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AIKEN, Conrad

The Nameless Ones

Pity the nameless, and the unknown, where

bitter in heart they wait on the stonebuilt stair,

bend to a wall, forgotten, the freezing wind

no bitterer than the suburbs of the mind;

who from an iron porch lift sightless eyes,

a moment, hopeless, to inflaming skies;

shrink from the light as quickly as from pain,

twist round a corner, bend to the wall again;

are to be seen leaning against a rail

by ornamental waters where toy yachts sail;

glide down the granite steps, touch foot to float,

hate, and 'desire, the sunlight on the boat;

explore a sullen alley where ash-cans wait,

symbols of waste and want, at every gate;

emerge in sun to mingle with the crowd,

themselves most silent where the world most loud;

anonymous, furtive, shadows in shadow hidden;

who lurk at the garden's edge like guests unbidden;

stare through the leaves with hate, yet wait to listen

as bandstand music begins to rise and glisten;

the fierce, the solitary, divine of heart,

passionate, present, yet godlike and apart;

who, in the midst of traffic, see a vision;

and, on a park bench, come to a last decision.

Bread and Music

Music I heard with you was more than music,

And bread I broke with you was more than bread;

Now that I am without you, all is desolate;

All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,

And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.

These things do not remember you, belovèd,

And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,

And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;

And in my heart they will remember always,—

They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.