James Agee





A Poem of Poets

The harsh and profitable seasons pass
Bestowing each their own inestimable burdens,
Love its peculiar joy, love's end its proper grief,
Beauty its image, wisdom sought, its pain:
The mind so richly dowered, all withered are its
       guerdons;
Bloodless and sere and joyless, whose hour of green was
       brief,
They whisper deathly riddles to confused and dying
       grass:
Soon shall the mind be thoughtless, soon shall the autumn leaf
No more be bright memorial to the ancestral rain.

The mind is stunned, the tongue may find no word,
Nor in themselves may either find ever any thought
Beneath the awful instant of each high visitation,
Beneath the blinding and celestial fire,
Fit to do thankful honor to Him the fire Who wrought:
Wherefore with gilded praises and with false
        lamentation.
We sing into the darkening sky too tardily to be heard,
Who soon shall be brought low to earth and that humiliation
Which gluts the oak with pride and burns the poppy with
         desire.

All seasons pass, once more they swerve above,
Once more the mind is granted the living fire to
         breathe
Once more of green and holy and far-gathered leaves we
         fashion
Straitly implied with brief domestic flowers,
Pride, artifice, despair, our wild half-hallowed wreath:
To crown the mind with fame, and God with
          earth-bound passion,
Flaw truth with beauty, make a holy whore of sickened
          love:
Once more, and now forever, impends that immolation
Whence we shall rise to damn still other poets with half-blind
           power.