The oaks, how subtle and marine,
Barded, and all the layered light
Above them swims; and thus the scene,
Recessed, awaits the positive night.
So, waiting, we in the grass now lie
Beneath the languorous tread of light:
The grasses, kelp-like, satisfy
The nameless motions of the air.
Upon the floor of light, and time,
Unmurmuring, of polyp made,
We rest; we are, as light withdraws,
Twin atolls on a shelf of shade.
Ages to our construction went,
Dim architecture, hour by hour:
And violence, forgot now, lent
The present stillness all its power.
The storm of noon above us rolled,
Of light and fury, furious gold,
The long drag troubling us, the depth:
Dark is unrocking, unrippling, still.
Passion and slaughter, ruth, decay
Descend, minutely whispering down,
Silted down swaying streams, to lay
Foundation for our voicelessness.
All our debate is voiceless here,
As all our rage, the rage of stone;
If hope is hopeless, then fearless fear,
And history is thus undone.
Our feet once wrought the hollow street
With echo when the lamps were dead
At windows, once our headlight glare
Disturbed the doe that, leaping, fled.
I do not love you less that now
The caged heart makes iron stroke,
Or less that all that light once gave
The graduate dark should now revoke.
We live in time so little time
And we learn all so painfully,
That we may spare this hour’s term
To practice for eternity.
-- Robert Penn Warren, "Bearded Oaks"