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Collected Poems



Old Milton, sitting in darkness many days,
with food and drink, and knowledge, and some music,
evoked the demon sleeping in his blood
and builded Hell and Heaven in a dark room.
No thought of men impaired his musings. His
was a sedentary genius. Not for him
the life of action, the bending of the bow
whose string snaps backward when the will's relaxed
in death or thought and sends an aimless arrow
to lodge in some far breast that's innocent
of all but history; that brings fulfilment
to one man's muscles, one man's lust for deeds,
and leaves a gaping world dabbing its wounds.
Old Milton, blinded, cast in a den of mice,
tickled his brain and brought forth, lo, a lion.

But what of us, the youngest sons of men,
of generations who enslaved the sun,
harnessed him to their purpose and bred rancour
between man's heart and the live air of heaven?
For we, the youngest men in all the world,
are fallen on age, betrayed by false ambition
page 68 of those proud exiles of the baser earth
who made a cowards' compact with the gods,
bought up some disused garments, shirts and breeches
still smelling of stale wine, ladies' apparel
worn at some marriage-feast upon Olympus
and since discarded, a little the worse for wear,
rank with nostalgic odours of divine
revels and routs; which stirred their eager minds
to godlike musings, airy dreams of power.
We are the sons of men and wear their clothes,
cast off, but patched, dry-cleaned for the coronation.
And now we're dressed and find there is no party,
the king is indisposed, doubts his succession,
is half-converted to the Revolution,
prays day and nightly for a Revelation.

Old Milton sat in darkness. Not for him
the lust of wealth, the trampling of the earth,
empires and fierce aggressions: only the slow
ticking of time and a new world to make
out of the fleeting shadows of the brain.