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Edwin Arlington Robinson - Nimmo

Since you remember Nimmo, and arrive 
At such a false and florid and far drawn 
Confusion of odd nonsense, I connive 
No longer, though I may have led you on. 

So much is told and heard and told again,
So many with his legend are engrossed, 
That I, more sorry now than I was then, 
May live on to be sorry for his ghost. 

You knew him, and you must have known his eyes,ó 
How deep they were, and what a velvet light
Came out of them when anger or surprise, 
Or laughter, or Francesca, made them bright. 

No, you will not forget such eyes, I think,ó 
And you say nothing of them. Very well. 
I wonder if all historyís worth a wink,
Sometimes, or if my tale be one to tell. 

For they began to lose their velvet light; 
Their fire grew dead without and small within; 
And many of you deplored the needless fight 
That somewhere in the dark there must have been.

All fights are needless, when theyíre not our own, 
But Nimmo and Francesca never fought. 
Remember that; and when you are alone, 
Remember meóand think what I have thought. 

Now, mind you, I say nothing of what was,
Or never was, or could or could not be: 
Bring not suspicionís candle to the glass 
That mirrors a friendís face to memory. 

Of what you see, see all,óbut see no more; 
For what I show you here will not be there.
The devil has had his way with paint before, 
And heís an artist,óand you neednít stare. 

There was a painter and he painted well: 
Heíd paint you Daniel in the lionís den, 
Beelzebub, Elaine, or William Tell.
Iím coming back to Nimmoís eyes again. 

The painter put the devil in those eyes, 
Unless the devil did, and there he stayed; 
And then the lady fled from paradise, 
And thereís your fact. The lady was afraid.

She must have been afraid, or may have been, 
Of evil in their velvet all the while; 
But sure as Iím a sinner with a skin, 
Iíll trust the man as long as he can smile. 

I trust him who can smile and then may live
In my heartís house, where Nimmo is today. 
God knows if I have more than men forgive 
To tell him; but I played, and I shall pay. 

I knew him then, and if I know him yet, 
I know in him, defeated and estranged,
The calm of men forbidden to forget 
The calm of women who have loved and changed. 

But there are ways that are beyond our ways, 
Or he would not be calm and she be mute, 
As one by one their lost and empty days
Pass without even the warmth of a dispute. 

God help us all when women think they see; 
God save us when they do. Iím fair; but though 
I know him only as he looks to me, 
I know him,óand I tell Francesca so.

And what of Nimmo? Little would you ask 
Of him, could you but see him as I can, 
At his bewildered and unfruitful task 
Of being what he was born to beóa man. 

Better forget that I said anything
Of what your tortured memory may disclose; 
I know him, and your worst remembering 
Would count as much as nothing, I suppose. 

Meanwhile, I trust him; and I know his way 
Of trusting me, and always in his youth.
Iím painting here a better man, you say, 
Than I, the painter; and you say the truth. 

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Poet: Edwin Arlington Robinson
Poem: Nimmo
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