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Edwin Arlington Robinson - But for the Grace of God

“There, but for the grace of God, goes…”


There is a question that I ask,
And ask again: 
What hunger was half-hidden by the mask 
That he wore then? 

There was a word for me to say
That I said not; 
And in the past there was another day 
That I forgot: 

A dreary, cold, unwholesome day, 
Racked overhead,—
As if the world were turning the wrong way, 
And the sun dead: 

A day that comes back well enough 
Now he is gone. 
What then? Has memory no other stuff
To seize upon? 

Wherever he may wander now 
In his despair, 
Would he be more contented in the slough 
If all were there?

And yet he brought a kind of light 
Into the room; 
And when he left, a tinge of something bright 
Survived the gloom. 

Why will he not be where he is,
And not with me? 
The hours that are my life are mine, not his,— 
Or used to be. 

What numerous imps invisible 
Has he at hand,
Far-flying and forlorn as what they tell 
At his command? 

What hold of weirdness or of worth 
Can he possess, 
That he may speak from anywhere on earth
His loneliness? 

Shall I be caught and held again 
In the old net?— 
He brought a sorry sunbeam with him then, 
But it beams yet. 

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Poet: Edwin Arlington Robinson
Poem: But for the Grace of God
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