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Poem by Joyce Kilmer


In Memory


I

Serene and beautiful and very wise,
Most erudite in curious Grecian lore,
You lay and read your learned books, and bore
A weight of unshed tears and silent sighs.
The song within your heart could never rise
Until love bade it spread its wings and soar.
Nor could you look on Beauty's face before
A poet's burning mouth had touched your eyes.
Love is made out of ecstasy and wonder;
Love is a poignant and accustomed pain.
It is a burst of Heaven-shaking thunder;
It is a linnet's fluting after rain.
Love's voice is through your song; above and under
And in each note to echo and remain.

II

Because Mankind is glad and brave and young,
Full of gay flames that white and scarlet glow,
All joys and passions that Mankind may know
By you were nobly felt and nobly sung.
Because Mankind's heart every day is wrung
By Fate's wild hands that twist and tear it so,
Therefore you echoed Man's undying woe,
A harp Aeolian on Life's branches hung.
So did the ghosts of toiling children hover
About the piteous portals of your mind;
Your eyes, that looked on glory, could discover
The angry scar to which the world was blind:
And it was grief that made Mankind your lover,
And it was grief that made you love Mankind.

III

Before Christ left the Citadel of Light,
To tread the dreadful way of human birth,
His shadow sometimes fell upon the earth
And those who saw it wept with joy and fright.
"Thou art Apollo, than the sun more bright!"
They cried. "Our music is of little worth,
But thrill our blood with thy creative mirth
Thou god of song, thou lord of lyric might!"
O singing pilgrim! who could love and follow
Your lover Christ, through even love's despair,
You knew within the cypress-darkened hollow
The feet that on the mountain are so fair.
For it was Christ that was your own Apollo,
And thorns were in the laurel on your hair.



Joyce Kilmer


Joyce Kilmer's other poems:
  1. The Robe of Christ
  2. Madness
  3. The Proud Poet
  4. Mid-ocean in War-time
  5. The Cathedral of Rheims


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