Allen Tate

(19 November 1899 - 9 February 1979 / Winchester, Kentucky)

Elegy


Jefferson Davis: 1808-1889

No more the white refulgent streets.
Never the dry hollows of the mind
Shall he in fine courtesy walk
Again, for death is not unkind.

A civil war cast on his fame,
The four years' odium of strife
Unbodies his dust; love cannot warm
His tall corpuscles to this life.

What did we gain? What did we lose?
Be still; grief for the pious dead
Suspires from bosoms of kind souls
Lavender-wise, propped up in bed.

Our loss put six feet under ground
Is measured by the magnolia's root;
Our gain's the intellectual sound
Of death's feet round a weedy tomb.

In the back chambers of the State
(Just preterition for his crimes)
We curse him to our busy sky
Who's busy in a hell a hundred times

A day, though profitless his task,
Heedless what Belial may say-
He who wore out the perfect mask
Orestes fled in night and day.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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