itself
To the final and irrefragable sleep
That owns no shifting fury; and the shoals
Of ages are but records of regret
Where Time, the sun’s arch-phantom, writes on sand      1315
The prelude of his ancient nothingness.’
 
“’T is easy to compound a dirge like that,
And it is easy to be deceived
And alienated by the fleshless note
Of half-world yearning in it; but the truth      1320
To which we all are tending,—charlatans
And architects alike, artificers
In tinsel as in gold, evangelists
Of ruin and redemption, all alike,—
The truth we seek and equally the truth      1325
We do not seek, but yet may not escape,
Was never found alone through flesh contempt
Or through flesh reverence. Look east and west
And we may read the story: where the light
Shone first the shade now darkens; where the shade      1330
Clung first, the light fights westward—though the shade
Still feeds, and there is yet the Orient.
 
“But there is this to be remembered always:
Whatever be the altitude you reach,
You do not rise alone; nor do you fall      1335
But you drag others down to more or less
Than your preferred abasement. God forbid
That ever I should preach, and in my zeal
Forget that I was born an humorist;
But now, for once, before I go away,      1340
I beg of you to be magnanimous
A moment, while I speak to please myself:
 
“Though I have heard it variously sung
That even in the fury and the clash
Of battles, and the closer fights of men      1345
When silence gives the knowing world no sign,
One flower there is, though crushed and cursed it be,
Keeps rooted through all tumult and all scorn,—
Still do I find, when I look sharply down,
There’s yet another flower that grows well      1350
And has the most unconscionable roots
Of any weed on earth. Perennial
It grows, and has the name of Selfishness;
No doubt you call it Love. In either case,
You propagate it with a diligence      1355
That hardly were outmeasured had its leaf
The very juice in it of that famed herb
Which gave back breath to Glaucus; and I know
That in the twilight, after the day’s work,
You take your little children in your arms,      1360
Or lead them by their credulous frail hands
Benignly out and through the garden-gate
And show them there the things that you have raised;
Not everything, perchance, but always one
Miraculously rooted flower plot      1365
Which is your pride, their pattern. Socrates,
Could he be with you there at such a time,
Would have some unsolicited shrewd words
To say that you might hearken to; but I
Say nothing, for I am not Socrates.—      1370
So much, good friends, for flowers; and I thank you.
 
“There was a poet once who would have roared
Away the world and had an end of stars.
Where was he when I quoted him?—oh, yes:
’T is easy for a man to link loud words      1375
With woeful pomp and unschooled emphasis
And add one thundered contribution more
To the dirges of all-hollowness, I said;
But here again I find the question set
Before me, after turning books on books      1380
And looking soulward through man after man,
If there indeed be more determining
Play-service in remotely sounding down
The world’s one-sidedness. If I judge right,
Your pounding protestations, echoing      1385
Their burden of unfraught futility,
Surge back to mute forgetfulness at last
And have a kind of sunny, sullen end,
Like any cold north storm.—But there are few
Still seas that have no life to profit them,      1390
And even in such currents of the mind
As have no tide-rush in them, but are drowsed,
Crude thoughts may dart in armor and upspring
With waking sound, when all is dim with peace,
Like sturgeons in the twilight out of Lethe;      1395
And though they be discordant, hard, grotesque,
And all unwelcome to the lethargy
That you think means repose, you know as well
As if your names were shouted when they leap,
And when they leap you listen.—Ah! friends, friends,      1400
There are these things we do not like to know:
They trouble us, they make us hesitate,
They touch us, and we try to put them off.
We banish one another and then say
That we are left alone: the midnight leaf      1405
That rattles where it hangs above the snow—
Gaunt, fluttering, forlorn—scarcely may seem
So cold in all its palsied loneliness
As we, we frozen brothers, who have yet
Profoundly and severely to find out      1410
That there is more of unpermitted love
In most men’s reticence than most men think.
 
“Once, when I made it out fond-headedness
To say that we should ever be apprised
Of our deserts and their emolument      1415
At all but in the specious way of words,
The wisdom of a warm thought woke within me
And I could read the sun. Then did I turn
My long-defeated face full to the world,
And through the clouded warfare of it all      1420
Discern the light. Through dusk that hindered it,
I found the truth, and for the first whole time
Knew then that we were climbing. Not as one
Who mounts along with his experience
Bound on him like an Old Man of the Sea—      1425
Not as a moral pedant who drags chains
Of his unearned ideals after him
And always to the lead-like thud they make
Attunes a cold inhospitable chant
Of All Things Easy to the Non-Attached,—      1430
But as a man, a scarred man among men,
I knew it, and I felt the strings of thought
Between us to pull tight the while I strove;
And if a curse came ringing now and then
To my defended ears, how could I know      1435
The light that burned above me and within me,
And at the same time put on cap-and-bells
For such as yet were groping?”
 
