To The Romantic Traditionists

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I have looked at them long,
My eyes blur; sourceless light
Keeps them forever young
Before our ageing sight.

You see them-too strict forms
Of will, the secret dignity
Of our dissolute storms;
They grow too bright to be.

What were they like? What mark
Can signify their charm?
They never saw the dark;
Rigid, they never knew alarm.

Do not the scene rehearse!
The perfect eyes enjoin
A contemptuous verse;
We speak the crabbed line.

Immaculate race! to yield
Us final knowledge set
In a cold frieze, a field
Of war but no blood let.

Are they quite willing,
Do they ask to pose,
Naked and simple, chilling
The very wind's nose?

They ask us how to live!
We answer: Again try
Being the drops we sieve.
What death it is to die!

Therefore because they nod,
Being too full of us,
I look at the turned sod
Where it is perilous

And yawning all the same
As if we knew them not
And history had no name-
No need to name the spot!

© Allen Tate