Joyce Kilmer

(1886-1918 / New Jersey)

Martin - Poem by Joyce Kilmer

When I am tired of earnest men,
Intense and keen and sharp and clever,
Pursuing fame with brush or pen
Or counting metal disks forever,
Then from the halls of Shadowland
Beyond the trackless purple sea
Old Martin's ghost comes back to stand
Beside my desk and talk to me.

Still on his delicate pale face
A quizzical thin smile is showing,
His cheeks are wrinkled like fine lace,
His kind blue eyes are gay and glowing.
He wears a brilliant-hued cravat,
A suit to match his soft grey hair,
A rakish stick, a knowing hat,
A manner blithe and debonair.

How good that he who always knew
That being lovely was a duty,
Should have gold halls to wander through
And should himself inhabit beauty.
How like his old unselfish way
To leave those halls of splendid mirth
And comfort those condemned to stay
Upon the dull and sombre earth.

Some people ask: "What cruel chance
Made Martin's life so sad a story?"
Martin? Why, he exhaled romance,
And wore an overcoat of glory.
A fleck of sunlight in the street,
A horse, a book, a girl who smiled,
Such visions made each moment sweet
For this receptive ancient child.

Because it was old Martin's lot
To be, not make, a decoration,
Shall we then scorn him, having not
His genius of appreciation?
Rich joy and love he got and gave;
His heart was merry as his dress;
Pile laurel wreaths upon his grave
Who did not gain, but was, success!


Comments about Martin by Joyce Kilmer

  • (2/14/2008 7:03:00 AM)


    I read this poem as a young man (now 67) and the words resonated with me. It has remained in my mind all these years and now even has stronger meaning than when I was 17. The interpretation I always took away was simple..you can be a person of beauty and success on the outside, but what really matters in what's on the inside. It's the joy one gets from the appreciation of the beauty in the world and not just the superficiality of appearance and success. Martin's life was a success because he realized this.
    I would love to hear any other interpertations by members.
    (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: romance, success, horse, purple, girl, sad, smile, hair, child, beauty, joy, people, sea, children



Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002



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