Hilda Doolittle

Ancient Wisdom Speaks

For April 14, 1943

Where you are,
your cloak is blue as the robes
the priests of Tibet wear:

where you are,
you stare and stare at a mountain
and a picture of a mountain in the water:

and when the river is half frozen over,
still you stand,
snow on your sleeve and hood:

still you stand waiting,
not forgetting;
where were we now

if you had not said over and over,
as you watched the snow
slide down the runnels

and become, below on the slopes,
blossom of apple, quince and the wild-pear,
repeatedly, this prayer: 

remember these  (you said)
who when the earth-quake shook their city,
when angry blast and fire

broke open their frail door,
did not forget

O—what a picture of a mountain!
in our desolation,
four times, four seasons

marched up from the valley,
each with its retinue and panoply,
each climbed the mountain slowly:

though the mountain changed its colour
as the seasons came and went,
she did not alter.

Her cloak is very old
yet blue as the blue-poppy,
blue as the flax in flower:

and not an hour passed
in our torment
but she thought of us:

she did not change,
the mountain changed from gold to violet,
as the sun rose and set:

she knew our fear,
and  yet she did not falter
nor cast herself in anguish by the river:

but she stood,
the sun on her hair
or the snow on her blue hood:

winter and summer,
summer and winter
. . .again. . .again. . .

never forgetting
but remembering
our peculiar desolation:

I will stand here, she said to the mountain,
that even you must start awake, aware
that beauty can endure:

her cloak is very, very old
and blue. . . .
O do not weep, she says,
for ages past I was
and I endure;

sand-castles and sand-cities
on the shore,
built carefully
with towers and gates,
patiently set about
with wall and moat,
have crumbled
Nineveh, Tyre:

O do not weep, she says,
but let the fire burn out;
for having dared the flame,
endured the pyre,
your ashes,
sainted ones,
your chastened hearts,
your empty frames,
your very bones
still serve
to praise my name.