Back out of all this now too much for us, 

Back in a time made simple by the loss 

Of detail, burned, dissolved, and broken off 

Like graveyard marble sculpture in the weather, 

There is a house that is no more a house 

Upon a farm that is no more a farm 

And in a town that is no more a town. 

The road there, if you’ll let a guide direct you 

Who only has at heart your getting lost, 

May seem as if it should have been a quarry – 

Great monolithic knees the former town Long since gave up pretense of keeping covered. 

And there’s a story in a book about it: 

Besides the wear of iron wagon wheels 

The ledges show lines ruled southeast-northwest, 

The chisel work of an enormous Glacier 

That braced his feet against the Arctic Pole. 

You must not mind a certain coolness from him 

Still said to haunt this side of Panther Mountain. 

Nor need you mind the serial ordeal 

Of being watched from forty cellar holes 

As if by eye pairs out of forty firkins. 

As for the woods’ excitement over you 

That sends light rustle rushes to their leaves, 

Charge that to upstart inexperience. 

Where were they all not twenty years ago? 

They think too much of having shaded out 

A few old pecker-fretted apple trees. 

Make yourself up a cheering song of how 

Someone’s road home from work this once was, 

Who may be just ahead of you on foot 

Or creaking with a buggy load of grain. 

The height of the adventure is the height 

Of country where two village cultures faded 

Into each other. Both of them are lost. 

And if you’re lost enough to find yourself 

By now, pull in your ladder road behind you 

And put a sign up CLOSED to all but me. 

Then make yourself at home. The only field 

Now left’s no bigger than a harness gall. 

First there’s the children’s house of make-believe, 

Some shattered dishes underneath a pine, 

The playthings in the playhouse of the children. 

Weep for what little things could make them glad. 

Then for the house that is no more a house, 

But only a belilaced cellar hole, 

Now slowly closing like a dent in dough. 

This was no playhouse but a house in earnest. 

Your destination and your destiny’s 

A brook that was the water of the house, 

Cold as a spring as yet so near its source, 

Too lofty and original to rage. 

(We know the valley streams that when aroused 

Will leave their tatters hung on barb and thorn.) 

I have kept hidden in the instep arch 

Of an old cedar at the waterside 

A broken drinking goblet like the Grail 

Under a spell so the wrong ones can’t find it, 

So can’t get saved, as Saint Mark says they mustn’t. 

(I stole the goblet from the children’s playhouse.) 

Here are your waters and your watering place. 

Drink and be whole again beyond confusion. 

This poem chosen for the BBC 100 showcase was a reading for the BBC on 20th April 1953. The Poetry Archive presents here an extract for review and educational research purposes. Permissions to share the full poem audio and text are pending.

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