Conrad Aiken





Youth Penetrant

I shall grow calm in a little while,
But now, youth yearns in me to laugh;
Cruel as cinematograph
I show life up to you ... and smile.
I shall be calm in a little space,--
The blood grows quieter with the years;
I shall be tenderer, then, to tears,
And look more kindly on life's face.
Our hearts grow mellow nearing death--
Like apples touched with autumn breath--;
When the dusk falls and day is done
We look more wistfully on the sun,
Loving his last warmth on our cheek;
We can be kind when we are weak.
I shall be calm in a little while,
but now, youth yearns in me to laugh;
Cruel as cinematograph
I show life up to you ... and smile.
Merciless is this black and white,
A cold inquisitorial light;
Baleful, it makes all life seem base,
Shows you the flesh of every face;
Only the music makes it seem
So brightly glamorous, so like dream ...
Let the musician cease to play,
Here's naught but black and white and grey,
Reality, cold, mechanical,--
The truth--a hideous spectacle!..
Cruel as cinematograph
I show life up to you ... and laugh;
For that is youth's prerogative:
To see life coldly through brave eyes,
To strip life of its lovely lies,
And, careless of the dead, to live.
There is yet time, when I grow old,
When the blood in me is slow and cold,
To look on life with wistful gaze,
To see life through a soft bright haze;--
Singing more sweetly, as they use
Who are half death's, and hourly lose
The light that fades from misting eyes,
so, praise life in most passionate wise;
For in their clouded minds they dream
The whole day, though it was but dun,
Made glorious by the death of sun,--
Death-fires the fires of life they deem.
Through mist they wander, singing sweet;--
Singing of life to make them brave,
They hear death digging each his grave,
They feel his cold net touch their feet ...
Half-lives, they only half-life sing,
The tender light their dim eyes sees;
They reach pale hands to earth and cling,
Grief gives their song intensity ...
I shall be calm in a little while,
But now, youth yearns in me to laugh:
Cruel as cinematograph
I show life up to you ... and smile!