by Conrad Aiken
'This envelope you say has something in it
Which once belonged to your dead son—or something
He knew, was fond of? Something he remembers?—
The soul flies far, and we can only call it
By things like these . . . a photograph, a letter,
Ribbon, or charm, or watch . . . '
. . . Wind flows softly, the long slow even wind,
Over the low roofs white with snow;
Wind blows, bearing cold clouds over the ocean,
One by one they melt and flow,—
Streaming one by one over trees and towers,
Coiling and gleaming in shafts of sun;
Wind flows, bearing clouds; the hurrying shadows
Flow under them one by one . . .
' . . . A spirit darkens before me . . . it is the spirit
Which in the flesh you called your son . . . A spirit
Young and strong and beautiful . . .
He says that he is happy, is much honored;
Forgives and is forgiven . . . rain and wind
Do not perplex him . . . storm and dust forgotten . .
The glittering wheels in wheels of time are broken
And laid aside . . . '
'Ask him why he did the thing he did!'
'He is unhappy. This thing, he says, transcends you:
Dust cannot hold what shines beyond the dust . . .
What seems calamity is less than a sigh;
What seems disgrace is nothing.'
'Ask him if the one he hurt is there,
And if she loves him still!'
'He tells you she is there, and loves him still,—
Not as she did, but as all spirits love . . .
A cloud of spirits has gathered about him.
They praise him and call him, they do him honor;
He is more beautiful, he shines upon them.'
. . . Wind flows softly, the long deep tremulous wind,
Over the low roofs white with snow . . .
Wind flows, bearing dreams; they gather and vanish,
One by one they sing and flow;
Over the outstretched lands of days remembered,
Over remembered tower and wall,
One by one they gather and talk in the darkness,
Rise and glimmer and fall . . .
'Ask him why he did the thing he did!
He knows I will understand!'
'It is too late:
He will not hear me: I have lost my power.'
'Three times I've asked him! He will never tell me.
God have mercy upon him. I will ask no more.'
Last updated May 02, 2015