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GRAVES, Robert

Counting the Beats

You, love, and I,
(He whispers) you and I,
And if no more than only you and I
What care you or I ?

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Cloudless day,
Night, and a cloudless day,
Yet the huge storm will burst upon their heads one day
From a bitter sky.

Where shall we be,
(She whispers) where shall we be,
When death strikes home, O where then shall we be
Who were you and I ?

Not there but here,
(He whispers) only here,
As we are, here, together, now and here,
Always you and I.

Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,

Recalling War

Entrance and exit wounds are silvered clean,

The track aches only when the rain reminds.

The one-legged man forgets his leg of wood

The one-armed man his jointed wooden arm.

The blinded man sees with his ears and hands

As much or more than once with both his eyes.

Their war was fought these twenty years ago

And now assumes the nature-look of time,

As when the morning traveller turn and views

His wild night-stumbling carved into a hill.

What, then, was war? No mere discord of flags

But an infection of the common sky

That sagged ominously upon the earth

Even when the season was the airiest May.

Down pressed the sky, and we, oppressed, thrust out

Boastful tongue, clenched fist and valiant yard.

Natural infirmiries were out of mode,

For Death was young again: patron alone

Of healthy dying, premature fate-spasm.

Fear made fine bed-fellows. Sick with delight

At life’s discovered transitoriness,

Out youth became all-flesh and waived the mind.

Never was such antiqueness of romance,

Such tasty honey oozing from the heart.

And old importances came swimming back &-

Wine, meat, log-fires, a roof over the head,

A weapon at the thigh, surgeons at call.

Even there was a use again for God &-

A word of rage in lack of meat, wine, fire,

In ache of wounds beyond all surgeoning.

War was return of earth to ugly earth,

War was foundering of sublimities,

Extinction of each happy art and faith

By which the world had still kept head in air,

Protesting logic or protesting love,

Until the unendurable moment struck &-

The inward scream, the duty to run mad.

And we recall the merry ways of guns &-

Nibbling the walls of factory and church

Like a child, piecrust; felling groves of trees

Like a child, dandelions with a switch.

Machine-guns rattle toy-like from a hill,

Down in a row the brave tin-soldiers fall:

A sight to be recalled in elder days

When learnedly the future we devote

To yet more boastful visions of despair.