Let’s burn our masks at midnight
and as flickering flames ascend,
under the witness of star-clouds,
let us vow to reclaim our true selves.
Done with hiding and weary of lying,
we’ll reconcile without and within.
Then, like naked squint-eyed newborns,
we’ll greet the glorious birth of dawn;
blinking at the blazing, wondrous colors
we somehow failed to notice before.
Thus sung, or would, or could, or should have sung,
The modern Greek, in tolerable verse;
If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,
Yet in these times he might have done much worse:
His strain display’d some feeling — right or wrong;
And feeling, in a poet, is the source
Of others’ feeling; but they are such liars,
And take all colours — like the hands of dyers.
But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
‘T is strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper — even a rag like this,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that ‘s his.
Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away—an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.