For The One Who Would Not Take His Life In His Hands

Athlete, virtuoso,
Training for happiness,
Bend arm and knee, and seek
The body’s sharp distress,
For pain is pleasure’s cost,
Denial is route
To speech before the millions
Or personal with the flute.

The ape and great Achilles,
Heavy with their fate,
Batter doors down, strike
Small children at the gate,
Driven by love to this,
As knock-kneed Hegel said,
To seek with a sword their peace,
That the child may be taken away
From the hurly-burly and fed.

Ladies and Gentlemen, said
The curious Socrates,
I have asked, What is this life
But a childermass,
As Abraham recognized,
A working with the knife
At animal, maid and stone
Until we have cut down
All but the soul alone:
Through hate we guard our love,
And its distinction’s known.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Delmore Schwartz's poem For The One Who Would Not Take His Life In His Hands

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