And every fair from fair sometimes declines.
I can recall how yearly
The ranks of the GAR
Detectably thinned out
To an odd handful, merely;
A bugler, perhaps a scout
From that distant, mythic war.
In time their canes and crutches
Were discarded for wheelchairs
Pushed by some friendly boy;
Gone were the stalwart marchers,
Their military airs
Lost on the plains of Troy.
And my own comrades in arms—
Those of them that survive—
Must be few and far between;
The best of them—strong and lean
And bemedalled—if still alive
Will have suffered life’s random harms.
The ranks of poets, too,
Ronsard and Leopardi,
Forgather beside the Styx,
There to receive their due:
At eighty-eight went Hardy,
Keats not yet twenty-six.
Worst, those whose minds decay
Into a lingering stupor
Beyond the reach of art
And the common light of day:
Like Hölderlin, Kit Smart,
And “buried-above-ground” Cowper.
May God preserve my wits,
Science do what it may
With scissors and thread and paste
To maintain the remaining bits
And faculties of today
That have not yet gone to waste.
Eyesight and hearing fade:
Yet I do not greatly care
If the grim, scythe-wielding thief
Pursue his larcenous trade,
Though anguished by the grief
Two that I love must bear.

This Issue

December 2, 2004