Friday, October 19, 2007

510. Henry James At Newport - Weldon Kees

(For Ann)

And shores and strands and naked piers,
Sunset on waves, orange laddering the blue,
White sails on headlands, cool
Wide curving bay, dim landward distances
Dissolving in the property of local air.

Viterbo, Bagdad, Carcassonne––
They play upon the mind, the eyes again,
Although these back verandas, resolutely prim,
Say Quakers, Roger Williams––murmurs of the past––
While special staircase ghosts return,
Known voices in the old brown rooms:
"People don't do those things."
The pictures huddle in the frames.

Removed from those blank days
In which the margin is consumed,
The palace sites stare seaward, pure, blasé,
Remember the detached, the casually disqualified,
The mild cosmopolites whose ivory dream
Found no successors, quietly embalmed.
They nursed nostalgia on the sun-warmed rocks,
Exquisite, sterile, easily distressed,
Thought much of Paris; died
While he lived out their deaths.

Shores, strands, white sails and naked piers,
Wide curving bay and landward distances.
Thoughts of the dispossessed on summer afternoons.
The sails are tattered and the shrubs are dead.
The stone-walled fields are featureless.

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