        Killigrew
Made there as if to stifle a small cough.      1440
I might have kicked him, but regret forbade
The subtle admonition; and indeed
When afterwards I reprimanded him,
The fellow never knew quite what I meant.
I may have been unjust.—The Captain read      1445
Right on, without a chuckle or a pause,
As if he had heard nothing:
 
        “How, forsooth,
Shall any man, by curses or by groans,
Or by the laugh-jarred stillness of all hell,      1450
Be so drawn down to servitude again
That on some backward level of lost laws
And undivined relations, he may know
No longer Love’s imperative resource,
Firm once and his, well treasured then, but now      1455
Too fondly thrown away? And if there come
But once on all his journey, singing down
To find him, the gold-throated forward call,
What way but one, what but the forward way,
Shall after that call guide him? When his ears      1460
Have earned an inward skill to methodize
The clash of all crossed voices and all noises,
How shall he grope to be confused again,
As he has been, by discord? When his eyes
Have read the book of wisdom in the sun,      1465
And after dark deciphered it on earth,
How shall he turn them back to scan some huge
Blood-lettered protest of bewildered men
That hunger while he feeds where they would starve
And all absurdly perish?”      1470
 
        Killigrew
Looked hard for a subtile object on the wall,
And, having found it, sighed. The Captain paused:
If he grew tedious, most assuredly
Did he crave pardon of us; he had feared      1475
Beforehand that he might be wearisome,
But there was not much more of it, he said,—
No more than just enough. And we rejoiced
That he should look so kindly on us then.
(“Commend me to a dying man’s grimace      1480
For absolute humor, always,” Killigrew
Maintains; but I know better.)
 
        “Work for them,
You tell me? Work the folly out of them?
Go back to them and teach them how to climb;      1485
While you teach caterpillars how to fly?
You tell me that Alnaschar is a fool
Because he dreams? And what is this you ask?
I make him wise? I teach him to be still?
While you go polishing the Pyramids,      1490
I hold Alnaschar’s feet? And while you have
The ghost of Memnon’s image all day singing,
I sit with aching arms and hardly catch
A few spilled echoes of the song of songs—
The song that I should have as utterly      1495
For mine as other men should once have had
The sweetest a glad shepherd ever trilled
In Sharon, long ago? Is this the way
For me to do good climbing any more
Than Phaethon’s? Do you think the golden tone      1500
Of that far-singing call you all have heard
Means any more for you than you should be
Wise-heartedly, glad-heartedly yourselves?
Do this, there is no more for you to do;
And you have no dread left, no shame, no scorn.      1505
And while you have your wisdom and your gold,
Songs calling, and the Princess in your arms,
Remember, if you like, from time to time,
Down yonder where the clouded millions go,
Your bloody-knuckled scullions are not slaves,      1510
Your children of Alnaschar are not fools.
 
“Nor are they quite so foreign or far down
As you may think to see them. What you take
To be the cursedest mean thing that crawls
On earth is nearer to you than you know:      1515
You may not ever crush him but you lose,
You may not ever shield him but you gain—
As he, with all his crookedness, gains with you.
Your preaching and your teaching, your achieving,
Your lifting up and your discovering,      1520
Are more than often—more than you have dreamed—
The world-refracted evidence of what
Your dream denies. You cannot hide yourselves
In any multitude or solitude,
Or mask yourselves in any studied guise      1525
Of hardness or of old humility,
But soon by some discriminating man—
Some humorist at large, like Socrates—
You get yourselves found out.—Now I should be
Found out without an effort. For example:      1530
When I go riding, trimmed and shaved again,
Consistent, adequate, respectable,—
Some citizen, for curiosity,
Will ask of a good neighbor, ‘What is this?’—
‘It is the funeral of Captain Craig,’      1535
Will be the neighbor’s word.—‘And who, good man,
Was Captain Craig?’—‘He was an humorist;
And we are told that there is nothing more
For any man alive to say of him.’—
‘There is nothing very strange in that,’ says A;      1540
‘But the brass band? What has he done to be
Blown through like this by cornets and trombones?
And here you have this incompatible dirge—
Where are the jokes in that?’—Then B should say:
‘Maintained his humor: nothing more or less.      1545
The story goes that on the day before
He died—some say a week, but that’s a trifle—
He said, with a subdued facetiousness,
“Play Handel, not Chopin; assuredly not
Chopin.”’—He was indeed an humorist.”      1550
 
