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Alan Seeger

(22 June 1888 - 4 July 1916 / New York City, New York)

Tithonus


So when the verdure of his life was shed,
With all the grace of ripened manlihead,
And on his locks, but now so lovable,
Old age like desolating winter fell,
Leaving them white and flowerless and forlorn:
Then from his bed the Goddess of the Morn
Softly withheld, yet cherished him no less
With pious works of pitying tenderness;
Till when at length with vacant, heedless eyes,
And hoary height bent down none otherwise
Than burdened willows bend beneath their weight
Of snow when winter winds turn temperate, --
So bowed with years -- when still he lingered on:
Then to the daughter of Hyperion
This counsel seemed the best: for she, afar
By dove-gray seas under the morning star,
Where, on the wide world's uttermost extremes,
Her amber-walled, auroral palace gleams,
High in an orient chamber bade prepare
An everlasting couch, and laid him there,
And leaving, closed the shining doors. But he,
Deathless by Jove's compassionless decree,
Found not, as others find, a dreamless rest.
There wakeful, with half-waking dreams oppressed,
Still in an aural, visionary haze
Float round him vanished forms of happier days;
Still at his side he fancies to behold
The rosy, radiant thing beloved of old;
And oft, as over dewy meads at morn,
Far inland from a sunrise coast is borne
The drowsy, muffled moaning of the sea,
Even so his voice flows on unceasingly, --
Lisping sweet names of passion overblown,
Breaking with dull, persistent undertone
The breathless silence that forever broods
Round those colossal, lustrous solitudes.
Times change. Man's fortune prospers, or it falls.
Change harbors not in those eternal halls
And tranquil chamber where Tithonus lies.
But through his window there the eastern skies
Fall palely fair to the dim ocean's end.
There, in blue mist where air and ocean blend,
The lazy clouds that sail the wide world o'er
Falter and turn where they can sail no more.
There singing groves, there spacious gardens blow --
Cedars and silver poplars, row on row,
Through whose black boughs on her appointed night,
Flooding his chamber with enchanted light,
Lifts the full moon's immeasurable sphere,
Crimson and huge and wonderfully near.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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