Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW, by EDWIN ARLINGTON ROBINSON



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THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There were faces to remember in the valley of the shadow
Last Line: Maimed.
Subject(s): Death; Life; World War I; Dead, The; First World War


THERE were faces to remember in the Valley of the
Shadow,
There were faces unregarded, there were faces to for-
get;
There were fires grief and fear that are a few forgotten
ashes,
There were sparks of recognition that are not forgotten
yet.
For at first, with an amazed and overwhelming indigna-
tion
At a measureless malfeasance that obscurely willed it
thus,
They were lost and unacquainted -- till they found
themselves in others,
Who had groped as they were groping where dim ways
were perilous.

There were lives that were as dark as are the fears and
intuitions
Of a child who knows himself and is alone with what he
knows;
There were pensioners of dreams and there were debtors
of illusions,
All to fail before the triumph of a weed that only
grows.
There were thirsting heirs of golden sieves that held not
wine or water;
And had no names in traffic or more value there than
toys:
There were blighted sons of wonder in the Valley of the
Shadow,
Where they suffered and still wondered why their
wonder made no noise.

There were slaves who dragged the shackles of a precedent
unbroken,
Demonstrating the fulfilment of unalterable schemes,
Which had been, before the cradle, Time's inexorable
tenants
Of what were now the dusty ruins of their father's
dreams.
There were these, and there were many who had stum-
bled up to manhood,
Where they saw too late the road they should have
taken long ago:
There were thwarted clerks and fiddlers in the Valley of
the Shadow,
The commemorative wreckage of what others did not
know.

And there were daughters older than the mothers who
had borne them,
Being older in their wisdom, which is older than the
earth;
And they were going forward only farther into dark-
ness,
Unrelieved as were the blasting obligations of their
birth;
And among them, giving always what was not for their
possession,
There were maidens, very quiet, with no quiet in their
eyes;
There were daughters of the silence in the Valley of the
Shadow,
Each an isolated item in the family sacrifice.

There were creepers among catacombs where dull re-
grets were torches,
Giving light enough to show them what was there upon
the shelves --
Where there was more for them to see than pleasure
would remember
Of something that had been alive and once had been
themselves.
There were some who stirred the ruins with a solid im-
precation,
While as many fled repentance for the promise of
despair:
There were drinkers of wrong waters in the Valley of the
Shadow,
And all the sparkling ways were dust that once had led
them there.

There were some who knew the steps of Age incredibly
beside them,
And his fingers upon shoulders that had never felt the
wheel;
And their last of empty trophies was a gilded cup of
nothing,
Which a contemplating vagabond would not have come
to steal.
Long and often had they figured for a larger valua-
tion,
But the size of their addition was the balance of a doubt:
There were gentlemen of leisure in the Valley of the
Shadow,
Not allured by retrospection, disenchanted, and played
out.

And among the dark endurances of unavowed reprisals
There were silent eyes of envy that saw little but saw
well;
And over beauty's aftermath of hazardous ambitions
There were tears for what had vanished as they vanished
where they fell.
Not assured of what was theirs, and always hungry for
the nameless,
There were some whose only passion was for Time who
made them cold:
There were numerous fair women in the Valley of the
Shadow,
Dreaming rather less of heaven than of hell when they
were old.

Now and then, as if to scorn the common touch of
common sorrow,
There were some who gave a few the distant pity of a
smile;
And another cloaked a soul as with an ash of human
embers,
Having covered thus a treasure that would last him for
a while.
There were many by the presence of the many dis-
affected,
Whose exemption was included in the weight that others
bore:
There were seekers after darkness in the Valley of the
Shadow,
And they alone were there to find what they were look-
ing for.

So they were, and so they are; and as they came are
coming others,
And among them are the fearless and the meek and the
unborn;
And a question that has held us heretofore without an
answer
May abide without an answer until all have ceased to
mourn.
For the children of the dark are more to name than are
the wretched,
Or the broken, or the weary, or the baffled, or the
shamed:
There are builders of new mansions in the Valley of the
Shadow,
And among them are the dying and the blinded and the
maimed.




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