I take the wistfulness of the last stanza to be genuine.
I have sent for thee, holy friar
But ‘twas not with the drunken hope,
Which is but agony of desire
To shun the fate, with which to cope
Is more than crime may dare to dream,
That I have call’d thee at this hour:
Such father is not my theme —
Nor am I mad, to deem that power
Of earth may shrive me of the sin
Unearthly pride hath revell’d in —
I would not call thee fool, old man,
But hope is not a gift of thine;
If I can hope (O God! I can)
It falls from an eternal shrine.
- from “Tamerlane” by “A Bostonian” (Edgar Allan Poe)
On the west side of Front Street, flames
were temporarily retarded by the walls
of the Safe Deposit Building. On James
Street the fire shrinks and then even stalls,
but the pause is short. A pitiless wind
rose. Dancing orange demons grinned
in expectation before licking the glass
windows and fittings made of brass.
They soon leapt over to Gordon Hardware,
where the roar of their maws was punctuated
by tons of cartridges exploding, unabated.
Civilians dove for cover, said a prayer
and more, then waited in awe and wonder
as all the ammunition boomed like thunder.
While discounting several rumors of death,
The Post Intelligencer was obliged to report
several casualties related in good faith:
An unknown man, trying to stop the fire short
of the trestle of the Oregon Improvement
Company, was struck by falling timber and sent
swiftly into the fire. Fireman Derby rushed
into the San Francisco Store and was crushed
by falling walls. Two blokes, looking tough,
were seen dashing into the Wa Chong
Co. for plunder amidst the pillage … wrong
place, wrong time. Already in flames, the roof
fell the moment they entered. He sendeth rain
on the just and the unjust—but there is no rain.
Think on the very làmentable pain,
Think on the piteous cross of woeful Christ,
Think on His blood beat out at every vein,
Think on His precious heart carvèd in twain,
Think how for thy redemption all was wrought:
Let Him not lose what He so dear hath bought.
justa loquar ad te: Quare via impiorum prosperatur? &c.
Kompare & kontrast:
‘Advice from the Muse’
for T. W. W.
How credible, the room which you evoke:
At the far end, a lamplit writing-desk.
Nearer, the late sun swamps an arabesque
Carpet askew upon a floor of oak,
And makes a cherry table-surface glow,
Upon which lies an open magazine.
Beyond are shelves and pictures, as we know,
Which cannot in the present light be seen.
Bid now a woman enter in a mood
That we, because she brings a bowl of roses
Which, touch by delicate touch, she redisposes,
May think to catch with some exactitude.
And let her, in complacent silence, hear
A squirrel chittering like an unoiled joint
To tell us that a grove of beech lies near.
Have all be plain, but only to a point.
Not that the bearded man who in a rage
Arises ranting from a shadowy chair,
And of whose presence she was unaware,
Should not be fathomed by the final page,
And all his tale, and hers, be measured out
With facts enough, good ground for inference,
No gross unlikelihood of major doubt,
And, at the end, an end to all suspense.
Still, something should escape us, something like
A question one had meant to ask the dead,
The day’s heat come and gone in infra-red,
The deep-down jolting nibble of a pike,
Remembered strangers who in picnic dress
Traverse a field and under mottling trees
Enter a midnight of forgetfulness
Rich as our ignorance of the Celebes.
Of motives for some act, propose a few,
Confessing that you can’t yourself decide;
Or interpose a witness to provide,
Despite his inclination to be true,
Some fadings of the signal, as it were,
A breath which, drawing closer, may obscure
Mirror or window with a token blur—
That slight uncertainty which makes us sure.
Wilbur, Richard. Collected Poems, 1943-2004: 104-105. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2004.
‘Fiction and the Reading Public’
Give me a thrill, says the reader,
Give me a kick;
I don’t care how you succeed, or
What subject you pick.
Choose something you know all about
That’ll sound like real life:
Your childhood, Dad pegging out,
How you sleep with your wife.
But that’s not sufficient, unless
You make me feel good –
Whatever you’re ‘trying to express’
Let it be understood
That ‘somehow’ God plaits up the threads,
Makes ‘all for the best’,
That we may lie quiet in our beds
And not be ‘depressed’.
For I call the tune in this racket:
I pay your screw,
Write reviews and the bull on the jacket –
So stop looking blue
And start serving up your sensations
Before it’s too late;
Just please me for two generations –
You’ll be ‘truly great’.
Larkin, Philip. Collected Poems: 170. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003.