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Henry Abbey

Faciebat

As thoughts possess the fashion of the mood
That gave them birth, so every deed we do,
Partakes of our inborn disquietude
That spurns the old and reaches toward the new.
The noblest works of human art and pride
Show that their makers were not satisfied.

For, looking down the ladder of our deeds,
The rounds seem slender. All past work appears
Unto the doer faulty. The heart bleeds,
And pale Regret turns weltering in tears,
To think how poor our best has been, how vain,
Beside the excellence we would attain.

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To Baffle Time

To baffle time, whose tooth has never rest,
And make the counted line, from page to page,
Compact, fulfilled of what is apt and best,
And vibrant with the keynote of the age,
This is my aim; and even aims are things;
They give men value who have won no place.
We pass for what we would be, by some grace,
And our ambitions make us seem like kings.
But never yet has destiny's clear star
For aimless feet shed light upon the way.
So have I hope, since purpose sees no bar,
To write immortally some lyric day,
As Lovelace did when he informed the lay
Inspired by Lucasta and by war.

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What do we plant when we plant a tree?

What do we get when we plant the tree?
We plant the ship which will cross the sea;
We plant the pencils to scribble our notes,
We plant the ballots to cast our votes;
We plant the paper in which we read,
The news that o'er wooden poles we speed,
We plant the piles to erect our docks;
We plant the rayon for shirts and socks.

What do we plant when we plant a tree?
We plant the houses for you and me;
We plant the rafters, the shingles, the floors,
We plant the studding, the lath, the doors,
The beams and siding, all the parts that be;
We plant the house when we plant the tree,
We plant the barrel, the box, the crate;
In which to ship all sorts of freight.

What do we plant when we plant a tree?
A thousand things that we daily see,

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The Sunken City

I walked beside a quiet sea,
At starlight, while the west was gray
And clear, though faint and far away;
Through the stilled water, forth me,
Voices of bells came dreamily;
No breeze more manifest than they.

Some say a thousand years ago
There throve a city on an isle
Beyond the headland, mile on mile,
Which, in a night of fear and woe,
Sank in the glassy depth below—
Sank tower and dwelling, beam and tile.

And now, when twinkling skies are clear,
Withing the sunken city there,
The sad ghosts ring their past despair
Out on the mermen’s atmosphere—
Ring loudly all, that life may hear
Dead sadness stir the ample air.

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The French Marshal

McMahon up the street of Paris came,
In triumph from Magenta. Every one
Had heard and praised the fearless marshal’s name,
And gloried in the deeds that he had done.
Crowds packed the walks, and at each seperate glass
A face was set to see the hero pass.

Grand music lifted in the morning air
Its eloquent voice. Loud-mouthed bells were rung,
Guns boomed till echoes welcomed everywhere;
On buildings and in streets proud flags were hung,
Half like the flags of brain-silk wrought with gold,
That hang on Shakespeare’s pages, fold on fold.

But while the marshal up the street made way,
There came a little girl clothed all in white,
Bringing in happy hands a large bouquet;
Her flower-sweet face seemed fragrant with delight.
Well pleased, the soldier, dark and fierce at need,
Raised up the child before him on his steed.

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The Roman Sentinel

Death or dishonor, which is best to taste?
A Roman sentinel in Pompeii,
When God’s hot anger laid that city waste,
Answered the question, and resolved to die.
His duty was, upon his post to bide
Till the relief came, let what might betide.

He stood forgotten by the fleeing guard,
Choosing that part which is the bitterest still,
His face with its fixed purpose cold and hard,
Cut in the resolute granite of his will.
“Better,” he said “to die, than live in shame;
Death wreathes fresh flowers round a brave man’s name.”

Life is the wave’s deep whisper on the shore,
Of a great sea beyond. The sentry saw
That day the light in broad sails hoisted o’er
The drifting boat of dawn; nor dreamed the flaw,
The puff called death, would blow him with them by
Out to the boundless sea beyond the sky.

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