He made the paper fall down at arm’s length;
And with a tension of half-quizzical
Benignity that made it hard for us,
He looked up—first at Morgan, then at me—
Almost, I thought, as if his eyes would ask      1555
If we were satisfied; and as he looked,
The tremor of an old heart’s weariness
Was on his mouth. He gazed at each of us,
But spoke no further word that afternoon.
He put away the paper, closed his eyes,      1560
And went to sleep with his lips flickering;
And after that we left him.—At midnight
Plunket and I looked in; but he still slept,
And everything was going as it should.
The watchman yawned, rattled his newspaper,      1565
And wondered what it was that ailed his lamp.
 
Next day we found the Captain wide awake,
Propped up, and searching dimly with a spoon
Through another dreary dish of chicken-broth,
Which he raised up to me, at my approach,      1570
So fervently and so unconsciously,
That one could only laugh. He looked again
At each of us, and as he looked he frowned;
And there was something in that frown of his
That none of us had ever seen before.      1575
“Kind friends,” he said, “be sure that I rejoice
To know that you have come to visit me;
Be sure I speak with undisguised words
And earnest, when I say that I rejoice.”—
“But what the devil!” whispered Killigrew.      1580
I kicked him, for I thought I understood.
The old man’s eyes had glimmered wearily
At first, but now they glittered like to those
Of a glad fish. “Beyond a doubt,” said he,
“My dream this morning was more singular      1585
Than any other I have ever known.
Give me that I might live ten thousand years,
And all those years do nothing but have dreams,
I doubt me much if any one of them
Could be so quaint or so fantastical,      1590
So pregnant, as a dream of mine this morning.
You may not think it any more than odd;
You may not feel—you cannot wholly feel—
How droll it was:—I dreamed that I found Hamlet—
Found him at work, drenched with an angry sweat,      1595
Predestined, he declared with emphasis,
To root out a large weed on Lethe wharf;
And after I had watched him for some time,
I laughed at him and told him that no root
Would ever come the while he talked like that:      1600
The power was not in him, I explained,
For such compound accomplishment. He glared
At me, of course,—next moment laughed at me,
And finally laughed with me. I was right,
And we had eisel on the strength of it:—      1605
‘They tell me that this water is not good,’
Said Hamlet, and you should have seen him smile.
Conceited? Pelion and Ossa?—pah …
 
“But anon comes in a crocodile. We stepped
Adroitly down upon the back of him,      1610
And away we went to an undiscovered country—
A fertile place, but in more ways than one
So like the region we had started from,
That Hamlet straightway found another weed
And there began to tug. I laughed again,      1615
Till he cried out on me and on my mirth,
Protesting all he knew: ‘The Fates,’ he said,
‘Have ordered it that I shall have these roots.’
But all at once a dreadful hunger seized him,
And it was then we killed the crocodile—      1620
Killed him and ate him. Washed with eisel down
That luckless reptile was, to the last morsel;
And there we were with flag-fens all around us,—
And there was Hamlet, at his task again,
Ridiculous. And while I watched his work,      1625
The drollest of all changes came to pass.
The weed had snapped off just above the root,
Not warning him, and I was left alone.
The bubbles rose, and I laughed heartily
To think of him; I laughed when I woke up;      1630
And when my soup came in I laughed again;
I think I may have laughed a little—no?—
Not when you came? … Why do you look like that?
You don’t believe me? Crocodiles—why not?
Who knows what he has eaten in his life?      1635
Who knows but I have eaten Atropos?…
‘Briar and oak for a soldier’s crown,’ you say?
Provence? Oh, no … Had I been Socrates,
Count Pretzel would have been the King of Spain.”
 
Now of all casual things we might have said      1640
To make the matter smooth at such a time,
There may have been a few that we had found
Sufficient. Recollection fails, however,
To say that we said anything. We looked.
Had he been Carmichael, we might have stood      1645
Like faithful hypocrites and laughed at him;
But the Captain was not Carmichael at all,
For the Captain had no frogs: he had the sun.
So there we waited, hungry for the word,—
Tormented, unsophisticated, stretched—      1650
Till, with a drawl, to save us, Killigrew
Good-humoredly spoke out. The Captain fixed
His eyes on him with some severity.
 
