To look at the river made of time and water
And to remember time is another river,
To know that we too vanish like the river
And that our faces flow away like water.
To feel that being awake is another sleep
That dreams it is not dreaming, that the death
That spreads fear in our flesh is the very death
That we die every night and call sleep.
To see in the day or in the year a symbol
Of all the days of man and of his years,
And to transmute the insult of the years
Into a music, a murmuring, a symbol.
To see in death a sleep, or in the sunset
A melancholy gold—such is poetry,
Beggared yet immortal, poetry
That comes back like the dawn and like sunset.
Sometimes, in late afternoon, a face
Looks at us from the depths of a dark mirror;
Art ought to be like that unblinking mirror
Revealing to each of us his own true face.
They say Ulysses, sick and tired of marvels,
Wept with love at the sight of Ithaca,
Green and simple. Art is that Ithaca
Of simple, green eternity, not marvels.
And art is also like the unending river,
Going yet staying, mirroring the same
Changeable Heraclitus, who is the same
And yet another, like the unending river.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 10 Number 4, on page 35
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