Verse > Edwin A. Robinson > Collected Poems > I. The Man Against the Sky > 25. Bokardo
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935).  Collected Poems. 1921.
I. The Man Against the Sky
25. Bokardo
WELL, Bokardo, here we are;
  Make yourself at home.
Look around—you haven’t far
  To look—and why be dumb?
Not the place that used to be,        5
Not so many things to see;
But there’s room for you and me.
  And you—you’ve come.
Talk a little; or, if not,
  Show me with a sign       10
Why it was that you forgot
  What was yours and mine.
Friends, I gather, are small things
In an age when coins are kings;
Even at that, one hardly flings       15
  Friends before swine.
Rather strong? I knew as much,
  For it made you speak.
No offense to swine, as such,
  But why this hide-and-seek?       20
You have something on your side,
And you wish you might have died,
So you tell me. And you tried
  One night last week?
You tried hard? And even then       25
  Found a time to pause?
When you try as hard again,
  You’ll have another cause.
When you find yourself at odds
With all dreamers of all gods,       30
You may smite yourself with rods—
  But not the laws.
Though they seem to show a spite
  Rather devilish,
They move on as with a might       35
  Stronger than your wish.
Still, however strong they be,
They bide man’s authority:
Xerxes, when he flogged the sea,
  May’ve scared a fish.       40
It’s a comfort, if you like,
  To keep honor warm,
But as often as you strike
  The laws, you do no harm.
To the laws, I mean. To you—       45
That’s another point of view,
One you may as well indue
  With some alarm.
Not the most heroic face
  To present, I grant;       50
Nor will you insure disgrace
  By fearing what you want.
Freedom has a world of sides,
And if reason once derides
Courage, then your courage hides       55
  A deal of cant.
Learn a little to forget
  Life was once a feast;
You aren’t fit for dying yet,
  So don’t be a beast.       60
Few men with a mind will say,
Thinking twice, that they can pay
Half their debts of yesterday,
  Or be released.
There’s a debt now on your mind       65
  More than any gold?
And there’s nothing you can find
  Out there in the cold?
Only—what’s his name?—Remorse?
And Death riding on his horse?       70
Well, be glad there’s nothing worse
  Than you have told.
Leave Remorse to warm his hands
  Outside in the rain.
As for Death, he understands,       75
  And he will come again.
Therefore, till your wits are clear,
Flourish and be quiet—here.
But a devil at each ear
  Will be a strain?       80
Past a doubt they will indeed,
  More than you have earned.
I say that because you need
  Ablution, being burned?
Well, if you must have it so,       85
Your last flight went rather low.
Better say you had to know
  What you have learned.
And that’s over. Here you are,
  Battered by the past.       90
Time will have his little scar,
  But the wound won’t last.
Nor shall harrowing surprise
Find a world without its eyes
If a star fades when the skies       95
  Are overcast.
God knows there are lives enough,
  Crushed, and too far gone
Longer to make sermons of,
  And those we leave alone.      100
Others, if they will, may rend
The worn patience of a friend
Who, though smiling, sees the end,
  With nothing done.
But your fervor to be free      105
  Fled the faith it scorned;
Death demands a decency
  Of you, and you are warned.
But for all we give we get
Mostly blows? Don’t be upset;      110
You, Bokardo, are not yet
  Consumed or mourned.
There’ll be falling into view
  Much to rearrange;
And there’ll be a time for you      115
  To marvel at the change.
They that have the least to fear
Question hardest what is here;
When long-hidden skies are clear,
  The stars look strange      120



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