I thought to build a tidy craft
But botched the job, and built a raft—
A raffish craft, whose aft and fore
Are more or less (or less or more)
Identical—also, the same—
So where I go, and whence I came,
I cannot tell from where I sit.
And that’s a pity—isn’t it?
Hercules strode off whistling gaily
Conscious of having done a poor soul good;
Left behind Sisyphus weeping bitterly
At having been deprived of his livelihood.
By night nurse lamplight and stay close
By day keep your feet to the path
The tigers here are hungry ghosts
And all our hunters gone to grass
We’re not so happy in the future,
Are we, dear? Indeed, we’re not as happy here
As once we were; and what’s the future, but the past
Sharpened to a point at last?
Time’s our sentence, marked with doubt
Just as a question ought:
So from its terminating period, a plume
Rises like smoke; like foolish hope; like doom.
Sometimes morose but never sad
I’m vicious to what comes along.
They’ll dance and dance when I am dead
To that old grave-dancer’s song.
The world will end in fire
Or else in ice:
While no one’s looking
God plays dice.
I’ll follow dreaming down, however deep:
A spider keeps me safe and guards my sleep.
At least, should I misfortune meet
I will not lack a winding-sheet.
Dear reader, I’m curious: of the versions below, which do you prefer (if either), and why?
They built a grand monument to the dead
And the place where the stone was quarried
Soon filled up with rainwater
And the young couples would meet there.
Built to commemorate the dead
This palace stands, untenanted.
By the still pool in the quarry pit
The lovers sometimes come to sit.
The air was cold that I breathed in
That swirled across her scented skin;
And as the air swirled into storm
She stole my breath to keep her warm.
Upon collecting up these million grains
Of sand all that remains
Is to sift them out onto this beach
Again, to cast them out of reach.