Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A COLD TEMPERAMENT, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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A COLD TEMPERAMENT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When arguments grew too intense
Last Line: He liked me. And from him I learned!
Subject(s): Cool Personality


When arguments grew too intense,
He was a master-hand to fence,
To say the excruciating thing,
To pluck the plum or draw the sting
Of any heavy conversation
With some immortal observation.

They say that he was cold, aloof, --
He never had been put to proof
By birth or death, by child or wife, --
That he but smiled and strolled through life,
With all its wolfish pain and want,
Too clever and too nonchalant.

Well, he was never in a passion
Of love or protest, -- but his fashion
Was all too mild (as time enhances)
To draw such very furious glances,
When his smile gleamed, as words abated,
And he said something many hated.

When people took themselves too seriously,
When they emotionalized imperiously,
And when their bias seemed too arrant
Or condescension too apparent,
His eyes were sheathed, his fork was shifted,
Only his eyebrows slightly lifted.

The things he said were sometimes odd;
And whether he believed in God
I can't conjecture. And because
His heart was never meat for daws,
I do not know -- to change the topic --
If he was "sweet" or "philanthropic."

He had a way that did not nettle
Some few, but put them on their mettle;
And an unfortunate zeal (decried!)
For "looking on the other side."
Some men bring thunder, others balm.
He only had peculiar calm.

He never, to my observation,
Gave of himself a "revelation."
He never did a thing of price
Or made one "noble sacrifice."
Yet I have tasted Heaven's wells
Hearing his monosyllables.

Never at all discomfited! . . .
And should I hear that he was dead,
Our old acquaintance lapsing so, --
How much I learned from him I know.
He never loved me, praised, or spurned.
He liked me. And from him I learned!





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