The Lost Language
I have eaten all my words,
And still I am not satisfied!
Fourteen thousand and twenty blackbirds
Hushed under my side.
And when I think of what I have written
Or might have and can and shall write
—My life, this appetite,
But how shall I eat the food forgotten?
And think of how my envy like a lust
Kept me up, me and Themistocles,
And how the night unveiled a noble bust
When I thought of glory—but that doesn’t
So much ambition,
And so little nutrition.
Après de déluge, moi.
There it is, all the sad tale—
A perfect post-diluvian male,
And other humanist ta ran ta ra.
For, after all, it’s only disgrace,
At the very best, to outlive
The saddest thing in the life of the race.
And when I think how many fathoms deep
Debris of that mighty birth . . .
O then there were words in the earth!
That were the things they named
And lay like manna in easy reach,
And when you spoke, there was speech.
Very hungry and not a little ashamed,
For passion is no longer food,
I have taken up again,
In ghostly parody, pot and pen,
And sit to gnaw my chattering brood.
One cup of Lethe and it’s always too late.
Where are you, o liebe breyt?
“Old one, wrestler, friend,
Awake! all must have an end,
And we two with coming of day
Must end our little play
And thank whomever we should
Our peace required so little blood.
So Jacob on his morn awoke,
His thigh touched by angel’s stroke,
And for a tendon would not heal
Now was namèd, Israel.
They all one night toiled on the ground,
We have but followed in their round.
To know this is to breathe again.
Step back! So the world would begin.”
“We have blessed, having bled.
This is all that need be said.
Some power would not let us kill.
Be joyous, be joyous still!”
So I had dreamt we spoke
In that sweet minute before I woke,
I and the figure of my past,
—Dreaming of an army massed
By the ramparts of the fallen town
Where, horses kneeling, swords down,
The victor with the vanquished cries
And the smiling wounded open their eyes,
O glad solemnities, noble joys!
—Until I saw two ragged boys
In a dusty corner on the ground
Pummeling each other round
With blinded eyes, hands that burn,
Each one crying out in turn,
“Let me go! let me go!”
And “Never! no, no, no!”