poet Allen Tate

Allen Tate

The Meaning Of Death

An After-Dinner Speech

I rise, gentlemen, it is the pleasant hour.
Darkness falls. The night falls.

Time, fall no more.
Let that be life time falls no more. The threat
Of time we in our own courage have forsworn.
Let light fall, there shall be eternal light
And all the light shall on our heads be worn

Although at evening clouds infest the sky
Broken at base from which the lemon sun
Pours acid of winter on a useful view-
Four water-towers, two churches, and a river:
These are the sights I give in to at night
When the long covers loose the roving eye.

To find the horror of the day a shape
Of life: we would have more than living sight.
Past delusions are seen as if it all
Were yesterday flooded with lemon light,
Vice and virtue, hard sacrifice and crime
In the cold vanity of time.

The landscape will respond to jocund day,
Bright roofs will scintillate with hues of May
And Phoebus' car, his daily circuit run,
Brings me to the year when, my time begun,
I loitered in the backyard by the alley;
When I was a small boy living at home
The dark came on in summer at eight o'clock
For Little Lord Fauntleroy in a perfect frock
By the alley: mother took him by the ear
To teach of the mixed modes an ancient fear.
Forgive me if I am personal.

Gentlemen, let's
Forget the past, its related errors, coarseness
Of parents, laxities, unrealities of principle.
Think of tomorrow. Make a firm postulate
Of simplicity in desire and act
Founded on the best hypotheses;
Desire to eat secretly, alone, lest
Ritual corrupt our charity,
Lest darkness fall and time fall
In a long night when learned arteries
Mounting the ice and sum of barbarous time
Shall yield, without essence, perfect accident.

We are the eyelids of defeated caves.

Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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