Issue 82, Winter 1981
Now shall I praise the cities, those long-surviving
(I watched them in awe) great constellations of earth.
For only in praising is my heart still mine, so violently
do I know the world. And even my most bitter lament
turns into a paean before my disconsolate heart.
Let no one tell me I don’t love life, the eternal
presence: I pulsate in her; she bears me; she gives me
the spaciousness of this day, the primeval workday
for me to make use of, and over my existence flings out,
in her magnanimity, nights that have never been.
Her strong hand is above me, and if she should hold me under,
submerged in destiny, breathless, I would learn how to breathe
down there. Even her most lightly-entrusted mission
would fill me with songs of her; although I imagine
that all she wants is for me to be resonant as she is.
Once poets resounded over the battlefield; what voice
now can outshout the rattle of this metallic
age that struggles on toward its careening future?
And indeed it hardly requires the call, its own battle-din
flies into song. Let me stand for a little while
before the transient: not accusing, but once again
admiring, marveling. And if perhaps something founders
in front of my eyes and stirs me into lament,
it is not a reproach, Why shouldn’t more youthful nations
rush past the graveyard of cultures long ago rotten?
How pitiful it would be if greatness needed the slightest
indulgence. Let him whose soul is no longer startled
and transformed by palaces, by gardens’ boldness, by the rising
and falling of ancient fountains, by everything held back
in paintings or by the infinite thereness of statues—
let such a person go out to bis daily task, where
greatness is lying in ambush and some day, at some turn,
will leap upon him and force him to fight for bis life.