I was not on the parapets at Cretae
Dreading sails against the red low moon
When my ruin overthrew me.
Nor did it claim me with the plunge of Grecian spears
Surging up in dark ships from the sea
That ancient night. There rode no portent of my fears
On the long breeze sweeping in from Cyprus;
Nor later with the rank mists when I fought
Bogged in the marshes, clubbing my arquebus.
I touched on no presentiments
In the whimper of gulls low over our galley
Waiting our bodies, no more than with the Spaniard
Heaving a saber in that fetid valley.
I have not found death snarling in that surge of lances,
In midnight clangor of the mouthing bells,
The legionary shout, the Gothic shields,
The flare and rumble of burning citadels,
Faint moonlight on a taken bastion.
But dissolution clutched me
Descanting at Mme Atelie’s salon
Of balls at Nice and coursing at L’Enprix.
I sipped my tea with marked exactitude,
Refusing Claret, speculated on
The bleak breasts of a marble nude,
Noting the while the fluttering of trivial hands.
Her eyes were winds down a wintry chasm
Where frozen surf beats rock and frozen sands.
Outside a spring swarmed up the avenues,
Spattering hydrangeas with a gust of bloom.
by Robert Penn Warren