Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SUCCESS, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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SUCCESS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Did you know? / through all the call and clamor, did you know it would
Last Line: Never mend it. Christ! I know it. And I know you knew it too!
Subject(s): Success


Did you know?
Through all the call and clamor, did you know it would be so?
When the thickening night was round us, and the surging, roaring press,
And the final grapple found us on an utter loneliness—
Yes, pinnacled, enskied,—but, like mountains in their pride,
Aloof in aching longing with the whole world to deride,
To rise and hurl us under dumb and desperate. I wonder
In the tumult, at the onslaught, if you knew you prophesied?

"Hold you fast!" ...
When they fell on our defenses, when the walls were sapped at last,
When it seemed as if disaster took the chill of death for mate,
And that lies at last were master and the issue thrown to Fate,
When the gold, and guilty gems, of their glittering diadems
Flashed above us, and the helots of that triumph kissed the hems
Of the prideful robes they flaunted—then your cry came—quick,
undaunted—
As the waves of wrath assailed you like the seas a galley stems.

But I gave—
I gave back before the battle like a poltroon and a slave,
And the bribe bit deep to scar me, and the end was sick to see
When they triumphed like an army round a trophy on a tree.
And I stood in my disgrace where your dead and dauntless face
Beneath me smiled immortal. And I wished me in your place,
While they pressed the flagons on me—and the chains my choice had won me!
Then they chaired me high, and crowned me, and they cheered me for a space.


Now I know!
Yes, and ever since that moment I have known it would be so,
As I crackle all the vine-leaves and they sift to drifting dust
(Since but bitter lees the wine leaves,—all the gold o'ercrept with rust)
And hoarse voices, rasping through all my dreams where kingdoms grew,
Jeer with triumph, plot and wrangle of the thing they mean to do,—
And this poison, that would end it, cannot mend it, cannot mend it,
Never mend it. Christ! I know it. And I know you knew it too!





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