Allen Tate: Calidus Juventa?

I finished Allen Tate’s Collected Poems: 1919-1976 the other day. I cannot say it was always a pleasurable experience (he really makes a reader work hard, in a way like unto Eliot), but there were plenty of perfect lines to keep a reader occupied. Here’s one of his earlier poems, from 1922, that is a good example of what I mean.

Calidus Juventa?

         Non ego hoc ferrem, calidus juventa, Consule Planco.

We are afraid that we have not lived.
We are not afraid of dying.
Toss images to the indifferent morning
Amid laughter and crying–
Amid fitful buffetings of strangled hearts
While they are dying.

Draw tight the words of death shivering
On the strictured page–
The cup of Morgan Fay is shattered.
Life is a bitter sage,
And we are weary infants
In a palsied age.

Allen Tate: Emblems II

(Image credit: Paul Bishop 1955)


When it is all over and the blood
Runs out, do not bury this man
By the far river (where never stood
His fathers) flowing to the West,
But take him East where life began.
O my brothers, there is rest
In the depths of an eastward river
That I can understand; only
Do not think the truth we hold
I hold the slighter for this lonely
Reservation of the heart:

Men cannot live forever
But they must die forever
So take this body at sunset
To the great stream whose pulses start
In the blue hills, and let
These ashes drift from the Long Bridge
Where only a late gull breaks
That deep and populous grave.

          –Allen Tate, from “Emblems”