By the Aurelian Wall and Other Elegies

by Bliss Carman




SO they would raise your monument,
Old vagabond of lovely earth?
Another answer without words
To Humdrum's, "What are poets worth?"

Not much we gave you when alive,


Whom now we lavishly deplore,—
A little bread, a little wine,
A little caporal—no more.

Here in our lodging of a day
You roistered till we were appalled;


Departing, in your room we found
A string of golden verses scrawled.

The princely manor-house of art,
A vagrant artist entertains;
And when he gets him to the road,


Behold, a princely gift remains.

Abashed, we set your name above
The purse-full patrons of our board;
Remind newcomers with a nudge,
"Verlaine took once what we afford!"


The gardens of the Luxembourg,
Spreading beneath the brilliant sun,
Shall be your haunt of leisure now
When all your wander years are done.

There you shall stand, the very mien


You wore in Paris streets of old,
And ponder what a thing is life,
Or watch the chestnut blooms unfold.

There you will find, I dare surmise,
Another tolerance than ours,


The loving-kindness of the grass,
The tender patience of the flowers.

And every year, when May returns
To bring the golden age again,
And hope comes back with poetry


In your loved land across the Seine,

Some youth will come with foreign speech,
Bearing his dream from over sea,
A lover of your flawless craft,
Apprenticed to your poverty.


He will be mute before you there,
And mark those lineaments which tell
What stormy unrelenting fate
Had one who served his art so well.

And there be yours, the livelong day,

Beyond the mordant reach of pain,
The little gospel of the leaves,
The Nunc dimittis of the rain!