Verse > Edwin A. Robinson > Collected Poems > V. The Town Down the River > 16. But for the Grace of God
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935).  Collected Poems. 1921.
V. The Town Down the River
16. But for the Grace of God
“There, but for the grace of God, goes…”

THERE is a question that I ask,
  And ask again:
What hunger was half-hidden by the mask
  That he wore then?
There was a word for me to say        5
  That I said not;
And in the past there was another day
  That I forgot:
A dreary, cold, unwholesome day,
  Racked overhead,—       10
As if the world were turning the wrong way,
  And the sun dead:
A day that comes back well enough
  Now he is gone.
What then? Has memory no other stuff       15
To seize upon?
Wherever he may wander now
  In his despair,
Would he be more contented in the slough
  If all were there?       20
And yet he brought a kind of light
  Into the room;
And when he left, a tinge of something bright
  Survived the gloom.
Why will he not be where he is,       25
  And not with me?
The hours that are my life are mine, not his,—
  Or used to be.
What numerous imps invisible
  Has he at hand,       30
Far-flying and forlorn as what they tell
  At his command?
What hold of weirdness or of worth
  Can he possess,
That he may speak from anywhere on earth       35
  His loneliness?
Shall I be caught and held again
  In the old net?—
He brought a sorry sunbeam with him then,
  But it beams yet.       40



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