Ascend the steps or die upon the marble

floor; voice of Moneta, goddess of memory,

keeps the Titan temple of fallen Saturn:

your flesh and bone akin to common dust

will vanish as the wind-blown chaff. Hourglass

of life at end before allotted time. Death-cold

creeps over limbs, grips throat until a toe

tentative onto altar steps brings life. Why saved?

Only those who venom all their days with
world’s woes may attain this height. Why alone?

Those who serve humanity find haven and sleep away their days. Dreamer weak, fever to yourself, what benefit are you to all the world? A poet

is a sage, a humanist, physician pouring balm

upon earth’s ills. A dreamer is distinct opposite,

vexates the earth. From veils she revealed
a wan face, bright-blanched by immortal sickness,

deathwards towards no death. Eyes fixed him;

A poet or careless hectorer in proud bad verse?

At times sensed being only a scarecrow
planted in the fields of time for birds to peck
and scoff at; though death has a rattle to scare

away the birds. Few may endure in any age;

beyond the insubstantial pageant, beyond

the solemn temples of each time, few

may sing the sorrows of humanity; sweet

sorrow is always upon Apollo’s lyre; listen!


from Written in Water

Andrew Mitchell