“That was a funny dream, beyond a doubt,”
Said Killigrew;—“too funny to be laughed at;      1655
Too humorous, we mean.”—“Too humorous?”
The Captain answered; “I approve of that.
Proceed.”—We were not glad for Killigrew.
“Well,” he went on, “’t was only this. You see
My dream this morning was a droll one too:      1660
I dreamed that a sad man was in my room,
Sitting, as I do now, beside the bed.
I questioned him, but he made no reply,—
Said not a word, but sang.”—“Said not a word,
But sang,” the Captain echoed. “Very good.      1665
Now tell me what it was the sad man sang.”
“Now that,” said Killigrew, constrainedly,
And with a laugh that might have been left out,
“Is why I know it must have been a dream.
But there he was, and I lay in the bed      1670
Like you; and I could see him just as well
As you see my right hand. And for the songs
He sang to me—there’s where the dream part comes.”
 
“You don’t remember them?” the Captain said,
With a weary little chuckle; “very well,      1675
I might have guessed it. Never mind your dream,
But let me go to sleep.”—For a moment then
There was a frown on Killigrew’s good face,
And then there was a smile. “Not quite,” said he;
“The songs that he sang first were sorrowful,      1680
And they were stranger than the man himself—
And he was very strange; but I found out,
Through all the gloom of him and of his music,
That a—say, well, say mystic cheerfulness,
Pervaded him; for slowly, as he sang,      1685
There came a change, and I began to know
The method of it all. Song after song
Was ended; and when I had listened there
For hours—I mean for dream-hours—hearing him,
And always glad that I was hearing him,      1690
There came another change—a great one. Tears
Rolled out at last like bullets from his eyes,
And I could hear them fall down on the floor
Like shoes; and they were always marking time
For the song that he was singing. I have lost      1695
The greater number of his verses now,
But there are some, like these, that I remember:
 
        “‘Ten men from Zanzibar,
        Black as iron hammers are,
        Riding on a cable-car      1700
        Down to Crowley’s theatre.’ …
 
“Ten men?” the Captain interrupted there—
“Ten men, my Euthyphron? That is beautiful.
But never mind, I wish to go to sleep:
Tell Cebes that I wish to go to sleep.…      1705
O ye of little faith, your golden plumes
Are like to drag … par-dee!”—We may have smiled
In after days to think how Killigrew
Had sacrificed himself to fight that silence,
But we were grateful to him, none the less;      1710
And if we smiled, that may have been the reason.
But the good Captain for a long time then
Said nothing: he lay quiet—fast asleep,
For all that we could see. We waited there
Till each of us, I fancy, must have made      1715
The paper on the wall begin to squirm,
And then got up to leave. My friends went out,
And I was going, when the old man cried:
“You leave me now—now it has come to this?
What have I done to make you go? Come back!      1720
Come back!”
 
        There was a quaver in his cry
That we shall not forget—reproachful, kind,
Indignant, piteous. It seemed as one
Marooned on treacherous tide-feeding sand      1725
Were darkly calling over the still straits
Between him and irrevocable shores
Where now there was no lamp to fade for him,
No call to give him answer. We were there
Before him, but his eyes were not much turned      1730
On us; nor was it very much to us
That he began to speak the broken words,
The scattered words, that he had left in him.
 
“So it has come to this? And what is this?
Death, do you call it? Death? And what is death?      1735
Why do you look like that at me again?
Why do you shrink your brows and shut your lips?
If it be fear, then I can do no more
Than hope for all of you that you may find
Your promise of the sun; if it be grief      1740
You feel, to think that this old face of mine
May never look at you and laugh again,
Then tell me why it is that you have gone
So long with me, and followed me so far,
And had me to believe you took my words      1745
For more than ever misers did their gold?”
 
