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In the Turpitude of Time,
Hope dances on the razor edge.
I see those ever healing feet
Tread the honed edge above despair.
I see the song-wet lip and tossing hair.
The leaf unfolds the autumn weather.
The heart spills the horizon’s light.
In the woods, the hunter, weeping, kneels,
And the dappled fawn weeps in contrition
For its own beauty. I hear the toad’s intercession
For us, and all,m who do not know
How cause flows backward from effect
To bless the past occasion, and
How Time’s tongue lifts only to tell,
Minute by minute, what truth the brave heart will fulfill.
Can we–oh, could we only–believe
What annelid and osprey know,
And the stone, night-long, groans to divulge?
If we could only, then that star
That dawnward slants might sing to our human ear,
And joy, in daylight, run like feet,
And strength, in darkness, wait like hands,
And between the stone and the wind’s voice
A silence wait to become our own song:
In the heart’s last kingdom only the old are young.
–Robert Penn Warren, In the Turpitude of Time: n.d. in: You, Emperors, and Others (1960)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”