Edwin Arlington Robinson

Here you will find the Long Poem Avon's Harvest of poet Edwin Arlington Robinson

Avon's Harvest

Fear, like a living fire that only death 
Might one day cool, had now in Avon?s eyes 
Been witness for so long of an invasion 
That made of a gay friend whom we had known 
Almost a memory, wore no other name
As yet for us than fear. Another man 
Than Avon might have given to us at least 
A futile opportunity for words 
We might regret. But Avon, since it happened, 
Fed with his unrevealing reticence
The fire of death we saw that horribly 
Consumed him while he crumbled and said nothing. 

So many a time had I been on the edge, 
And off again, of a foremeasured fall 
Into the darkness and discomfiture
Of his oblique rebuff, that finally 
My silence honored his, holding itself 
Away from a gratuitous intrusion 
That likely would have widened a new distance 
Already wide enough, if not so new.
But there are seeming parallels in space 
That may converge in time; and so it was 
I walked with Avon, fought and pondered with him, 
While he made out a case for So-and-so, 
Or slaughtered What?s-his-name in his old way,
With a new difference. Nothing in Avon lately 
Was, or was ever again to be for us, 
Like him that we remembered; and all the while 
We saw that fire at work within his eyes 
And had no glimpse of what was burning there.

So for a year it went; and so it went 
For half another year?when, all at once, 
At someone?s tinkling afternoon at home 
I saw that in the eyes of Avon?s wife 
The fire that I had met the day before
In his had found another living fuel. 
To look at her and then to think of him, 
And thereupon to contemplate the fall 
Of a dim curtain over the dark end 
Of a dark play, required of me no more
Clairvoyance than a man who cannot swim 
Will exercise in seeing that his friend 
Off shore will drown except he save himself. 
To her I could say nothing, and to him 
No more than tallied with a long belief
That I should only have it back again 
For my chagrin to ruminate upon, 
Ingloriously, for the still time it starved; 
And that would be for me as long a time 
As I remembered Avon?who is yet
Not quite forgotten. On the other hand, 
For saying nothing I might have with me always 
An injured and recriminating ghost 
Of a dead friend. The more I pondered it 
The more I knew there was not much to lose,
Albeit for one whose delving hitherto 
Had been a forage of his own affairs, 
The quest, however golden the reward, 
Was irksome?and as Avon suddenly 
And soon was driven to let me see, was needless.
It seemed an age ago that we were there 
One evening in the room that in the days 
When they could laugh he called the Library. 
?He calls it that, you understand,? she said, 
?Because the dictionary always lives here.
He?s not a man of books, yet he can read, 
And write. He learned it all at school.??He smiled, 
And answered with a fervor that rang then 
Superfluous: ?Had I learned a little more 
At school, it might have been as well for me.?
And I remember now that he paused then, 
Leaving a silence that one had to break. 
But this was long ago, and there was now 
No laughing in that house. We were alone 
This time, and it was Avon?s time to talk.

I waited, and anon became aware 
That I was looking less at Avon?s eyes 
Than at the dictionary, like one asking 
Already why we make so much of words 
That have so little weight in the true balance.
?Your name is Resignation for an hour,? 
He said; ?and I?m a little sorry for you. 
So be resigned. I shall not praise your work, 
Or strive in any way to make you happy. 
My purpose only is to make you know
How clearly I have known that you have known 
There was a reason waited on your coming, 
And, if it?s in me to see clear enough, 
To fish the reason out of a black well 
Where you see only a dim sort of glimmer
That has for you no light.? 

?I see the well,? 
I said, ?but there?s a doubt about the glimmer? 
Say nothing of the light. I?m at your service; 
And though you say that I shall not be happy,
I shall be if in some way I may serve. 
To tell you fairly now that I know nothing 
Is nothing more than fair.???You know as much 
As any man alive?save only one man, 
If he?s alive. Whether he lives or not
Is rather for time to answer than for me; 
And that?s a reason, or a part of one, 
For your appearance here. You do not know him, 
And even if you should pass him in the street 
He might go by without your feeling him
Between you and the world. I cannot say 
Whether he would, but I suppose he might.? 

?And I suppose you might, if urged,? I said, 
?Say in what water it is that we are fishing. 
You that have reasons hidden in a well,
Not mentioning all your nameless friends that walk 
The streets and are not either d