Warren's 'In the Turpitude of Time' | Harper's Magazine

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Warren’s ‘In the Turpitude of Time’

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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)

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