Winter Song The browns, the olives, and the yellows died, And were swept up to heaven; where they glowed Each dawn and set of sun till Christmastide, And when the land lay pale for them, pale-snowed, Fell back, and down the snow-drifts flamed and flowed. From off your face, into the winds of winter, The sun-brown and the summer-gold are blowing; But they shall gleam with spiritual glinter, When paler beauty on your brows falls snowing, And through those snows my looks shall be soft-going.
I am not bound for any public place, but for ground of my own where I have planted vines and orchard trees, and in the heat of the day climbed up into the healing shadow of the woods. Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.
Why is it that no other species but man gets bored? Under the circumstances in which a man gets bored, a dog goes to sleep. Thought Experiment: Imagine that you are a member of a tour visiting Greece. The group goes to the Parthenon. It is a bore. Few people even bother to look - it looked better in the brochure. So people take half a look, mostly take pictures, remark on the serious erosion by acid rain. You are puzzled. Why should one of the glories and fonts of Western civilization, viewed under pleasant conditions - good weather, good hotel room, good food, good guide - be a bore? Now imagine under what set of circumstances a viewing of the Parthenon would not be a bore. For example, you are a NATO colonel defending Greece against a Soviet assault. You are in a bunker in dowtown Athens, binoculars propped on sandbags. It is dawn. A medium-range missile attack is under way. Half a million Greeks are dead. Two missiles bracket the Parthenon. The next will surely be a hit. Between columns of smoke, a ray of golden light catches the portico. Are you bored? Can you see the Parthenon?
The nearer I approach the end, the clearer I hear around me the immortal symphonies of the worlds which invite me. It is marvelous yet simple. For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose, verse, history, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode and song - I have tried all; but I feel that I have not said a thousandth part of that which is in me. When I go down to the grave I can say like many others, "I have finished my day's work" but I cannot say, "I have finished my life's work"; my day's work will begin the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley. It is an open thoroughfare. It closes in the twilight to open in the dawn. My work is only beginning; my work is hardly above its foundation. I would gladly see it mounting forever. The thirst for the infinite proves infinity.
You say, "Where goest Thou?" I cannot tell, And still go on. But if the way be straight I cannot go amiss: before me lies Dawn and the day: the night behind me: that Suffices me: I break the bounds: I see, And nothing more; believe and nothing less. My future is not one of my concerns.
I feel within me the future life. I am like a forest that has been razed; the new shoots are stronger and brisker. I shall most certainly rise toward the heavens. The sun's rays bathe my head. The earth gives me its generous sap, but the heavens illuminate me with the reflection of-of worlds unknown. Some say the soul results merely from bodily powers. Why, then, does my soul become brighter when my bodily powers begin to waste away? Winter is above me, but eternal spring is within my heart. I inhale even now the fragrance of lilacs, violets, and roses, just as I did when I was twenty. The nearer my approach to the end, the plainer is the sound of immortal symphonies of worlds which invite me. It is wonderful yet simple. It is a fairy tale; it is history. For half a century I have been writing my thoughts in prose and in verse; history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode, and song; all of these have I tried. But I feel that I haven't given utterance to the thousandth part of what lies within me. When I go to the grave I can say as others have said, "I have finished my day's work." But I cannot say, "I have finished my life." My day's work will begin again the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight, but opens on the dawn.