He listened, but his eyes were far from us—
Too far to make us turn to Killigrew,
Or search the futile shelves of our own thoughts
For golden-labeled insincerities      1750
To make placebos of. The marrowy sense
Of slow November rain that splashed against
The shingles and the glass reminded us
That we had brought umbrellas. He continued:
“Oh, can it be that I, too credulous,      1755
Have made myself believe that you believe
Yourselves to be the men that you are not?
I prove and I prize well your friendliness,
But I would have that your last look at me
Be not like this; for I would scan today      1760
Strong thoughts on all your faces—no regret,
No still commiseration—oh, not that!—
No doubt, no fear. A man may be as brave
As Ajax in the fury of his arms,
And in the midmost warfare of his thoughts      1765
Be frail as Paris … For the love, therefore,
That brothered us when we stood back that day
From Delium—the love that holds us now
More than it held us at Amphipolis—
Forget you not that he who in his work      1770
Would mount from these low roads of measured shame
To tread the leagueless highway must fling first
And fling forevermore beyond his reach
The shackles of a slave who doubts the sun.
There is no servitude so fraudulent      1775
As of a sun-shut mind; for ’t is the mind
That makes you craven or invincible,
Diseased or puissant. The mind will pay
Ten thousand fold and be the richer then
To grant new service; but the world pays hard,      1780
And accurately sickens till in years
The dole has eked its end and there is left
What all of you are noting on all days
In these Athenian streets, where squandered men
Drag ruins of half-warriors to the grave—      1785
Or to Hippocrates.”
 
        His head fell back,
And he lay still with wearied eyes half-closed.
We waited, but a few faint words yet stayed:
“Kind friends,” he said, “friends I have known so long,      1790
Though I have jested with you in time past,
Though I have stung your pride with epithets
Not all forbearing,—still, when I am gone,
Say Socrates wrought always for the best
And for the wisest end … Give me the cup!      1795
The truth is yours, God’s universe is yours …
Good-by … good citizens … give me the cup” …
Again we waited; and this time we knew
Those lips of his that would not flicker down
Had yet some fettered message for us there.      1800
We waited, and we watched him. All at once,
With a faint flash, the clouded eyes grew clear,
And then we knew the man was coming back.
We watched him, and I listened. The man smiled
And looked about him—not regretfully,      1805
Not anxiously; and when at last he spoke,
Before the long drowse came to give him peace,
One word was all he said. “Trombones,” he said.
 
That evening, at “The Chrysalis” again,
We smoked and looked at one another’s eyes,      1810
And we were glad. The world had scattered ways
For us to take, we knew; but for the time
That one snug room where big beech logs roared smooth
Defiance to the cold rough rain outside
Sufficed. There were no scattered ways for us      1815
That we could see just then, and we were glad:
We were glad to be on earth, and we rejoiced
No less for Captain Craig that he was gone.
We might, for his dead benefit, have run
The gamut of all human weaknesses      1820
And uttered after-platitudes enough—
Wrecked on his own abstractions, and all such—
To drive away Gambrinus and the bead
From Bernard’s ale; and I suppose we might
Have praised, accordingly, the Lord of Hosts      1825
For letting us believe that we were not
The least and idlest of His handiwork.
 
So Plunket, who had knowledge of all sorts,
Yet hardly ever spoke, began to plink
O tu, Palermo!—quaintly, with his nails,—      1830
On Morgan’s fiddle, and at once got seized,
As if he were some small thing, by the neck.
Then the consummate Morgan, having told
Explicitly what hardship might accrue
To Plunket if he did that any more,      1835
Made roaring chords and acrobatic runs—
And then, with his kind eyes on Killigrew,
Struck up the schoolgirls’ march in Lohengrin,
So Killigrew might smile and stretch himself
And have to light his pipe. When that was done      1840
We knew that Morgan, by the looks of him,
Was in the mood for almost anything
From Bach to Offenbach; and of all times
That he has ever played, that one somehow—
That evening of the day the Captain died—      1845
Stands out like one great verse of a good song,
One strain that sings itself beyond the rest
For magic and a glamour that it has.
 
The ways have scattered for us, and all things
Have changed; and we have wisdom, I doubt not,      1850
More fit for the world’s work than we had then;
But neither parted roads nor cent per cent
May starve quite out the child that lives in us—
The Child that is the Man, the Mystery,
The Phœnix of the World. So, now and then,      1855
That evening of the day the Captain died
Returns to us; and there comes always with it
The storm, the warm restraint, the fellowship,
The friendship and the firelight, and the fiddle.
So too there comes a day that followed it—      1860
A windy, dreary day with a cold white shine,
Which only gummed the tumbled frozen ruts
That made us ache. The road was hard and long,
But we had what we knew to comfort us,
And we had the large humor of the thing      1865
To make it advantageous; for men stopped
And eyed us on that road from time to time,
And on that road the children followed us;
And all along that road the Tilbury Band
Blared indiscreetly the Dead March in Saul.      1870

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